A few days ago, when the furnace at my house kicked on for the first time this season, and I caught that first whiff of the dusty smell of warm air moving through the vents, I realized that summer had ended and a new season was upon us. Time marches on.
Sometimes, though, it seems like time marches in circles. There is a repetition of seasonal activities that makes time seem more like a loop than a line. Fall is upon us now and so we will do familiar fall things… things we’ve done before and things we will do again and again. There will be raking of leaves and the annual stewardship campaign at the church, turkey and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies will show up on the table, and the evening breeze at my house will carry the sound of the marching band practicing for the Friday night football games. Halloween will come to the secular world and All Saints to the sacred world. We will get out our flannels and our sweaters, and the days will grow shorter and shorter.
The looping nature of the advance of time gives us an opportunity to do annual check-ins with ourselves. Am I better this year than last? Have I grown wiser? Have I loved more fully? Am I gentler on myself and the people around me? Have I developed new skills, let go of bad habits, found forgiveness in my heart? What is different on this trip around the sun?
No matter how old I get, fall will always be back-to-school season. I am always mindful at this time of the year of my need to learn new things, building on the things I’ve learned before. Usually the things I learn in successive years are more incremental than disruptive, but sometimes brand-new ideas and practices loom before us. Like a farmer who has always grown corn planting a field of beets, we have to learn new ways to prepare the furrows, new ways to tend the crops, new ways to bring in the harvest. Yet, the goal remains the same, grow something that sustains us and the people around us. Do something productive with our lives.
In October, we talk about stewardship. We pray over the ways we will use what we have to grow our ministries so that we may bring in a harvest of faithful lives and a world transformed by God’s love. We do this by sustaining existing ministries and launching new ones. We see both incremental and disruptive growth in ministry, tradition and innovation, and we joyfully embark on this process that we’ve done many times before. Happy Fall, dear friends.
Let us work together once more to do God’s work in this place. See you in church!