Autumn Leaves and Life
I love the season of autumn. The crisp air, fall sunshine, green rain-watered lawns, apple picking, a new school year, and high school and college football are all fall season realities that bring joy to my heart. But it’s the transformation of the leaves from the green of summer to the gold, crimson, orange, and brown of autumn that fills my heart with wonder and causes me to gasp in awe. The leaves of maples, oaks, birches, poplars, and other deciduous trees change because autumn’s cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours break down the green chlorophyll revealing the splendid colors beneath. My wife and kids make fun of me because I like to point out the emerging fall colors as soon as I see them.
As autumn leaves emerge in their blazing glory, I have mixed emotions about those leaves this year because they mark the passage of time. Poet Nova Blair observed, "October's poplars are flaming torches lighting the way to winter." Poet John Burroughs has noted, "How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days."
Autumn leaves are a sign that winter is on its way. And the arrival of winter is especially poignant this year of 2018 because our beloved church, 12th Avenue Christian Reformed Church, will be disbanding on December 31, just 10 days after winter arrives. Those leaves that now are turning from green to gold will soon fall from the trees blown by winter wind and covered by winter snow. During these fall months we are relishing our times of worship, our reflecting on how we are “blessed to be a blessing,” our after-service conversations in the narthex, our Bible studies, our Choir rehearsals, our times of fellowship together, and our prayers for one another. We are grateful for these moments together because we all know that they will come to an end. Our ties with one another will change by the end of this year. We all grieve together the close of 64 years of ministry where some of us have been joined in this church family for all or most of those blessed years.
But even as we are saddened by the end of 12th Avenue Church’s ministry, this autumn season with its colors and seasonal changes is also a reminder of something else – the faithfulness of the Lord our God. The prophet Joel reminds us of that in words of encouragement to Israel in Joel 2:23-24, “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats with new wine and oil.” The Lord is faithful in bringing us to a new season of the year with its brilliant colors, rain, and harvest. The Lord is faithful in preparing us for a new chapter of life and ministry. The Lord is faithful and will bring us from fall to winter to a new season of spring and a new beginning in him.
So, brothers and sisters, relish autumn with its brilliant leaves and opportunities for fun and fellowship. Allow your heart to grieve over the ending of a church that God has blessed for 64 years. But with the autumn leaves that reveal this new season, also trust that God will continue to be faithful to us as his beloved children.