Talking about the weather is something that’s about as Canadian as it gets. And there’s been plenty to talk about this year. Earlier this week, we had a remarkably balmy day, followed by a dreadful snowstorm. I remarked on Facebook that the only redeeming quality of the storm was that the fresh snow made the dirty snow look much cleaner. A friend remarked that there was a sermon illustration in there somewhere.
Since I’m not using it on Sunday, I thought I might as well use it today. And there are at least two ways to look at it.
One way to look at fresh snow covering dirty snow is that it’s a pretty covering over something not very pleasant that’s still there, even when covered over. Unfortunately, we humans are inclined to treat sin that way at times. Rather than confess it, repent of it, and walk away from it, we cover it up somehow. As the late Dallas Willard was known to say, this is a form of sin management; we play with it without actually getting rid of it. That’s not God’s way of having us deal with sin, though. We are called to confess our sin – to name it before the Lord – and to repent of it. When we repent of a sin, we tell God we’re sorry, but we go a step further by walking away from that sin in a more holy direction. This is a more spiritually healthy way to face sin in our lives.
The other way to look at fresh snow covering dirty snow is that it makes the landscape seem new again. Where the analogy breaks down is that the time will come when the snow will melt (please!) and we’ll see the dirty “brown sugar snow” (as my wife calls it) once again – but it, too, will melt in due time. In the meantime, we enjoy the new covering that has come. Forgetting the breakdown of the analogy, though, this is what Jesus does for us: he covers our sin with his blood. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for our sins, and in a sense cloaked us with his righteousness so that when God looks on us, he sees not the sinful beings that we are, but he sees the righteousness of Jesus that covers us, just like freshly-fallen snow.
In this season of Lent, we do well to examine ourselves and be honest with ourselves so that we can get rid of sin in our lives. Most Christians don’t believe that we can ever fully be rid of sin in this life, but we can work toward that goal! Let’s not merely manage our sin; let’s invite Jesus to cover it with his righteousness, letting his blood wash it away.
Each morning is new, each day filled with grace. God is for us. The snow will melt, and new life will grow. But that may be an illustration that has to wait a few weeks more.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1.18b, NLT).