United Thank Offering

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

March 2, 2021
United Thank Offering

By the Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

Growing up, I anxiously awaited signs of spring. In February, I would watch as some poor groundhog was roused from his winter nap by a group of men decked out in top hats, hoping for an early spring. Then, I would hope that March would begin with bad weather so spring would come at the end of the month. There is something magical about spring and how the wait for it often coincides with Lent, another time of waiting. For many of us, as March arrives this year, it brings with it the anniversary of the shutdowns, lockdowns, and changes caused by the coronavirus. Many of us are feeling the effects of a long year, one that has felt very lion-like in terms of the old proverb and has been full of change, unrest, fear, and isolation. My guess is that we are all feeling a bit weary and perhaps are searching for signs of spring, hoping for the gentleness of a lamb after a season of journeying with the lion.

Today, I watched what I hope is the last snowfall of the season. The clouds are now moving on and the bright blue sky of the American Southwest is peaking through. The birds are rejoicing that I ventured out earlier in half a foot of snow to fill their feeder while my daughters played in the snow nearby. As I watch all of this happening in my yard, I feel weary and am looking for signs of spring. Spring, for me at least, is all about hope. It is the annual reminder that God is making all things new. The hope of resurrection is all around, as I stare at flowerpots, wondering if the plants have survived the winter. Garlic that I planted in the fall will be the first signs of new life in our garden. I’ve already ordered the seeds of other plants that will join the garlic once the temperature holds at night, and I’ve bought new bubbles and jump ropes for the girls. It’s as if, by doing these things, I can make spring come a little faster, as if I can will that amazing smell of spring out of the ground and into my heart simply by preparing for it.

Preparation is a great Christian discipline. We are often preparing for things, from Lenten commitments to Advent wreaths, and our faith has thrived for generations on traditions handed down, shared, and lived. The seasons of preparation in Christianity are often rewarded with great celebration: high holy days, festive worship, big family meals, and time together. For the last year, we have prepared and hoped for those celebrations of old while finding ways to celebrate safely in the midst of the pandemic. I think the weariness is a sign of hearts longing for resurrection and transformation. And while the pandemic is by no means over, there is hope. Vaccines in the United States are getting to people; summer is coming, which seems to push back against the virus as well; and we have grown more resilient, even if it doesn’t feel like it, and that resiliency will serve us well. Hope is like the soft wool of a lamb, the grassy smell of a sheep’s breath, the gentle bleat of a lamb calling for its loved ones. Hope feels like spring. Hope creeps up on us, like the green infusing the blade of grass, the crocus beginning to germinate, or the garlic plant darting out of the cold ground. Hope makes us strong enough to keep going and wise enough to know that it isn’t all settled, like a cold night after a warm spring day. But we have to prepare and watch for hope, just like we prepare and watch for spring, so we can be fully present to its unfolding. Hope, like spring, will show up whether we are ready or not, but it really is glorious to watch it from the very first signs. Hope emboldens us, strengthens us, and empowers us to keep showing up in the world. Hope is a rainbow that God places in the sky to remind us that God loves us. It has been a very long year and a really long time to wait for that lion to head out like a lamb. I don’t know what March will bring in terms of the pandemic, but I do know that spring and Easter are on the way and hope is already here, peeking out in small ways and encouraging us to not give up but to keep moving forward. And for that, I give thanks. Happy spring, may you find the hope of Christ unfolding all around you.

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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