Throwing snow into spring
by PASTOR JEFF WILLIAMS
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
Robert Falcon Scott, a British explorer, made two expeditions to the South Pole in 1901-1904 and 1911-1912. On one occasion, the weather conditions were such that a white haze blended with the unbroken whiteness of the snow and no horizon was visible. Wherever they looked, there was simply one unbroken whiteness. There was no point on which they could direct their course as they drove their sledges forward. Before long, they were coming upon their own tracks. Thinking that they were going forward, they were in fact only going around in a great circle. To solve the problem, they began throwing snowballs ahead of them in the direction of true south so that they had something to fix their eyes on.
Without some vision of the future, how is it possible to direct one’s course in a rational way? In practice we do what Scott did; we have projects, literally things we throw forward, long- or short-term projects, and we measure our progress by the degree of success we have in reaching our self-set targets.
But where do these projects lead in the end? Scott had a compass to tell him in which direction to throw the snowballs. Without a compass, how do we know whether our success in reaching our targets is in fact progress or regress? (Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society).
In the northern hemisphere, Easter is celebrated in the spring, and in Michigan it is a time of unmistakable change from the snow of winter. The winter view is broken by sunshine, melting snow, puddles, mud, returning birds, new buds and a greening of the landscape. We are refreshed by the change of weather.
The struggle of Scott’s expedition was against an unchanging landscape, and loss of depth perception and direction. Thankfully God blesses us and the world with a sense of the future. Prophets are the ones called on to announce such a vision: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As Christians, we are entering the final stage of Lent, a time of reflection on the direction of our lives and God’s call to return (repent) to God’s way of life in Jesus Christ.
I find Scott’s tactic of throwing snowballs and following them ingenious for the harsh circumstances they faced. While the external circumstances in our lives may appear to be an unbroken haze with no horizon, we may together follow “God’s gift from highest heaven,” Jesus Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrews 12:2).
May we be blessed this spring with a new or renewed sense of the future, and the gift of Jesus Christ going before us.