For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10)
Snow last Friday and rain today. More of the latter is predicted tomorrow -- all of which is purposeful, if the prophet is to be trusted. God sends the nourishment, he asserts, to accomplish rejuvenating and sustaining work, and will not be deterred until its done; though some tardiness seems to be at play. I haven't heard an update in recent weeks but I surmise we are still well below our customary and seasonal watering. Heavenly moisture is behind schedule. The snowy-ice pack that in other years threatens Easter Sunday's crowded parking lots is this year a timid and blotchy veneer cowering in the shade. There has been an eery and odd sort of mildness to the winter this year -- not altogether unappreciated in this more commonly frigid zone, but disconcerting nonetheless. Is it a mere anomaly -- a gift of sorts as a respite between severities -- or an augur of new normals to come? The answer is debated.
The prophet, however, is less interested in climate change than glimpses of the sure and greening work of God that reaches out and touches not simply earth and seed, but similarly the sower and the soul aching, in their own way, for signs of life. Bread for the table, but the spirit no less.
There is, I think, a kind of genius to the placement of lent each year in the waning weeks of winter -- days customarily gray and uninspired in which the ripenings of summer and the colors of autumn are all but ground out of memory by the grittiness of winter and the sheer exhaustion of getting by. We are weary in these days, and wanting; anxious for blossoms, but schooled by frostbitten buds in years past not to get our hopes too high. Late winter breeds a kind of numbness laced with low expectations that can even gray one's prayers.
...as is the Word of the Lord that is similarly soaking in, breaking open, and reliably -- assuredly -- giving rise to the very Bread of Life within and among us.
Just in the nick of time.