A lot of folks here in the southern half of the US travel North this time of year — New England, Tennessee, Virginia. Like Punxsutawaney Phil longing for a sign of warmer days, we begin to don longer sleeves and light jackets at the coming of October and the promise of a cooler respite from the hot summers of the South. So many of us head North for some color, the sure sign that things are changing — leaves falling to the earth like God’s ticker tape parade as we drive down beautiful lanes shrouded by Sycamores, Elms, Sweet Gums and Maples. There is no denying the beauty of God’s creation ablaze with paint strokes of red, yellow and orange. And some parts of the country are so rich with this color that we go just to immerse ourselves in the painting.
Given the right mixture of a season of rain, not too dry or hot a summer and then the perfect transition from warm weather to cool (brisk but not freezing) trees yield a brilliant display for several weeks. Of course, here in the South, we’ll be waiting and hoping another couple of months for our display.
Singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer sings the beautiful lyric, “Leaves don’t fall, they just let go.” And I love the idea of the beauty and peace that can come from letting go. The irony, of course, is that scientists tell us it is not the gentle breeze that teases them off the twigs, nor is it the leaves’ sudden recognition that it’s time to let go. In fact it’s the tree itself, giving the leaves an insistent push. Leaves don’t fall, they’re told to leave.
Because leaves would continue to photosynthesize, and take up water, during the winter, the trees would actually freeze, preventing the tree from growing new leaves and eventually dying. So a hormone is released and cells travel to the connection of the leaf and branch and begin pushing, until the leaf’s attachment is so fragile that a gentle breeze can do the rest.
And maybe that is the more beautiful message for us. We deeply yearn for life filled with joy, ease, beauty, purpose and connection. But life is never so simple a beautiful painting. The reality is that it is very complicated — the choices and mistakes we’ve made, the emotions we carry, memories and losses, and the messages we drag around in our heads like worn suitcases filled with stuff we don’t really need for the trip. But it’s all there anyway.
Fall reminds me there is real beauty to be found in gently affirming one another, encouraging one another, coaxing one another to make room for beauty, for creation, for new growth in our lives. How can we begin to help tease one another out of unhealthy emotional patterns, to encourage one another to let go of the competitive or the stressful patterns we so easily cling to, to experience through us a deeper presence of God’s grace and peace and joy? Trees remind me of the interconnectedness of life and the beauty that comes when we involve ourselves in each other’s lives in ways that break cycles of doubt or mistrust or competitiveness so present in our culture, community and families. And how we can do this for one another may, in fact, be much simpler than we think.
Sermon Series: The Spirituality of Falling
October 4 – 25
11:11 am | Wesley Hall | Rev. Tom McDermott
It is also World Communion Sunday and we’ll have some special guests, and feature singer-songwriter Lori Dreier with a song she’s written for the occasion, as well as music from Paul Simon and Patti Griffin and an outdoor drum circle to follow.
See you Sunday!