“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Over the years this particular Hebrew Scripture has really grown on me. I think there is something about aging that invites us to have gratitude not only for those things in life that went exactly as expected, but also for those things that were unexpected, disappointing and, quite honestly, painful.

Summer harvestI would never want to return to my adolescent years and yet I am deeply grateful for that awkward period of pretending that I knew myself better than I actually did as I tried to carve out an identity in the world. I certainly don’t want to return to the exhaustion of raising young children, yet I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And I wouldn’t wish on anyone the final months of my mother’s life as we dealt with the daily anxiety of hospitalizations, falls, rehab facilities, and end-of-life decisions, and yet I am deeply grateful for this season of her life and our shared life.

autumnOur lives seem to be lived in seasons and, if this is the case, it appears that my life has partly entered the autumn and another part early spring. I will be sixty years old this October (yes, I know, I don’t look a day over 58!) and my body tells me that is true. I can clearly feel that I am entering into the fall of my life. Yes, it is still early fall. I think winter is still far off in the distance, but I can tell that my body will never return to that summer-like conditioning that I knew for the first thirty years of my adulthood. It takes me a full half hour of yoga every morning just to get my joints oiled up enough to move freely through the day. I used to race up hills on my bike recording my best times. Now I am just pleased if I get to the top at all. And staying up into the wee hours of the morning is just impossible for me unless I am prepared to be a zombie for three days straight.

At the same time, spring has unexpectedly rushed into my life with the gift of two grandchildren. I had always heard that grandchildren bring a joy into one’s life that can’t be compared to any other. I know that joy and it really is as good as people build it up to be. The mere mention of their names (Elliot and Bridget) spreads a wide nerdy smile across my face. As far as I can see now I feel like spring is going to last forever.

WinterBut I know that is not true. I am sure that my grandchildren will eventually become such a part of my regular life that it will start to feel like summer and I know that my body will eventually give way to winter before any hope of an eternal spring can emerge again.

I write this to you because I have this deep sense that what our congregations are called to in this time is to trust the spiritual wisdom of Ecclesiastes and what nature teaches us about the eternal cycle of the seasons.

This may seem obvious to you, but I want to suggest to you that most of us have adopted a corporate paradigm of success and failure. Most of us, without thinking, assume that the church should follow the GDP where we expect a 2-3% growth rate every year. Anything less than that represents failure. We invite in spring and summer and resist fall and winter. But I don’t think God made the world that way. I don’t think God made us that way. I don’t even think God made congregations that way.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

SpringtimeIf you are in the springtime of your congregational life with lots of new initiatives, then praise God!

If you are in the summertime of your congregational life settled into a nice comfortable predictable rhythm, then praise God!

If you are in the autumn of your congregational life and things are just not what they used be and you are having learn to let go of former expectations, then praise God!

And if you are in the winter of your congregational life where your only hope is God’s eternal spring, remember that our faith is based on death and resurrection (and the promise of spring!), so praise God!

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

It’s all good.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

%d bloggers like this: