Lamb Watch, when I begin posting daily pictures of my pregnant ewes on Facebook and invite others to watch with me for the arrival of lambs, began on Wednesday. This annual tradition is in its eighth year here on the farm. We are waiting for the first lamb of spring. Other sheep on other farms across the Pacific Northwest have already had their lambs. But I schedule my lambing based on the date of Easter each year, so the needs of my Whidbey flock won’t interfere with my responsibilities for my Seattle flock.
When Easter is late, lambing comes earlier. When Easter is early, lambing is later. This year, with Easter pretty much in the middle of its lunar-based cycle, I decided on an after-Easter lambing season. So now that Easter has passed, Lamb Watch has begun. There are four ewes here we are keeping our eyes on.
Lamb Day, the day I invite my congregation out to the farm to see the lambs, was scheduled this year for May 2nd. That leaves a very small window between the beginning of Lamb Watch and the expectations of lambs for viewing by Lamb Day. The lambs that arrive in the next two weeks will be quite young still by that first Saturday in May.
But this year, as it turns out, it won’t matter. No one will be coming to the farm for Lamb Day. We are all in a time of physical distancing, and Lamb Day has been cancelled.
What hasn’t been cancelled, though, is the arrival of the lambs. What hasn’t been cancelled is spring. These sunny mornings on the farm are alive with new birth. The birds welcome the morning with songs as loud as any church choir. The grass is growing faster than I can cut it. And we are watching for lambs.
In this mysterious time of pandemic, unlike anything I have ever experienced, I still recognize the familiar. I continue to be invited to choose between fear and hope. I continue to hear the call to live with compassion. Spirit still beckons me to live life on life’s terms, to see things as they truly are, and to respond by doing the next right thing. I continue to be called into an Easter faith.
The earliest stories of Easter were not about certainty and joy. They were much more about a time like this. The Gospel of Mark ends in confusion and fear. The Gospel of Luke tells of an unrecognized Jesus. The Gospel of John reminds us of disciples isolated in locked rooms. On that first Easter, no one was certain what this new life would mean. They only knew that something foundational had changed, and something new was inviting them forward.
In all the ways this time is challenging us, it is also giving us an extremely rare opportunity to pause and see the truth of who we are more clearly.
The planet is showing us how much she needs a rest from our usual ways of living. The deep injustices of our systems and our structures are laid bare. The evils of homelessness, hunger, and lack of healthcare are unmasked in new ways. People who have been dismissed as insignificant are now seen as essential workers.
And we are discovering again the true joys of life. The value of human relationships is being re-learned. The incredible pleasures of a simple meal or an act of kindness or a safe place to rest at night are appreciated in new and deeper ways. This world-wide pandemic is pointing us to the undeniable truth of our connections to one another as a human family.
If my faith will not sustain me in a time such as this, then it is not a sustainable faith. That is not to say I do not struggle. But I have discovered over a lifetime of love and loss that God’s promise is true and nothing- not death, nor life, nor hardship, nor distress, nor peril, nor anything else in all creation- will be able to separate me from God’s love.
All of these lessons are being laid at our feet. It is time for a change. We all know that. May God give us the grace to step into the truth and emerge into spring with new courage and new resolve. May we live faithfully into our Easter story. And may we watch for the lambs, the new life, the gifts of spring, together.