by Jonathan Kohlmeier
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
If you live in the Northern states, you know firsthand that we have gotten a lot of snow this winter. Chances are at your school or work place, or just when you are out and about, you have probably heard quite a few people wish that the snow would just melt already and that spring would come. The majority of the time when people think of snow they think of negative things; it’s cold, it’s terrible to drive in, you have to shovel it, and you have to brush it off your car. We want snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and then we want to be done with it. But rarely do we ever think of good things about snow.
I, on the other hand, love snow! I would much rather have it cold where you can put more and more layers of clothes on than have it be hot and humid where you can only take so much off. You can have so much fun in the snow. You can build snowmen, (or snow-rabbits or snow-dragons which have been seen outside of CUW this winter) have snowball fights, ski, sled, or tackle people into a big snow-mound while walking outside. Plus, based on the verse above there is a theological aspect to snow.
This Ash Wednesday, the Milwaukee area got hit with almost 20 inches of snow. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Church Season called “Lent,” which means ‘spring.’ Ironic when you think that so far all of Lent has had snow on the ground. Everything was canceled on Ash Wednesday; schools, roads, businesses, and Ash Wednesday Services. Originally the Service here on Concordia's campus was still going to happen as scheduled, but it was canceled hours later when the snow didn't show signs of letting up.
Thankfully, God graciously provided for those of us at Concordia. The Rev. Philip Zielinski, an admissions councilor for Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN, had gotten on campus before the worst of the snow storm hit. He agreed to lead a service for us that night. Having only an hour and a half to prepare a service and get the word out to those of us snowed in on campus, Pr. Zielinski with the help of a handful of students put together a service which about 80 students attended. The service contained both the imposition of ashes and Individual Absolution. Pr. Zielinski even managed to write a sermon in the short amount of time.
In that sermon he brought up the Isaiah verse above, “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” That verse really stands out when you are surrounded by twenty inches of freshly fallen white snow. And it is even more vivid when this happens on Ash Wednesday. We were reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return while the black ash was put on our foreheads. Thinking of all our sin and knowing we don't even realize all of it. Then kneeling at the rail, the rail where Christ's Body and Blood are distributed, the hands of a Pastor (shepherd) standing in the stead and by the command of The Good Shepherd, are placed on your head and the forgiveness of sins is announced to you in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ’s death has made our sins as white as snow. Just as snow covers up the dead trees and bushes, so Christ has brought us out of death and into Eternal Life. Snow is a more solidified state of water. That water which was poured on us at our Baptism. When we were clothed in the white garment of Christ's righteousness. Next time you see snow instead of just wishing that it was gone, perhaps remember that though your sins were like scarlet, Christ has made them whiter than snow!
Jonathan Kohlmeier is a Freshman at Concordia University - Wisconsin. He volunteers with Higher Things Internet Services, serving as the Front Page Content Manager. Jon has also written All Means All: A Review of the HT Watermarked Retreat.