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This week marks the first day of spring. The season of renewal, when our world awakens from a long, cold winter's sleep and reminds us that there's always a rebirth. Just yesterday I heard the birds in the morning, and it touched something as dormant in me as the grass lying sleeping beneath the lingering snow.

Spring is a season of promise, one embraced by hymn author Natalie Sleeth, who wrote "Hymn of Promise."

Sleeth was inspired as she was "pondering the ideas of life, death, spring and winter, Good Friday and Easter, and the whole reawakening of the world that happens every spring."

In the bulb there is a flower;

in the seed, an apple tree;

in cocoons, a hidden promise:

butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter

there's a spring that waits to be,

unrevealed until its season,

something God alone can see.

I turn to those words each spring as I shake off the chill of winter. They sing of the rebirth that I anticipate as the weather slowly warms and the snow slowly retreats; of the hope I feel as the earth renews.

They are a reminder that renewal is a promise for each of us: that we are not bound by who we were yesterday.

Each of us is built from the sum of our experiences, good and bad. We are shaped by the way we have encountered the world. It's part of being human. And some of us have encountered so much tragedy that it seems that our lives are comprised of responses to pain. We see life through the lens of loss.

But we don't have to live that way. We don't have to be limited by who we have been. The promise of Easter is one of rebirth, awakening from the pain of loss to the joy of resurrection.

Though Jesus was in the grave only three days, his followers knew something was coming. Over and over again, Jesus warned them that he would be handed over to suffering and death. Their response proclaimed their unbelief, but one has to wonder whether they truly didn't believe Jesus or if they simply couldn't accept that all they'd experienced was leading, not to glory, but to a tragic finality. When he was taken, they fled. When he was murdered on a cross, most of Jesus' followers were nowhere to be seen. They were hiding, not just from those who had taken their friend and teacher, but also from the depth of their pain at what they perceived as the end of the mission to which they'd surrendered everything.

They'd walked in dread, fled in grief, and, shaped by those experiences, hid in terror.

But then the most amazing thing happened: Jesus accomplished what he'd promised all along. On the third day, when they went to the tomb, they found him, not dead, but risen.

Though the tragedy of what they'd experienced had built them into hiding, fearful men and women, they were not limited by those experiences. The reality of the empty tomb fulfilled the promise of renewal they'd heard, but not dared to hope for.

The empty tomb transformed them.

So, this spring, let's not hold on to what the world has tried to shape us to be. Rather, let's turn our hopes to the promise of resurrection: that we can shake off our grief and fear, and live into the hope of the Promise that Christ gave to us all.

Let's dare to believe that we, too, can be transformed.

Freed from the grief of loss, Christ's followers continued his mission, establishing a church grounded in love and grace, that continues to proclaim his promise through the centuries: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" [1 Peter 1:3]

Let's take to heart the words of scripture, and the words of Natalie Sleeth: that the worst things, the ones that may have had the power to shape us, do not have the power to hold us.

In Christ, we have the gift of being reborn.

In our end is our beginning;

in our time, infinity;

in our doubt there is believing;

in our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;

at the last, a victory,

unrevealed until its season,

something God alone can see.

Rev. Stephen Dale is a pastor of the United Methodist Church who has come to Bennington to start the AfterDark faith community. He can be reached at, or 802-440-0217, or at Hymn of Promise 1986 Hope Publishing Company


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