The word on the street is that this has been a hard winter for many people. And I mean on the street literally. In my rounds on Cape Ann, I often run into people associated with St. Paul, either as members or friends of members, or new families, or relatives of people in the congregation. Usually we stop for brief conversations, sometimes held through car windows, or outside shops.
In these on-the-spot pastoral conversations, I have been hearing the toll the times are taking on people, from high oil prices and joblessness, to illnesses and medical costs, to frustration with local and national issues. On the other hand, I hear, too, the profound faith and hope that many people carry with them through all of it. Part of having an inner core of faith, a center or ground on which we stand is the equilibrium or equanimity such a ground provides when external events are tumultuous. We don’t stand on sinking sand, as the old hymn goes, we stand on Christ the solid rock. I have come to appreciate that metaphor even more since living here on Cape Ann. We literally do stand on rock. It’s good to remember the firm ground of God’s grace in the midst of the ups and downs most of us experience.
Lent is one of those times that calls our attention to our need for grace: sustaining, creating, renewing grace, grace that doesn’t depend on what we do or say, but on God’s great will to love us regardless. I was reminded of that again this morning. I went out to walk the redoubtable Elmer, who has finally learned to heel. We went down the street at a leisurely pace, and for the first time, I smelled the mud of spring. Spring mud has a different fragrance than winter. Spring mud smells alive. It’s a wonderful aroma, all that wet earth, rich with life below the surface. Underneath all the snow, the ground is softer. In the woods, the bare limbs of trees and bushes are beginning to change color, from gray to burgundy red and warm brown. Leaf buds soften on the tips of branches.
Spring is coming. With it comes Easter, and all the joys of the risen life. I hope when you go out today, whether you are walking your dog, or getting the mail, or standing on a street corner, the smell of spring coming up from under the snow will gladden your heart. Grace comes all the time toward us; it’s there whether we feel it or not, whether we notice it or not.
We can count on it. May God send you the joy and hope of spring, of Easter. May the living water of new life and the warmth of the Son bring you the certainty of faith that Easter is our way of being.
Blessings and peace,
your sister in faith, Pastor Anne