Vivid shades of summer green retreat further and further with the passing of each day until the peachy glow of golds and oranges, reds and rusty pinks have moved to the foreground trumpeting magnificent grandeur about to give way.
These breathtaking backdrops for the coming and going of autumn days display splashes of colour in complimentary shades unique to each tree. While stunningly beautiful, we know they are temporary, a foreshadowing of what is sure to come.
When golden rays of October sun dance on woodland stands, we discern a picture of lives transformed from youthful greens of fresh new faith to mature colours of flamingly effective spiritual gifts exercised over a lifetime, a testament to God’s amazing grace. We are warmed in the chill of encroaching autumn air by the sweet surrender with which they have come to live, seeing the easy flow of God’s love in and through them, and we hope we may repeat such acceptance with joy when our winter approaches.
These are they who fanfare confidence in our gospel hope as they exalt the grand theme of God’s goodness in creation until the bitter end. These are they who announce his grand scheme of redeemed humanity now released from the effects of the fall, gladly anticipating the other side.
I wonder, will that be us?
In this fall season, we acknowledge deep appreciation for those who show us the way to gracefully release our hold on this life as we move towards the next in peace, growing in love and knowledge of him; for those whose old nature is being visibly transformed and falling away, a dying to self which allows Christ to colour in the story of their days.
We celebrate the blessing of aging mentors, peers, and parishioners whose rich contributions to our lives and the life of the church constructively colour a more vibrant picture of Christ’s kingdom. Together we await a full revealing of our resurrection hope while bracing ourselves for the temporary time apart we will endure.
When friends go on ahead, we reel with deep desire to stop the fall from taking its natural course, to hold onto those we hold dear. But, thanks be to God that in Christ, the foliage of those who live by faith will be gathered from the four winds and made new. He breaks the fall and catches us by grace. We will meet again.
Every colour, every race, every redeemed face growing in grace by his Spirit, declares in fellowship around the table that we take his life into ourselves, remembering his death until he comes to completely end the story of defeat and trumpet eternal life in all its glory. Once fallen to the ground of impossible self-reparation while spiritually dead, we have been lifted up again because a blood red Sacrifice hung on wooden beams for us to stem the flow of decay, grafting us into the tree of life, reviving our soul.
As leaders in congregational contexts, we are deeply connected with many others who live and serve together with us in partnership, each one of us falling further and further into the aging process. We watch cherished friends in Christ begin to drop their supple song of summer service as stems once strong, flowing with the sap of deep spiritual wells, give way to final expressions of faith: flourishes of brilliant spiritual wisdom which leave us very aware of the empty branches their departures will create.
And we grieve … but not as those who have no hope.
Tears fall … but not as those who cannot cope.
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4: 14-18)
‘Lord, we hum an autumn song of gratitude for each one dear to us whose life has so touched ours that we would want to tuck its remembrance between the pages of our lives until the trumpet sounds. May beautiful colours emerge in our lives to be a sign of a gloriously redeemed human fall, pointing all to you who took our fall upon yourself.
Leave behind tender words of comfort by your word and Spirit for those who grieve the loss of true spiritual friends who have greatly blessed our lives, who have stressed the beauty of faithfulness to the end, who have coloured our homes with bright laughter, who have declared your goodness in our times of need, who have embraced us for who we are. Wash them in the saturated colours of your love, personal shades of penetrating care, to know their tears do not fall unseen. Amen.’