Winter is coming.
Seems kind of redundant to say that now. There’s snow on the ground, it’s cold and winter appears to be already here. But wait for January and February, that’s when it’s really winter. Although, it was pretty mild a few years ago. ‘Course, then there was the winter o’ ’58. That was a winter.
I’m getting a little off track, but isn’t that how conversations about the weather go? Start a conversation about winter and, before you know it, everybody’s comparing how cold it was that one year or how deep the snow was or this blizzard or that blizzard. But it always melts, it always warms up, the sun always shines brighter, the days get longer and the spring comes in a few months.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, the books or the television program, then “Winter is coming” is something a little more. In fictional Westeros, a winter can last for years (so does summer) and the ancient winter called The Long Night lasted for a generation and brought all sorts of nasty things from the north, including the White Walkers and the wights. “Winter is coming” is the warning the characters in that story use to remind people of the danger that’s ahead because all that’s coming back. They need to be ready and they need to be ready to work together.
That’s a key part of where the story is now. In the midst of all the fighting over who gets to sit on the Iron Throne, they now have this new enemy they need to fight together and getting them to fight together is a challenge. Especially in a world that seems so relentlessly full of brutality, misery and hurt.
Just to be clear, I was still talking about Game of Thrones.
But I might just as easily have not been. While I truly believe there is so much more good, happiness and hopefulness in our world than in that fictional one, there are many who’s life experience tells them something different. And a similarity they might recognize is what a challenge it can be to get people to work together when your winter is a lifetime of hunger, poverty, homelessness, war or oppression.
Sometimes those are global issues (Game of Thrones fans: I wonder which world leader is Cerci Lannister and which one’s Jon Snow…). Sometimes it’s more regional or local. But it’s always – always – everyone’s responsibility to work at it together, to offer what gifts and skills we have to help feed the hungry, bring prosperity to the poor, find a home for the homeless, bring peace where there’s conflict and freedom for the oppressed.
“Thoughts and prayers” are always helpful, but they’re not enough. Action is needed, too, to help bring the spring. So maybe the question really is, “What can I do?” but not with any unrealistic, unreasonable expectation, but rather what gift or skill do I have that I can offer? Some might have money, but some might simply have time or more practical skills. In fact, when we work together, the more diverse the community, the stronger the community.
The apostle Paul knew that. He also knew how hard it was to recognize it and embrace it. So when he heard that a church he had planted in Corinth was struggling, he wrote to them about how we may each have our own gifts or skills or talents, but they are all from that one spirit that is in all of us. Embracing each other’s uniqueness unites us, rejecting each other’s differences divides us. In fact, Paul wrote, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
It doesn’t matter how long the winter lasts – and, let’s face it, the weather’s gone crazy lately – we can live it together, warmed by the spirit that is in each of us to share.
This is part 1