“We’ve actually had a really encouraging Springtime,” he said.
My friend said this back at the beginning of June and, while the sentence made perfect sense, grammatically, the meaning was totally lost on me. I had to interrupt. “Sorry, did you just call it Springtime?”
Growing up in the southern hemisphere I sometimes have to stop and think a bit about seasons, the way our 5 year old makes an L with her thumb and forefinger to figure out which is Left. Spring is March to May, isn’t it? It is, isn’t it? So… he’s referring to the period March to May. And. He’s. Calling. It. Springtime.
I double-checked: “You mean Springtime 2020?”
“Well,” I said, “that’s a first. I don’t think I’ve heard the word Springtime this year. And I’ve never heard anyone describe these last 3 months that way.”
“These unprecedented times”? Far too often.
But it has been. It’s been Spring. With daffodils and butterflies and bumblebees. With punnets of strawberries and lengthening days and pollen counts. Did you notice?
New life was bursting out, even as the death toll was announced each evening at 5pm. But both things are true. Death and life. And life in the midst of death. Lockdown has also been Springtime.
Lockdowns have often been Springtimes. Think of Noah and his family — locked down in the ark, death all around. But they sail through the storm into a world washed clean.
Think of Joseph in the prison. Locked down with others on death row and then raised to Pharaoh’s right hand to bless and save the world.
Think of Israel, locked down at Passover. Sheltering under the blood of the lamb, then brought out—through all that death—into liberation.
Think of Christ, cold, dead, entombed, and raised up as the Firstfruits of new creation life.
In every case, God’s beloved are surrounded by death and in every case they are brought through to greater blessing. Lockdown proved to be Springtime.
Do we believe this about our lockdown? Might it be that our lockdown is also a Springtime. This is not to minimise the cost of the pandemic, in lives and livelihoods. No, death surrounded each of those biblical figures. It was a profound and painful part of the story. Nevertheless, through death came new life. That’s what Springtime is all about.
It’s easy to look at the world and see tumult. There are convulsions, politically, economically, socially. It seems like it’s all falling apart. But the eyes of faith see something else.
When Jesus predicted the death, pain and struggle of the age ahead, he painted a vivid picture:
“There will be wars and rumors of wars… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.”Mark 13:7-8
But how does Jesus speak of these convulsions? They are:
v8: “Birth pains.” The suffering we see is fruitful suffering — life-giving. After the birth pain, there’s birth.
v13: The “end”. The Greek word is telos, which can mean the “goal”, the end-point, what creation is straining towards.
v26: “The cloud”. It’s the cloud of God’s presence — like the cloud the LORD accompanied his people in. God will draw near to us just as he did to his people in the wilderness.
v27: “Summer”. After the winter, after the springtime, the sun will shine out all the clearer.
v27: “Gathering”. An end to our scattered lives. We will be brought together, like sheep shepherded back to the fold.
v28: the “power and glory of the Son of Man”. This is where all things are headed. Not chaos, deprivation and suffering. No, all things are moving towards the visible reign of Jesus in all his power and glory.
So chin up, my friends, it is the end of the world. That is, the goal of history is being worked out: the Cloud of God’s Presence will shelter us; the scattered will be gathered and the power and glory of Jesus will reign forever. It’s not just death-throes we are seeing, it’s birth pains. It’s not just lockdown we’ve experienced, it’s Springtime. And summer is coming.