As I write this, it is a glorious °60 outside. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and Spring is most definitely here. For a day or two. Those in the know are predicting snow (again) this weekend.
The variability of early Spring weather’s resemblance to the variability of fortune in the life of faith is a metaphor which has suggested itself to many preachers over the centuries. In 200, Sky Lowe-McCracken invited readers of Homily Service to reflect upon this week’s reading from the First Testament by comparing Abraham and Sarah’s life to the vagaries of the wind and sun.
It is very easy in the Lenten season to get depressed. At this time of the year, there are hints of springtime in the air, but the bite of winter is still around. There is still very little color outside, and lots of dreary, cloudy days with chill in the air. The weather goes up and down, and leans toward the down.
The readings this Sunday reflect ups and downs in the life of Abraham. God calls him to leave his country to begin a new nation. He and Sarah endure famine, he has to argue before God to spare a city, Pharaoh buys his wife for his harem, and he has to put together a small army to rescue his nephew. And they remain childless until Abraham has a son by Hagar. Finally! But God isn’t finished yet. He tells Abraham and Sarah that they will have their own child. Up . . . down . . . up . . . down. Yet God still is not finished with Abraham. As Paul tells the Romans, Abraham hung in there. He hoped against hope, he didn’t weaken in faith, and he didn’t lose his trust in God. We have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story.
Jesus’ parables are filled with nature imagery, so we have it on good authority that the natural world is a good source of metaphors for the life of faith. Sadly, we can’t all be country preachers. Some of us must preach the Word in city and suburb. In our increasingly urbanized culture, how do you as a preacher go about the work of shifting the pastoral metaphors of scripture to your congregation’s environment?