April 22, 2011

April 22: The cruelty of the spiritual spring

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By Ann Hostetler, professor of English
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
“April is the cruelest month,” T. S. Eliot wrote. This is certainly true in Northern Indiana where the promise of spring is often packed in freezing rain and blasts of cold wind. A few weeks ago a serendipitously warm day coaxed tulip leaves from the ground. I itched to work in the garden. But when I finally found an hour to spare, wintry temperatures had returned. I put my Crocs back in the closet and stepped back into boots. If I hadn’t already lived through many a Northern Indiana spring, I would have given up hope by now of ever seeing new leaves and flowers. Yet even in this chill, daffodils have emerged. They trust the nourishing soil, sense the changing temperatures and increased sunlight enough to put out their early blooms. It is time.

Psalm 118 reminds us that we are planted and rooted in the soil of God’s nourishing love. When life’s difficulties surround us, when the day is dark with rain, when unexpected storms lash with fury, it may feel like God has abandoned us. This is the difficult part of a spiritual spring that tries our patience, our faith. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus called out from the cross. By taking on a human body, experiencing the worst kind of betrayal and misunderstanding, Jesus shows us that no form of human suffering is beyond God’s knowledge. Thus even as we remember on Good Friday the astonishing compassion of Christ – to suffer with us – we have also been rehearsing the songs for Easter Sunday, gathering treats for the children’s Easter baskets, living our lives in the light of the Resurrection and sharing that light with others.

As I write this, cold rain is pelting the windows on a gloomy morning. A few weeks from now, perhaps even when you are reading this, the blooms of spring will be opening in warmer air. Perhaps we will have forgotten, temporarily, that cold and wet are also a vital part of spring. Yet how else would the hard husks of the perennial seeds buried deep in the sustaining soil crack open – like our hearts – without a season of alternating bouts of chill and thawing? The reservoir of God’s love, the compassion of Christ’s suffering, are always present when we remember God is with us. “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus said in his final moments, taking refuge in the Lord. As he embodied God’s love, Jesus became the “cornerstone” that persists beneath the rain and winds, sun and heat, outlasting our hopes and fears. Let us give thanks to the Lord whose love endures forever.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (NRSV)
1O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 2Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

14The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 15There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; 16the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” 17I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. 19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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Comments (13)

  1. Ann, Thank you for a beautiful, insightful and inspirational meditation on this overcast Good Friday. Your words ring so true!

    Chris Baker April 22, 2011 |
  2. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your thoughts to inspire us as we approach a new day of remembering how good God is to bring us sunshine in our lives after the rain.

    Mary April 22, 2011 |
  3. With yet another day of cold rain, I needed this thoughtful reminder. Praise be!

    Sue April 22, 2011 |
  4. Thanks for this reminder of how God is working in our lives and that the sun is shinning on this rainy day.

    Deb April 22, 2011 |
  5. Profound and beautiful, Ann — thanks for sharing!

    Stuart Showalter April 22, 2011 |
  6. I am moved by these artfully written words as I rehearse with the choir, gather miniature prizes to be tucked inside plastic eggs for my smallest grandchildren, and pray for the rain to quench the drought here in Oklahoma …Thanks be to God.

    Joanne April 22, 2011 |
  7. What a good comparison of God’s love and Christ’s suffering. Thank you

    Karen April 22, 2011 |
  8. My cold and wet part of spring was the recent deaths of both my father and father-in-law. However, because of the light of the Resurrection, I am gathering Easter treats for the baskets of the 3 little Amish girls who now live in our Daudy House. Thanks, Ann, for your inspiring words that match well the spring here in Pennsylvania!

    Myrna Hershberger Smucker April 22, 2011 |
  9. Thanks for your words today reminding me again of a faithful God who loves and cares for me. Words I needed to hear on this Good Friday.

    Rhoda Miller Blough April 22, 2011 |
  10. Thank you, Ann, for your eloquent meditation on this cold, dreary Good Friday.

    Martha Helmuth April 22, 2011 |
  11. Yes this is the day Jesus gave his life up for our sins and Sunday he will ARISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    bob April 22, 2011 |
  12. Your shring was very uplifting – most appropriate for Easter – the Resurrection Day in Chinese!

    gloria c koo April 22, 2011 |
  13. The best thing I’ve read on this Good Friday. Thank you.

    Joan April 22, 2011 |