by Christine Sine
On Saturday I had the privilege of leading the afternoon liturgy for the Love Thy Neighbor Conference here in Seattle. I used two prayers for my liturgy – the one above and the one at the end of this post. I interspersed these with a time of quiet reflection.
It was a rich multicultural gathering led by Dr Leroy Barber. It was wonderful and challenging to grapple with issues of race, class and privilege and engage in a broad range of issues facing the future of the church.
Change is in the air, I realized as I looked around at this gathering of local pastors and church leaders all engaged with the desire to see unity come in the midst of our diversity. My own need for change was marked by new and compelling questions asked by presenters:
“Would your neighbourhood weep if you left?” asked Rene Notkin. Compelling words that forced me to think more deeply about what I bring to our own neighbourhood.
“What’s the last think you learned from a 15 year old?” asked Lina Thompson confronting me with the need to listen more frequently to young friends who can easily be overlooked.
“Who are the ones at the margins in your community who really understand who Jesus is?” asked Leroy Barber reminding me that Jesus is always most vividly modelled in the lives of the stranger, the outcast and the abandoned. How do I engage with such people is a question I know I need to continue to grapple with.
Notice the markers.
Change is in the air. Last week I picked up the first right red leaves of autumn. and watched the squirrels scampering furiously around gathering the last of their stores for the winter.
Change is in the air and I know I need to notice it and embrace it, not reject it.
What are the markers of change for you at this season of the year?
What needs to fall away?
The most obvious autumn change is the transformation of leaves from green to red and yellow – a bright flurry of breathtaking colour before the leaves fall stripping the trees to their bare bones.
“What needs to fall away in my life as I look towards the next season?” I wonder. It’s hard in some ways to let go of summer. I love the warmth, the riot of colourful blossoms, the beauty, the fragrance and the delightful sounds of bees and birds. I love the harvesting of tomatoes, squash and summer greens. Yet as Ecclesiastes reminds us “To everything there is a season.” Letting go and allow what needs to fall away to pass without regret is important if we are to embrace the new that God has for us.
What needs to be planted for future growth?
I am once more reminded that autumn is the best time to plant new shrubs and trees. Over the winter they may look barren and lifeless above ground, but deep down their roots are growing, reaching towards life giving water that will sustain them during next year’s dry summer months. Without this root growth future harvest will be small and spindly.
“What needs to be planted for future growth in my life?” I wonder. What are the shrubs I hope will produce a harvest in years to come that need the cold of winter to encourage deep, strong root growth?
What new buds have been formed that need to be protected?
Several years ago I was astounded to discover that the buds containing next year’s blossoms and leaves form in the autumn then wait patiently until the spring to green and grow. It is so easy to want to force new buds into bloom, like in a hot house. And sometimes we can produce spectacular blooms in this way. However I have also discovered that plants that are forced into bloom too soon will probably never recover. The blooms will be a one time spectacular display.
Is there something new in your life that needs to wait patiently in the dark until the greening season of next spring? How will you protect those buds from the coming cold?
What Is Your Response?
Prayerfully read through the prayer at the beginning fo this post. Here in the northern hemisphere we are all heading into autumn. In the southern hemisphere spring is just emerging. Wherever we are there is change in the air. Last year in our small community we painted leaves and decorated them as autumn began. I placed mine on the dining room table as a daily reminder of the changes of the season. I am getting ready to do the same thing this year. It was a wonderful way to mark the changing seasons for me, a reminder that change is indeed in the air.
What are markers of change in your life? Is there a word, a phrase, an image or perhaps something like my leaves that can act as markers of change for you? How could you display these as reminder of the changing seasons?
Take some time after you have identified your marker to pray and determine next steps for this season. At the end of your time pray the prayer below to finish your reflection time.