April 15. A day that usually invites all kinds of conversations, warnings, instructions and procrastination. Unless it happens to be a birthday or wedding anniversary (a different type of taxing event), it is likely not a date circled on a calendar for any good reason. What might bring tangential joy on April 15 is seeing the grass beginning to green, some trees starting to bud, and birds returning from a winter away. The snow shovel has been tucked away for a long summer’s nap and the lawn and garden stores have rotated their inventory. The sounds of tennis balls thwacking, and aluminum bats pinging, and golf balls slicing join the songs of pregnant robins and other songbirds. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead “(Philippians 3:13), we press on toward the goal of warm summer days and lush gardens and hats without fur. Usually.

But, we are in Minnesota. And if we have learned anything through the years it is that God’s ways are not our ways, hope and joy deferred supposedly build character, and the reason our ancestors settled here was because everywhere else was taken. We got the short straw, the upper bunk, the leftover piece of pie, the spare change, and when the unpredictable happens predictably we become Forrest Gump and opine that life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re going to get. Some wise Bible student will remind us that James 1:2 says “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Which only confirms my suspicion that James never drove white-knuckled down Highway 7 with zero visibility in a blizzard of snow.

So, there we were this April 14 looking out at 20 inches of windblown aggravation and trying to decide whether to persevere and open the doors to whatever fur-hatted faithful saw more adventure than aggravation on the unplowed roads (if you get my drift) and were eager to come to worship. A compromise was reached and we decided to offer one service at 10:30am. A nice-sized group assembled, though there was no need for overflow, and we plowed ahead without benefit of organist, choir, and several other key players. Mark “Frosty” Abelsen filled in on piano and Jill “Elsa” Cowan led us in singing “White Christmas” and we worshiped in a spirit of playful and reverent joy. There was a spirit in worship that I suspect was infused with the recognition that while much of the world was seeking refuge, they had chosen not to be deterred or denied their gathering for worship.

I do believe that James, though he likely never drove through a Minnesota blizzard, was onto something when he refused to disconnect joy from trials and struggle. What makes hope and joy such precious resources is that we have come to believe that, though they may be deferred, they will come. Like spring and summer, they will come. And for now, we make the best of what is, seek the best of what can be, and give our best in caring for each other along the way.

In those days in which it seems that hope or joy may never come, that hope and joy have been canceled until further notice, we gather to worship and sing and pray, break bread and believe together. Because when life gives us lemons we make lemonade and when life gives us blizzards we make snow angels. When zero visibility obscures joy or hope, we gather to white-knuckle it through together and maybe even sing about White Christmases and dreams. It’s who we are. Thank you, Jesus.

Pastor Dave