Thursday, December 15, 2005

THE DYING SEASON

Wendell Berry writes eloquently of winter as a season of dying. As a contemplative farmer having watched and respected, even revered, the turning of each season, Berry accepts more readily what many of us struggle with--the acceptance of death as natural, as part of a given cycle, as a necessary yielding under a sun that taketh away as well as giveth. Berry's words ring forthrightly true enough. Winter is the season in which things that started dying in Autumn are killed by frost and freezing before Winter officially begins.

DORMANT, DEAD, OR SEEDED FOR LIFE? Some of these plants are merely dormant, true enough. Other organisms, apparently dead, have a life that seems to betray rationality. Still others truly die, but leave seeds behind, seeds that await warmth and light in order to spring forth. And behind the dead and dropped leaf, is a covered, protected bud.

A PASTOR'S PERSPECTIVE ON DEATH. As an urban pastor, not a rural farmer, I haltingly acknowledge winter's power of death. It has apparently taken an elderly parishioner and today I will preside over her funeral. "Pneumonia is the old man's friend," the adage goes. I do not like that adage. I do not like any words or philosophies or musings that excuse death, that cater to it, that pay it homage, that bless or deify it.

NOT THE LAST WORD. If I must acknowledge death, then acknowledge with me the power and promise of life, of rebirth, of resurrection, and of the eventual triumph of life over death. Acknowledge with me that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death." Let us not revere death. Let us acknowledge its temporary claim, all the while looking it straight in its hollow eyes and declare that Life shall require from it all it has unjustly claimed, that the only death that shall ultimately last will be its own. Hallelujah. Amen.

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