between-our-steps-02-21-18-doubleAfter the school shooting last week, I met someone for whom this event brought despair. For them, the inhumanity of people felt intolerable. They couldn't explain why this pushed them to abandon hope, but that's how they felt.

Fortunately for life in the United States, there have been strong protests, intelligent demands for specific changes. One sign of light has been news from Washington that they may look at improved background checks. The problem of gun violence is at least under discussion.

But what I want to think about is the loss of hope. What happens to us when we can't see past the darkness, when we can't see a path to change? What help is there for despair?

In one of the letters in the New Testament, the teacher Paul wrote about hope by talking about the pattern of spring. Although his focus is on life beyond life here, he also claims that God's energy is at work to bring transformation.

The church in Corinth asked about the nature of resurrection and compares the change from life to life to planting a seed.

We've all seen what happens when grain is planted, he wrote. We put the grain of wheat in the ground, and we wait. We can't see the grain swell in the warm, damp earth, but we know it is happening. And when it changes from hard seed to sprout and root, we will see the green shoot come from the ground. We'll see leaves form, and grow. We'll watch for the head of the grain and eventually it will ripen and a new harvest will come.

All of this takes time, but it is a cycle we watch for. It is a cycle we depend on. This cycle we trust.

Paul then wrote that the seed that is planted and grain that grows are quite different from one another. The seed is hard, the plant is soft and flexible. But both are wheat.

Also, the seed won't grow unless it is buried. The hard grain has to go into the ground to find new life as a plant.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead, he wrote. There is a transformation from one body to another. As with the seed, there is a shift from physical body to the spiritual body.

Next, he imagined the difference between these two aspects of life. I could say he described the difference, but he was aware that we cannot see beyond this life. We are always imagining, guessing, believing. We never see it. He stayed with his image of planting a seed.

He wrote, what is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown as a physical body, and it is raised as a spiritual body. The mortal is put aside and the immortal taken up.

This change is a mystery, Paul acknowledged. But he does not say it is a miracle. It is as natural as spring.

For Paul, this was not just about death, but how we live now. The next part of his letter has to do with the work the church in Corinth needs to take on. The work is meaningful, he claimed, because of the possibility of new life, because the power of God is at work to do more. God's transforming power is as dependable as spring.

One thing about spring: it is not straightforward. This week we get rain and snow melt and flooding. Sap will run in the double-digit temperatures. Then cold returns. We will get more snow. Eventually, sometime in March, warmth in the sun will make the lilac buds swell. But another cold day, and they will wait. Sap will run and stop, run and stop. Snow will go and come back.

But the days will keep ticking by and the sun will rise just a little sooner, stay in the sky just a little longer. And eventually, there will be enough warmth in its light to bring green to the grass, to draw bright yellow daffodils from the ground. There will be days we doubt it is coming, but spring will arrive.

We may not see the path from where we are to a new way of being, but transformation is possible. Just as the seed is buried in order to change, our actions can be the seeds of a new way.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.

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