It seems so logical, doesn’t it. That “Spring” is the time in which life returns to the Earth and “springs” forth on a great cycle between birth, maturation, ripeness and death.
And it’s true, too. This planet circles at a tilt around its sun, and in the North and South life follows this round, more or less. At the Equator, not so much. And in the desert? Along the Jordan River?
In the heat, you can be given to the water and enter the first power of the world, when everything was water and the breath of God blew over it in wind and stirred it to life. John used baptism to prepare people for the coming of God’s World, and, miraculously (although predictably), the baptized Jesus came to life again after three days of death. Today we celebrate that.
Whether you believe that literally or believe it symbolically, or even if you will have none of it, it is Easter, a celebration of a revolutionary belief, grafted on even older celebrations of spring. The whole concept is powerful, moving and consistent. Things spring up, full of life.
These are not just images.
This is the world. It is worth celebrating, as is anyone’s spiritual birth, in Christ or elsewhere. But do look at the image above, with the fresh plants springing up, new, in a dead world: dead leaves, dead fungus, dead rock, and dead lichens and moss. There are a few things about it that don’t fit the clean seasonal narrative well. For one, the lichens and moss have been springing up since October.
They are dying back now, but not in “our” spring. For another, the dead white fungus…
… is localized, and has colonized only the invasive cheat grass you can see in the foreground, and it did it under the snow. It was very alive down there during the winter, as was the moss and lichen (and the cheat grass and the new green seedlings you can see as well), only to spring out when the snow melted away. You could say they didn’t spring at all, but were revealed, where they always were, when the snow melted away. You could also say they were baptised in water, or just watered, but it didn’t happen in the spring. It happened in the Winter, the time of “death”, which wasn’t dead at all. In a sense, this is the story John the Baptist was getting at, this power of life and water. There is the immersion, one power, and then the rising from immersion, a corollary power, and the taking of a breath. The breath is the power of God moving over the face of the water. Call Him snow, if you like. Like breath, it comes…
… and goes.
And life, that was hidden, is revealed.
Springing up, and the cycle of life it represents, is part of this cycle, as is its profound concentration in the body of Christ, but life was neither absent nor sleeping here, ever. All winter, the bunchgrasses gathered up water. In late winter, the sagebrush got at it, too. Seedlings sprouted under the snow. Lichen ate rock and provided the nutrients for this whole carpet of life. The sagebrush buttercups were awake, underground. What changed was our ability to see, as a kind of memory, as a kind of holding. Isn’t this extension of a moment into eternity wondrous?