We’ve crossed the invisible divide between winter and spring.
But it’s still pretty chilly out there most mornings. Flowers are blooming somewhere I expect. It may be a bit milder today, but there’s likely more snow tomorrow.
mumble. mumble. mumble.
Earlier this week, the coldest St. Patrick’s Day on record for our region at -21 degrees invited a whole range of naysaying. So has the freezing rain. So has the climate of complaint.
mutter. mutter. mutter.
Symptoms of spring fever are all around us. Some of it the nattering chatter, but some an excited anticipation watching for robins to return. Or looking forward to sap running in the sugar maples. Or celebrating the more penetrating warmth of the sun on the face. How will we respond?
Grumbling in congregational or denominational life can wear down a servant as mighty as Moses. It can leave us feeling cold to living hope if we fail to wear protective winter clothing from the chilly weather on our watch until the spring of his return.
Together, we long for fresh faith to come and stay, for God to make a way through the Red Sea walls we face in our contexts which hold us back from a new freedom and joy. But spring may still feel a long ways off … and the ‘nays’ about what to do as we wait are quick to point out frosty days of waning numbers or spiritual slumber which just won’t lift … and it chips away at our resolve to remain positive. Perhaps it is the whining over mundane things to keep the deeper issues safely in the background. Maybe just grumpy rumblings about who knows what.
‘Miraculous manna isn’t enough. This quail meat is a bit too tough. The routes you are choosing for us are so rough. And Moses, we have no leeks!’
murmur. murmur. murmur.
Those who lead often bear the blame. Released from slavery in the spring of their new beginnings, the people of Israel left Egypt to become a free nation to the glory of God. Yet only a few weeks passed and they were ready to get rid of Moses and go back to Egypt since there were still hardships to be faced.
Such times for servant leaders become yet another opportunity to watch for signs of how the Spirit may be working in the winter of our own resistance to a fully blossomed love when surrounded by complaint in our little corner of the world. How will we respond?
Jesus dealt with biting criticism by truthfully critiquing the conditions in which people lived from the point of view of the whole person, the whole community, the whole religious system, the whole counsel of God. He invited constructive change in his name to thaw frost bitten fears, deal with the wearing effects of our shortcomings, and strengthen weary souls along the way. He pointed to the Father who had been, was, and would be bringing all things to pass at the right time, wearing the robe of his love to protect him from disgruntled demands and a noticeable negativity.
Rejected by his own, Jesus was torn by the deepest mutterings of betrayal possible. Crucifixion. It was the height of calculated cruelty before any sight of exaltation.
In order to bring us into the spring of new life from the cold of our spiritual crisis, he was willing to weave the sin of the world into the thin translucent robe he wore when his own was stripped away and hang forsaken, chilled to the bone, exposed to the elements between heaven and earth. In exchange, he then hung a priestly garb beyond the cross in resurrection hope for us to wear by faith, to be placed upon our shoulders so we would learn to bear offense as did he and win the world to him with eyes which see the promised land ahead.
To each dear servant who has become chilled by attitudes which have challenged your ability to give another word of humble grace in patient love, I gently say, ‘Slip on his robe of righteous love again this day’.
“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2: 24-26)
You are surrounded by many who understand that it can still be pretty chilly out there, and that it becomes harder to resist complaint as a winter season drags on. But come, be wrapped afresh in Christ to face what may turn out to be yet another cold weather day wearing the towel of a servant fashioned after his, washed in his love. Even in crucible confrontations which feel as though they break all records and threaten to break our spirits. Spring will come.
‘Lord, fill each one with your love to mediate complaints as we meditate on your compassionate restraint and naturally follow suit. The cross at the center makes all the difference. When muttering leads us through a path of discontent, help us hear you whisper in our ear, ‘I am utterly for you’. Amen.’