Pastor’s column – Autumn reflections

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013

For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

A time to plant and a time to harvest. 

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Recently I was sitting on our deck in the evening enjoying a glass of wine and looking at the mountains when all of a sudden I realized that the air was cooler and less humid. And the sun had already gone down behind the mountain. Silently, I watched as three colored leaves fluttered down from a nearby tree and landed on the deck. And I jumped a bit as an acorn landed like a small bomb some three feet away. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that the season was changing. And that kind of awareness always bears reflection, at least for me.

Actually, the season has already changed.

Quietly and unobtrusively that happened on Sept. 22, 2013. On that day, the sun rested right above the equator and day and night were divided exactly in half. But I hardly noticed. I was busy. Now I do notice. It is cooler tonight, and darker. It’s fall.

Isn’t that the way life is?

You just saunter along, minding your own business, and all of a sudden something is different. Children grow up. Grandchildren appear. And then disappear as they mature. Health fades. Birthdays come and go. Loved ones pass away. Opportunities present themselves, and then they are gone. Life rolls along and something happens that makes us stop and take notice.

Fall may be the season when school begins, a time for sweatshirts, football, apples and pumpkins, but it is also a season for reflection. In the spring and summer things move faster. Life seems endless and always expanding. Things grow and grow. New life emerges. Days grow longer. Vegetables ripen. Fruits develop. It’s a “wow!” Often I can hardly keep up.

Fall is different.

Vegetables have run their course. Peaches are gone. Corn stalks have turned brown. Leaves begin to turn colors and flutter to the ground. Nuts that were invisible up in the tree branches begin dropping. Mornings are cool and crisp, and sometimes even cold.

Fall is a season of change. Autumn reminds us that nothing stays the same and that death is always a part of life. Some changes are easy. Who wants to hold on to winter when spring arrives? Fall is different. It is a beautiful season, but winter is just around the corner. In my best moments, I savor the changes of the fall. I just move on and say, “What’s next?” In my worst, I desperately hold on to every fading flower. I lament the shorter days and regret lost opportunities. Sometimes change is hard. Autumn can be a melancholy time.

Yet I am always reassured when autumn comes, in part because it always reminds me of three great lessons in life. Autumn is a time of harvest. Harvest is the intentional gathering of resources for life. It is a time of remembering, connecting, and savoring. It’s no accident that squirrels gather nuts, we pick grapes and apples, and we carve pumpkins. Autumn is a time to celebrate and appreciate life. Sometimes though, we harvest more than fruits and vegetables. For me, autumn is a time of memories, and a time when relationships come to the fore, and accomplishments are celebrated, and setbacks remembered.

Autumn is also a time for thankfulness. Even when the growing season has been a challenge, or things don’t turn out the way we would like, it is hard not to be thankful at the harvest. Maybe it is no accident that the Thanksgiving holiday occurs right in the middle of autumn. Life is always more generous than we might realize, especially when we look back on it.

Autumn is also a season of generosity, a time when people share the fruits of their labor with others, just as nature shares hers with us. I don’t think it is any accident that most churches, schools, and not-for-profit organizations do their fund raising in the fall. Fall is a generous season. And generosity has a great power for good, because it involves the process of letting go, relinquishing, giving up something in order to help another. Generosity helps both the giver and the one who receives.

All three of these autumn lessons, harvesting, giving thanks, and being generous are central to the teachings of Jesus. He taught them and lived them. And he challenged his followers to do the same. And autumn is a reminder of lessons that need to be learned over and over.

Well, it’s almost dark now. And cooler. A few more leaves are falling. And a couple of more acorns just hit the deck.

“For everything there is a season,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes says. But what about tomorrow? The day may be shorter or cooler, but there will always be something to harvest, something to share and something to give thanks for. I think I am going to go in and get another glass of wine, and a jacket. And maybe a hard hat!

I’ve got more to think about. After all, it’s fall.

– Dent Davis, Pastor Tryon Presbyterian Church