Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To Everything A Season

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted" -Ecclesiastes 3

Last night in Fort Worth we had our first big freeze. Temperatures dropped down into the low 20's. The freezing temps will come again tonight, signaling an end to the growing season for our garden. This morning when I arrived a church, the plants that were once so vibrant, full of life and flower, laid limp and cold. The season of their flowering had been completed, their purpose fulfilled. It is time for them to be plucked up.

Our theme this fall has been "Raising Faith: Growing Disciples." It is a theme rooted in the idea that it is God who gives us the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit. In Baptism that gift is planted in us and through the nourishment of the community, just as water and sunlight nourish the plants, faith blooms and grows in our hearts.  These plants fulfilled their purpose. They provided a physical presence and sustenance for our soup suppers (and even an occasional snack for the TLCC kiddos or Pastor G). But even more important they provided a spiritual reminder of all that God has and continues to do in our midst. Not only at Trinity but through the work of disciples of Jesus, ministering in their daily lives, in their places of vocation and in their family systems.

Now the season of these plants has come to an end. Tomorrow (Wednesday the 12th) we will hoe them under, back into the ground. They will then provide nourishment yet again for the future. In that beautiful cycle of life and death.The last month has seen a lot of that cycle of life here at Trinity. Four saints of our congregation have claimed the promises of their baptism. Each of these four lived good long lives, faithfully fulfilling God's purpose for them. 

Although we would wish to have them for another day, week, month or year. We could yet proclaim that indeed to everything a season, a purpose. They had fulfilled that purpose and we could commend them, despite our grief, to eternal rest well deserved.

On this cold morning, as I see the garden dying in the cold I reflect also on 2012 and personally lament the loss of two other saints gone too soon. These two, Tricia and Jacob, from my previous congregation in Wisconsin, lived faithful lives. Good lives. But far too short of lives. They were taken from us too soon, wilting in the height of season. Reflecting on them, I cannot so simply say that they lived their purpose, that it was their season. Because it was too soon. There was not a fullness of time.

Yet even in the tragic and untimely deaths of those saints, I believe I can proclaim that there is hope in the midst of loss. That God provides even in the midst of untimely losses. Our garden this year had a good and long growing season. But early freezes do come. Droughts strike, heat waves destroy flowering plants. Illness, accidents, strike down those we love. Not all of us will have long lives. 

Yet in the end, there is hope in the promise of Ash Wednesday. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And with that reality comes the promise of life with God. The one who created us and yet claims us in our Baptism and at the end of our days.We are made from this very stuff. The same stuff that grew our garden. God's creation nurtures and feeds us. It is God who gives us the growth. We can water, provide sunshine and do our best to protect from frost. But in the end, God gives the growth. So we return the garden to God's earth. Just as we turn over those we love to God's mercy. On a cold morning in Fort Worth. We are reminded of the wisdom of Psalm 90.

"So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart" -Psalm 90:12

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