A ministerial friend of mine was being installed in his new church in Katonah, NY, way
down and east past the Taconic State Parkway. The drive was beautiful down route 17:
over the course of four hours, I watched autumn happen in reverse. At the start of the
drive, pines stood steadfast in their greenery; oaks, like maracas, rustled their afros of
dried leaves; every other tree stood like a skeleton, knobby and bare and ephemeral as
a silverfish. By trip’s end, it had gone backward: the trees were back in their fullness,
painted and bedecked and unstripped. The sky looked bluer, and the waters less black.
This is a season that reminds us of temporality. Yea, the flower fades, and the grass
withers, Brahms quotes in his Requiem. As I watched it, with the radio to keep me
company, a translator quoted Rainer Maria Rilke: “Impermanence is the fragrance of our lives."
And yet something wonderful about the cold air of fall is how we become suddenly aware of life! We step out of our doors, and are at times hit by a bracing wind of inhospitable
cold—but we are warm within our skins! We heat up our coats, not the other way
around.We are so clearly, so obstinately and rebelliously alive! This cold may dry our
cheeks and battle for our fingertips, but it does not have us; a brush with the adversary
followed by a return to the indoors, a brisk hour or two of leaf-raking to fire our inner
boilers, and we are stoked against it.
It is wondrous to feel the power of the life within us. As you do so, marvel at God’s
quickening gift. This warmth within you is the same fount from which comes the healing
of your hands when they touch another. It is the importance behind the words you
speak. It is the comfort of your presence, the power of your gaze, the inspiration of your
prayer. Share it with someone. Share this gift of life. Reach out, you ministers, you
deacons, with this precious, fighting presence God has breathed into your body.
Impermanence is indeed the fragrance of our lives; but God’s eternity is the kite-string
of our souls. Yea, the flower fades and the grass withers: but the Word of the Lord
With a warm heart for this good and faithful church,