Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Winter

Winter is coming on the earth around me. Snow swirls between the trees and is now sticking to the hardening ground. Above the Sand Hill Cranes are screaming their eerie cry as if mourning the loss of summer and fall as they begin their descent south to warmer climbs. The leaves have turned from yellows, oranges and reds, blowing brown around the dead flowerbeds. Only the buckthorns’ green leaves hold hard to their thorny branches, bearing black berries for the lingering birds of winter to eat as they decide if they too will fly south. It is Thanksgiving, so we should be praising God from whom all blessings flow. In fact I just recorded a radio show on Riverwest Radio, Just Talking- “Thankfulness.”  We are in for long months of increasing darkness and the colder weather of winter. Dark will be the skies and the trees naked branches reaching upward as if praying for mercy and rebirth. Resurrection is a ways off until the spring.

 Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. —Martin Luther.

Is this a time of “soul sleep” or death? Our bodies may die and our leaves may fall, but our spirits and souls can live forever. Are we reincarnated, as some believe as a grasshopper or rabbit? Or are we to become a human again to relive our first broken lives in greater victory?  I look out on the forest behind our home again. The tree branches are a dark maze of crisscrosses against the winter sky. They appear harsh and unyielding, yet with a certain grace. The cross of Calvary is like that. It stands in stark relief against the darkening skies, naked like our Savior was. But the cross is empty as the angel told the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has rise, just as He said” (Matthew 28:5-6). This is the promise of the resurrection. This is the promise of life everlasting and the transformation through Jesus Christ to be “born again” to new life in Him who lives forever. Yes, we can live forever. We have a choice, unlike the trees and their leaves. We can choose to receive the gift of life in Christ through His death and resurrection or not. The difference is life or death eternal, one in His bright presence in heaven, the other away from His “Light” in the darkness of hell. All must choose for all will die. But some will live again and their leaves will be those of springtime, green and new.

It is a time to contemplate and rest, as we put away our toys of summer. Some take out the same for winter, cross-country skiing or shoe shoeing. Our skis and shoes are ready, our down jackets also against the cold wind. I will ski 18-holes on a nearby course where I played through the rough in summer, losing balls. The ponds in back are still now as if waiting for the touch that transforms. Again, God is demonstrating His power to change the swimming and fishing pond into a hockey rink with the wave of His mighty arm. It can be a slow transition from water to ice. It is in the “twinkling of an eye” from death to life. I don’t take down my once blazing hockey skates; you see my artificial hip says that I will injure myself. Our bodies’ age, but our spirits can soar up with the migrating birds of fall to be changed again in His spring.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).  This power is at work in us who know the Lord. “The same power that brought Christ back from the dead is operative within those who are Christ’s. The Resurrection is an ongoing thing” (Leon Morris).  This truth from a Bible scholar of the ongoing nature of salvation and the resurrection reminds of the process that will not be perfected until we see God face to face. Not that we will always be horrible sinners, but it is our state until Christ comes to rule and reign or the rapture.

We are not reincarnated, but “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). We are “living sacrifices” or servants of God. We may go through seasons of change, but we do not lose our leaves, they just slowly age. However, as we grow and age in Christ, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2Corinthians 5:17).  Our bodies start aging in our 20s, but our spirits are growing in Christ as we become brand new in Him.

Does my life really show it? Well, yesterday I spoke out of frustration at church, as we were a little late for the prayer with those who would be greeting and serving the congregation and visitors. This was sad timing, yet very revealing and guilt producing. Thank God this Thanksgiving week for the One who says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness”  (1John 1:5). Thank you Jesus! He is “purifying” our bodies and changing us to be more like Him from season to season. The “fall” was our autumn season as well as long winter until the spring of resurrection life. Martin Luther grasped this resurrection thought in his comment written above. 

Enjoy the changing seasons thoughtfully. Winter follows fall and spring follows winter. The summer is coming again, and so should our transformation along with it. Look to the “Light” in the darkness and cold. Clothe yourself in God’s word as well as warm clothes. They will not return void, but accomplish their purpose as Isaiah 55 tells us. And so as this winter season comes, be filled with the Holy Spirit and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.   AMEN





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