Pastor Joanne's March newsletter column
As I sit in the church office writing this column, the season of Spring is just minutes away from its official arrival. And that will be good news for many who aren’t fond of the weather that usually comes with the winter. We embrace the warmer temperatures, celebrate the lengthening of daylight hours, and delight as the first few flowers break through the ground’s warming surface.
I love the newness of life that comes with the Spring – a chance to shake off the old heavy clothes of winter and put on a new lightness of being. Spring always reminds me of God steadfastness, of God’s promises to care for us and guide and protect us. Spring is also a reminder that God is always at work in our world.
In years past, I have potted a variety of spring bulbs and then given them a time of cold and darkness before moving them into a sunny spot in the house. This technique of “forcing” the bulbs usually gives you flowers inside before they bloom outside. It’s a method for the impatient among us, or the ones who want a touch of spring all year long. On our altar through Lent are two glass vases of paper whites working their way into bloom.
According to the book, Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors, forcing bulbs “can be part of a spiritual exercise that keeps our hearts and spirits open” even during those months of the year when the soul food nature provides seems to be largely absent.”
The book also notes the religious meaning attached to some of the spring bulbs.
“In the Christian tradition, the hyacinth symbolizes the peace of mind focused on heaven. The paper white too has a sacral history: It may well be the ‘rose of Sharon’ referred to in the Song of Solomon, since it blooms in profusion on the plain of Sharon at the beginning of the winter rainy season.”
In many ways, it feels like our denomination has survived the cold brutality of the 2019 special General Conference that denied full inclusion to those in the LGBTQIA community, and is now poised for something new to happen, waiting for something new to bloom. We await the late April rulings of the Judicial Council to determine what parts of the Traditional Plan approved in St. Louis are constitutional. And then we will have a better sense of how to move ahead. Will we remain where we have been planted, or find richer nurturing soil in another garden?
I know that we will continue to be in conversation, prayer and discernment about our beloved United Methodist Church and the New York Conference as we continue to serve our members, neighbors and greater community. And we can be certain that our Creator-Gardener God will be walking the path ahead of us.
So as we look for ways to reconnect with God during this Lenten season, may you stop and notice as creation is coming alive all around us. I leave you with “A Springtime Prayer,” written by one of my favorite devotional authors, Joyce Rupp:
Ever-renewing and energizing Creator,
come, stir in my dormant spiritual limbs.
Wake up my tired prayer.
Revive my weary efforts of care.
Sing hope into my discouragement.
Wash my dusty, drab attitude
with the cleansing rains of your vision.
Go deep to my roots and penetrate my faith
with the vibrancy of your grace.
Shake loose the old leftover oak leaves
of my tenacious ego-centeredness.
Coax joy to sprout from my difficulties.
Warm the buds of my relationships
so they bloom with healthy love.
Clear out my wintered debris
with the wild breeze of your liberating presence.
Nudge me, woo me, entice me, draw me to you.
I give you my trust and my gratitude
as you grace my slowly thawing spirit.
Light-filled Being, my Joy and my Hope,
let the greening in me begin!