“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – Autumn, described famously by John Keats, seems to bring out the poet in all of us. To some, the season of new beginnings, with the start of the academic year, the end of Summer and the onset of everything being suddenly flavoured with pumpkin (blame the Americans!)
For me, it’s particularly been a time of reflecting on the beauty of death; the leaves look their most glorious right before they drop off completely and are eventually swept away. That all sounds very Keats and airy fairy, but in reality, it’s hard to find the beauty in a season of death. Jesus talked to His disciples many times about “the hour”, meaning his approaching death, and on one occasion compared it to a grain of wheat…
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
I often think about the shock and grief the disciples felt when Jesus was eventually crucified; the shame for not staying with him, the confusion about why it had happened and what it meant for them. Although they didn’t have to wait long in between his death and his resurrection, those days must have seemed so much longer than they were. The bitterness of death turning into the wonder of the impossible.
It’s nothing new or particularly profound, but in this season we are in as a church, I keep coming back to Jesus’ promises about losing our lives for His sake, so that there may be more of Him and less of our agendas, plans and ways of doing things. I long to see a season of growth, of new hope and life, to see people come to know Jesus and find their place as disciples. But in the meantime, the in between, living in the hope of the not-yet-here, I want to remember that we follow a God who brings life out of death, joy out of pain and who can reveal to us the beauty, even in a season of death.
“Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.”
– Ernest Hemingway.