O, sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
Those words resonated with me this morning as I listened to the birds singing. Their songs are different in different seasons and in spring, their singing is like a glorious concert written and performed just for us.
There are perhaps few things we really give concentrated thought to in order to keep our spirits alive and vibrant, in spite of the circuitous path that is called Life, but one of the truths that can feed a wilting spirit is that life is cyclical; it gives us, continually, different seasons, times when we enjoy the work of our labor, times where we prepare for the dry and cold times that come into our lives, time when must rest and wait, and times when we sing a new song because out of the dry and cold time we have gone through, there is new life.
The struggle for us as humans continues, but the season of rebirth continues as well. No period of time, no matter how dry or hard or bad or painful…lasts forever. It is part of the cycle of life.
It is exciting to see rebirth. Sometimes, winters are so bad that it is hard to believe that anything new and beautiful will ever be seen again. “Winter” comes in different forms in our lives: illnesses, loss due to natural disasters such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, loss of loved ones, loss of employment. Winter. It always comes, and in our lives, it too often is brutal. Life comes at us sometimes, like unrelenting blizzards, with snow so heavy and the winds of adversity so strong that the snow comes at us sideways. Winter. We can have a house on one day and then a tornado come through and blow it to the ground as if it were a matchbox. In a matter of minutes, we lose everything, and many of us do not have the resources to just pick up and move on. Winter. We are alright at 11:00 in the morning but by 2 p.m. we are feeling strange and by 3 p.m. we are on life support because we have suffered a massive heart attack. Not only are we sick but we are poor, and somewhere within our souls we worry about how we will pay for what will be astronomical medical bills. Winter. Our child is shot dead on the streets, maybe by another child, maybe by an angry young person or by a person with a mental illness. In a matter of hours or maybe minutes, our child is gone. Winter. You are driving to work and a newly-constructed bridge falls on your car or on the car of someone you know and now, if you have survived, your body has been crushed and you will never be the same.
Winter always comes. It is not unexpected, and it is almost never welcome. Some of us can find the warmth and the possibilities in the cold of winter, but far too many of us just concentrate on the cold of winter, and we want it to go away. Winter keeps us inside, trying to stay warm, even as winter causes so many people to suffer in and by the cold. Winter is a season which too many of us do not enjoy.
But winter is a season of preparation. In our winter struggles, we often look for God in new and different ways. In our “staying inside,” we are more still and more willing to open our ears and eyes, looking for newness of life. Winter prepares us if we take advantage of the time winter affords us to prepare for the next season. Winter is brutal, but it is not eternal; none of the seasons are. If we inch ever closer to God during our periods of winter, we can feel the coming of spring, a season where there is newness of life and possibilities.
When spring comes, our souls are ready for newness because the winter we have just gone through has allowed our souls and spirits to be fertilized. Every soul needs a winter because every soul needs to be aerated, fed and fertilized. When spring comes, what winter has allowed to happen begins to show. We have new strength. We breathe a sigh of relief as we realize that we “made it through.” Our fertilized spirits are ready for God, ready for new faith, ready for new ideas. Sometimes our winters last a long time but maybe that is a blessing, if we understand the value of winter because the longer the winter, the more our spirits are fertilized and the more newness we will exude. When spring comes, the beauty that is ours, which has been fertilized and strengthened in spite of the barrenness of winter, bursts through and we are different. When spring comes, birds sing differently, and so do we.
Winter always comes, but it is also always a precursor to new life. Winter is an unpleasant season for many, but it is good for all of us, it gives us the gift, of time to regenerate in spite of our being cold from its windy, icy storms. If we can hold on, as we stand naked, as do the trees whose leaves fall to the ground in preparation for winter as the storms violate our sense of normalcy, we set us up for the newness that is the definition of spring.
O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
Indeed God does marvelous things in spite of and in the midst of, the winters of our lives, and perhaps the greatest gift is …spring.
Litany Against Racism
Leader: We, Your people, come to You because there is a storm raging in the land.
People: There is a hurricane attacking the land and a hurricane attacking decency and dignity for all people.
Leader: The land cannot absorb the immense amount of water that will fall from the heavens; it is too much. The land will be flooded and the people will hurt.
People: The souls of the people cannot absorb the hurricane of hatred, racism and lawlessness which is coming from government; it is too much. Our souls are being attacked, and we are hurting.
Leader: Racism is not of You or from You. You created us all. There is no master race, and You do not sanction any race to assault another.
People: The souls of the people cannot absorb the hurricane of hatred, racism and lawlessness.
Leader: The people who rule this land say this is a nation of laws, but they ignore and break those laws when they want and twist those laws to make it all right to assault people of color.
People: Lord, hear us!
Leader: Leaders before our current president allowed laws to be broken and looked the other way as “the law” was used as the cover for abject and obvious acts of racial hatred.
People: Lord, hear us!
Leader: As the deer pants for streams of water, so do our souls pant for You, O God. We pant for the strength to fight against racism until we stomp it out.
People: Lord, hear us!
Leader: God, we wonder if You hear us? The prophet Nahum says you are slow to show Your anger but that You are great in power; the prophet says that You will in no way clear the guilty. (Nahum 1:3)
People: Lord, show us the way to stand against racism and lawlessness!
Leader: The prophet says Your way is in the whirlwind and storm; the prophet says You will make full end to Your adversaries. (Nahum 1:3b; 8)
People: God, show us what to do to end Your adversary, racism.
Leader: We need to hear from You. As African Americans were assaulted by racist lawmakers in the 60s in Alabama and in cities all over this country, brown people are being assaulted now.
People: God, show us what to do to destroy Your adversary, racism.
Leader: Help us not to shake our heads but do nothing; help us to rise up as Your people of many faiths and challenge the hatred and bigotry.
People: In order to save Your children, help us to rise up!
Leader: We have been called for such a time as this. Help us to be steadfast and immovable and determined to eradicate racism and protect each other.
People: Help us to resist the hurricane of hatred coming from government and people in power. Our souls are flooded with pain. We say “enough!”
Leader: No matter the cost, help us to rise up against racism and racist leaders!
ALL: Lord, in Your mercy, hear us and give us the strength to love and to act!
God of encouragement …come. On this day, someone is in need of encouragement; someone has listened to someone say something negative, or has been ignored or rejected and feels discouraged. We so often listen to the negative voices around us and ignore the voices and sounds and sights You send to lift us up. We hear and retain the negative things said to us or about us and negate and delete the positive – even if the ratio of negative to positive to 1/100! We have no idea why we do that, God, but it erodes our capacity to feel and exude joy and confidence. How is it that we can learn to listen with different ears, and receive with different spirits? We come to You to ask that very question, and to ask You to help us inhale, right now, Your spirit and the encouragement that Your spirit brings us. Help us to “make a joyful noise,” out loud, right now, as an antidote against negative emotions. Help us to sing or to listen to music or even see something in the beauty of Your holiness that helps us put all things in perspective. If this were to be our last day on earth, You would want us to be looking up, not down, celebrating our strengths and gifts, not concentrating on our weaknesses and shortcomings. God of encouragement, come.