Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Sprig of Hope

By Colleen O’Sullivan

But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  (Hebrews 8:10)

Show us, O Lord, your mercy,
and grant us our salvation. 
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
(Psalm 85:8, 10-12)

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.  He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  (Mark 3: 13-15)

Lord, in the dark of winter, come to us, we pray.  Remind us that the barren landscape of these months always gives way to the colorful beauty of spring and new life both around and within us. 

Already this winter seems overly long and dark.  A few days of bright sunshine here and there, to be sure, but not enough to dispel the gloom.  It’s the winter of continuing ISIS threats and attacks.  It’s the season of heartlessly mocking the religious beliefs of a world faith in the name of free speech, 12 people dying as a result in a bloody reprisal.  It’s the time of year when the homeless particularly suffer. 

For me, this winter will also forever be marked by endings.  One of my dear friends is losing his wife, who’s given her illness of more than a decade a good fight.  Closer to home, these cold months mark the end of the days when my dad can live alone and needs to leave his sanctuary of 58 years, albeit not willingly.

Today’s Scripture readings remind us, however, that winter doesn’t last forever.  The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, in writing about the old and new covenants, refers back to the words of the prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah lived through very dark times in Jerusalem, through three waves of deportations to Babylon and finally the destruction of the Temple.  He spoke a word of hope, however, to his beaten-down, exiled people.  God, he said, will make a new covenant, not like the old one that we, God’s people, violated, but a new one written in our hearts.  A promise that becomes a sprig of hope blooming in the dead of winter.

In today’s psalm, we hear God’s people begging for mercy and salvation from some frozen tundra of despair.  And we feel the warm breath of spring here, too, as the psalmist declares God’s salvation near, that “kindness and truth shall meet” and “justice and peace shall kiss.”  There is hope that the season will change.

In today’s Gospel verses, we see the fulfillment of all these longings for new life in the person of Jesus.  He is the spring we pray for from the depths of icy winter.  He is God in our midst, the Savior for whom we longed throughout all of Advent.  And already we find him appointing Apostles, who will sow the seed of new life in the Lord.

As you pray today, offer to God all that troubles you, all that has you feeling as though you’re living through an endless season of cold and clouds.  Winter is never the last word.  Sit, quiet and still, listening for God to remind you that God is the author of new life and that spring will come to your heart.

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