We find ourselves once again in the fall. The leaves are beginning to change colors. It’s (finally!) cool enough at night to leave windows open. We can leave the house dressed in 5 layers in the morning and come back in the evening having shed 4 of those layers. And pumpkin spice seems to have invaded EVERYTHING (though why, I’m not really sure).
As I’ve been thinking about the world around us during this season, I’ve noticed something interesting. During the fall, all the plants and flora around us are dying.
We’re putting our gardens to bed for the winter – pruning things back, digging up bulbs (and maybe even planting others in hopes that they will lie dormant until their beautiful emergence in the spring), covering various shrubs and bushes, and spreading straw over the beds to protect them over the winter and nourish them again in the spring.
In the fields around us, the corn and soybeans are necessarily drying out – essentially dying – in order to prepare for the harvest.
As we watch the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows pervade the treetops around us, we know that those colors signify the leaves dying – one final, stunning flare before falling to the ground and waiting for our vigorous (and sometimes reluctant) rakes.
The grass around us that has been so lush and green throughout the spring and summer is beginning to brown, from our own lawns to the tall prairie grasses lining the ditches along the highways.
And yet, in the midst of all this fading glory, our schedules are ramping up again.
School has begun again with all the associated hustle and bustle: homework, field trips, extracurricular activities, conferences, Homecomings, and so on.
Many other groups are resuming after taking a summer hiatus – various clubs and social groups like the Readers of OZ. Welcome back!
And our church activities are picking up again – Sunday school, confirmation, the Dorothy Day dinner, luncheons, and so on. We have some big events and fundraisers right around the corner – another Chocolate Affaire at Oronoco and another Country Store at Zumbrota.
I’m finding a very theological juxtaposition in all of this – nature laying down and the busyness of our lives picking up, nature slowing down and the busyness of our lives ramping up, nature dying and the busyness of our lives reviving. There is death and resurrection in this. There is old life and new life in this.
Paul speaks to this kind of juxtaposition in his letter to the Christians in Rome:
A person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
~ Romans 6:7-11 ~
We know that death is a part of life. It’s a cyclical part of the world around us – the turning of the seasons from one to the next – and it’s a part of the span of our days, our time here on this earth. But because of God’s grace and because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the assumed finality of death is no more. There is life – activity, vitality, light and hope – even in the face of death. It’s like it says in one of our favorite hymns:
“In our end is our beginning;
In our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing;
In our life, eternity;
In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.”
~ “In the Bulb There is a Flower,” verse 3
Natalie Sleeth, #433 in the New Century Hymnal