David Robbins: Spring marked by once-for-all-time special occasion
Drink your cocoa fast; you'll be putting the fire out soon. Spring is this month! And that means we can look forward to pink dogwoods and picnics and baseball and many other wonderful things. Of course, there will also be work to do; remember all those outdoor projects that didn't get done last fall? Over at my house, we'll be busy with cleaning, staining, planting, and trimming. Oh, and mowing; don't forget that. (And allergies...sigh.)
Yes, I'm looking forward to getting outside again, but that long list of piled-up maintenance work can sometimes feel so tiresome. You and I have done these tasks before. Many times. And at the end of a long day of effort, exhaustion may give way to frustration: Why can't things ever be finished? Why can't houses stay painted, and carpets cleaned, and windows washed?
Many things in life have to be done over and over. Repetition contributes to mundanity; and when a task feels mundane, we often question whether it's worth doing. Does it really mean anything? Does it matter? From household chores to recurring conversations; from TV ads to the never-ending cycle of promises followed by elections; even from New Year's resolutions to the scale's grim report in December, the whole process is monotonous. Dreary. Vanity.
"I've got a prescription for that," you say? Not so fast; I've got something better.
There are a few things that happen only once, and those are usually the things worth celebrating. For instance, think back with me across the many years to an event that took place in the springtime, an event that happened only once. It only needed to happen once; and it would be impossible, and undesirable, to repeat it.
Hear the cacophony of the screaming hordes, the ringing hammers, the mocking insults. Pay attention now, or you might miss it: filtering through the harsh wall of sound, a voice, filled with pain and sorrow and absolute authority -- "It is finished!" (John 19:30). Fully, finally, completely and irrevocably done; nothing more to accomplish, and never again to be repeated. The dying words of Jesus inform us that something unusual, something radically beyond ordinary was finished on Good Friday; something that I dare say is really worth celebrating.
What exactly was it that happened? The Bible is unambiguous. In an extraordinary, once-for-all-time act, the Savior of the world offered his own life as the sacrifice for sin; and in so doing, he secured redemption from it (Hebrews 9:12). And because he really finished this work, when you look to him by faith, you are totally, finally secure -- there's nothing more to do! Nothing but live in the joy of your salvation.
Even in spring, some things have to be done over and over again; but the cross isn't one of them. Better still: because of this astonishing instant in the history of the world, and because the tomb was empty Easter morning, mowing lawns and painting houses and washing windows mean something. Not everything is vanity, vanity, after all: understanding what happened in Jesus' death and resurrection gives you joy in God's gifts of the everyday, since his cross-shaped grace secures your whole life.
So get ready to beat the rugs, and plant the garden, and stain the deck. Oh, and get to church -- regularly. These things aren't mundane; nothing is, because springtime started 2,000 years ago.
David J. Robbins is pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Huntington.