“Almighty God, who has given the earth to the children of men, and who alone dost change the times and the season, we yield Thee hearty thanks for that now again Thou art causing the round world to break forth and bud on every side, manifesting thereby Thy love towards us, and vouchsafing a sign of our own resurrection from the grave.” – from “The Book of Common Prayer”
Cultures worldwide see spring as evidence of God’s faithfulness. Drab limbs and brown stubble become a thousand shades of green, and bulbs that seemed to give up the ghost last June suddenly sprout with every color under the sun. Earth yields its early offerings and hints at its promise of large harvests in seasons to come.
Earth’s 23-degree tilt proves itself again a constant that brings constant change. Whether we have seen 10, 30, 60 or 100 springs, we are stunned nearly speechless by such a prodigal palette.
In the midst of such awe-inspiring beauty, however, we have reminders that all is not right with the world. Allergies wreak misery on some people for weeks at a time. On a more intense scale, Eden-like flowers and greenery seem downright insignificant when tornadoes seem to rise from the pit of Hell, ripping indiscriminately and pitilessly through houses, hospitals and highways.
Similarly, the Gospels portray a season of celebration and renewal, when Jesus was honored as a prophet – and possibly the long-promised Messiah – by his fellow Jews in Palestine. Palm Sunday commemorates his ride into Jerusalem, when the masses laid palm fronds in his path as a gesture of reverence.
A few days later, like a storm front that interrupts a sunny afternoon, those same masses were calling for Jesus’ torture and execution.
When the storm of public opinion passed, the recently celebrated Lord had been beaten nearly to death, and then nailed to a tree to finish dying slowly and hideously. The annual joy of Passover – multiplied by the prospect of freedom if Jesus proved to be the Messiah – was mangled into an unrecognizable mass of horror and grief.
The Gospels tell us that the end, however, was not The End. The empty tomb signified a new beginning, a confirmation of Lordship, more wonderful and transforming than any springtime, more enduring than Earth itself.
When dogwood and wisteria bloom in Northeast Mississippi, Christians take them as a reminder of God’s goodness and providence – for both this life and eternity.