Connections 07.31.2016: Seasons of Spiritual Life

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Romans 6:1-4, 12-14, 20-23

One of my favorite contemporary Christian artists is Nichole Nordeman. Her songs range from poignant reflections on the seasons of life (“I Am,” “Every Season,” “Slow Down”) to grateful awe (“Gratitude,” “Even Then”) to bold declarations of uncertainty and doubt (“To Know You,” “Who You Are”). Over the years, I’ve sung several of her songs in church, hoping the congregation would feel the same sense of yearning for God that I always feel when I hear her lyrics.

The song that continues to touch me most is “Every Season,” a journey through a person’s life that parallels the ebb and flow of the four seasons. Beginning with a child in summer, the lyrics move through maturity in fall and approach winter, where “everything in time and under Heaven / Finally falls asleep.”

This period could represent physical death, but in the course of the song it’s more like a time of spiritual silence, when we aren’t sure what we think about the things of God. Maybe life takes a terrible turn that leads us to question the foundations of our faith. Maybe we are burned out on the wrong ideas about who God is. Maybe we just can’t find a way to believe anymore. Even then, though, we can catch glimpses of God, and we know that the resurrection of “spring” is surely coming.

Paul writes about dying to sin and being raised in “newness of life” (Rom 6:4). I was only ten years old at the time, but I remember those words from my baptism. I remember going under the water, being buried, and then being lifted up as my pastor said, “…and raised to walk in newness of life.” In Romans 6, Paul talks over and over about death becoming life. In a world too full of death, what more could we want? When winter comes, Nichole’s song to God continues:

And still I notice You when branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

God is there, even in the quietest, death-like times. If we can hold on, God will raise us up again into the newness of life that comes in spring:

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
And what was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green

So it is with You and how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be as You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring.

Maybe our lives with God reflect a constant turning of the seasons—sometimes fresh and carefree, sometimes pensive and curious, sometimes quiet and doubtful. Through the ups and downs of summer, fall, and winter, may we always look toward the renewal of spring. God is ever re-creating us! Amen.

Source: Nichole Nordeman, “Every Season,” This Mystery, Sparrow Records, 2000. For a lyric video of this song, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lK7y-uXtha4.

Discussion

1. What songs—whether expressly Christian or not—have spoken to you in your faith journey? How have they encouraged you along the way?
2. What do you think about the idea of the Christian life as a passage through seasons? What season are you in now? Do you sense God’s presence there?
3. Have you been baptized? If so, what do you remember about it? What did it symbolize for you? If not, how do you feel about baptism? Is it something you think would be meaningful for you?
4. Why do you think Paul so frequently writes about death becoming life? What makes this theme so important to a follower of Christ?
5. How can you claim God’s gift of “re-creation”—the fact that God is constantly molding you into the person God made you to be?

Reference Shelf

For Jesus to die to sin was for him to die rather than sin. For Christians to die with Christ to sin means for them to identify with Jesus’ bringing to an end all the ties and relationships to the values of Adam’s world because of his (Jesus’) commitment to God. This identification does not mean merely that Jesus models an act for us to repeat. Nor does it mean that when Jesus died to sin at the cross we were in him and so died to sin at that time. Rather, Jesus is the pioneer/leader who has opened the way for others to follow. The experience is ours but it is ours only because he has made it possible. For Christians, to be crucified with Christ means the sinful Ego or the old self dies.

Baptism was an initiation rite connected with Christian conversion. Three actors were involved in the rite: the church which used it as an occasion to preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; the person being baptized (faith; making confession; joining the church in its act of proclamation by submitting to the rite); and God (the passives and the association with the gift of the Spirit). The effects of the baptismal rite were various: attachment to Christ; reception of the Spirit; death to sin/being washed/putting off-putting on; involvement in the church where social status was relativized. Out of this total picture as it can be reconstructed from the Pauline letters, the apostle focused on the aspect of dying to sin/rising to a new lifestyle in Romans 6:1-11. He did this in order to answer the query of his opponent: does the gospel of God’s grace lead to libertine consequences? Paul’s response was: No! Why? Because to experience God’s grace is to die to sin.

Charles H. Talbert, Romans, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2002) 165, 167.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters, and watching television shows on Netflix.

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