Signs Along the Way… Leaves Don’t Drop they Just Let Go
There are many stately trees on the campus at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, but it was a magnificent Mt. Airy maple that captured my attention this fall. The colors on each leaf included numerous shades of red, orange, gold and fading green. They seemed to sparkle as they caught the morning sun still on the branches; they glowed as they swirled on gentle fall breezes and later made colorful statements as they gathered on the lawn and sidewalks.
These leaves in the midst of autumn have been a constant reminder of faith. Faith that at times is brilliant in its strength, vibrant and present in my daily life, fills the air in abundance and is always present underfoot. And yet at other times represent faith that is fleeting, seemingly always just out of reach, above the tree-tops or flying right by, surrounding me but unable to fully grasp. And then as autumn turns to winter those fallen leaves pile all around in their dying and brittle state, an ever growing reminder that no work of our own can bring us to faith.
In the midst of faith that seems to fall away this time of year, comes a word, the Word. That speaks to us when we need it and caulks the gaps in life through which the chilling winds of brokenness, loneliness, emptiness and faithlessness blow. The voice of scripture often fills life’s voids and is given for all whose faith blows about like the fall leaves. For me this voice came through a scripture verse shared with our 7th and 8th grade confirmands: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God. –Ephesians 2:8
The gift of autumnal artistry and faith abundant as leaves is truly a grace filled blessing. Our faith, like those Mt. Airy maple leaves often fall on the sidewalk, some days just getting trampled underfoot. Yet others leave their impression through sun and moisture imbedding a faithful image on the concrete, a visible and faithful reminder of the hand of our creator. And other times sainted sinners like songwriter Carrie Newcomer speak the Word through lyrics. In her soon to be released song Leaves Don’t Drop, this Quaker folk singer has penned a story that for this seminarian speaks volumes about the gift of faith in the uncertainty of life’s journey…
I’ve traveled through my history, from certainty to mystery
God speaks in rhyme in paradox and this I know is true
Finally when life is through, I’m what I am, not what I do
It comes down to you and your next breath and this I know is true
Leaves don’t drop they just let go, and make a place for seeds to grow
Every season brings a change—a tree is what a seed contains,
To die and live is life’s refrain
May this season of growing darkness be a reminder of how much dies to bring forth new life, that letting go makes room for the seeds of faith God graciously gives, and that saving light will dawn to warm, feed and sustain us all in our growth. Thanks be to God!