By Pastor Jean M. Megorden Woods and Waters Shared Ministry: Bethel, Little Falls, Immanuel, Hillman and Bethany, Cushing
Springtime often brings to mind those opening words from Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” We are basking in the new life of trees and flowers, baby farm animals, and warm weather, when all of a sudden we get a cold snap that makes us feel betrayed by the very powers of nature we had been enjoying so much.
A cold snap seems minor compared to the natural disasters that accompany this time of year – tornadoes and flooding – unless you have planted your fields or gardens and crop failure becomes imminent. Our context determines what we view as hardship or annoyance.
That is why the context of a Christian life centered in the promise of life everlasting becomes so important. Recently I preached at a funeral that included the scripture lesson that is chosen most often for that time of laying a loved one to rest: the 23rd Psalm. As I read this familiar passage from scripture, the 23rd Psalm took on new meaning in the context of spring.
So often what we concentrate on in the 23rd Psalm is the promise of green pastures and still waters. If we only concentrate on that promise present in the Psalm, our faith can be shaken by the normal ups and downs of daily living or the normal changing of seasons. It is easy to feel God’s presence in the spring when new growth appears and we once again hear the melodious voices of the returning population of songbirds. But spring also brings back those big black birds with their not-so-beautiful cawing and the turbulent and violent weather that comes with the transition from winter to spring.
It is when these less-than-peaceful aspects of nature occur that I am drawn to a different part of the 23rd Psalm. It is the part not so concerned with the shepherd image and our following as with the reminder of what is promised to follow us.
In verse 6 we read, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life …” In other words, no matter how the world may appear, with its inequity, suffering and trials, we can be comforted by the fact that God’s goodness and mercy follow us.
This is perhaps the more comforting part of this Psalm because it reminds us that the “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever” is a time that begins now even when weather and circumstance contradict the peace of that promise.
In the church year, we are finishing up the season of Easter, a season that celebrates resurrection and our eternal life with God. Because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can experience green pastures and still waters even in the midst of frozen fields and troubled waters.
Whether we are experiencing “the best of times or the worst of times,” we can know the transcendent power of God through our risen Savior.