Out walking in the snow on my day off, I took refuge at lunchtime in a warm, comfortable cafe and ordered some hot food. It was good to get out of the cold and sit down.
Eventually my attention was drawn to a scene outside the window. A young family swept the snow off a picnic table and benches, and then proceeded to sit down and enjoy their picnic. It struck me at the time as very English and very stoical, and I even took a photograph from where I was sitting.
The family's action was (in a sense) prophetic. It pointed forward to a time when the same table in the same position will be in the warmth of the sun, surrounded by green grass, leafy trees, birdsong, and other happy picnickers. Of course it looked incongruous and uncomfortable in the snow, but that's the nature of prophetic action.
The Christian calling is to live prophetically, however incongruous or uncomfortable it may feel to do so. It's a calling we sharpen up during these weeks of Lent, trying to gain or regain the habits of love, generosity and service - the ways of life of the coming Kingdom of God. Sometimes it might feel like having a picnic out in the snow whilst others are more comfortably situated, and that's why we need self-discipline and grace to persevere. But as we do so, often, imperceptibly, the winter around us will melt away, and we'll discover that what we were prefiguring has actually drawn near.
PS If the picnic family reads this, visits All Saints' during Cafe hours and introduces themselves, I'll treat them to a pot of tea!