I love autumn! I love the splendid colors of the leaves, the cool evenings and crisp days, the apples and pumpkins, the scurrying of squirrels and chipmunks. Robert Weston, in his meditation on autumn, writes, “In what the autumn colors say to me, turning from tired green to brilliant gold, scarlet and crimson, then maroon and brown, I hear a deeper voice than summer knew.” The spirituality of autumn is about things that are fleeting. Those leaves, splendid in reds and golds, turn brown and fall, leaving bare branches tracing the winter sky to come. The mums, glorious in crimson and yellow, yield finally to frost. The days, crisp and cool, end earlier and earlier as darkness encroaches and cold weather approaches.
We are called by the deeper voice of autumn to an appreciation of what is fleeting. “Stop,” autumn tells us, “and see and hear and smell and taste and touch the gifts I offer you, for soon they will be gone.” But autumn has another voice as well; the voice of urgent gathering in. Even those of us who no longer live by the agricultural calendar know that autumn is a time of harvest. We may not get out the thresher but we do behold the squirrels and chipmunks! They are engaged in a frenzy of gathering in – tearing madly across our yards looking for food they can store to sustain them through the coming winter. Their frenetic work-in-motion is a counterpoint to the ‘pause to appreciate the fleeting’ message, is it not? In nature there is always a tension between the inward and outward, activity and rest, seeking and finding, giving up and gathering in.
In October those of you who participate in Small Group Ministry will be considering the place of solitude in your lives. We will explore this in worship as well. But like nature, our rhythm here will not be all about the inward focus. In mid-October we will welcome our UUA Moderator, Jim Key. Jim will be speaking here on Saturday (October 12th at 1:30 pm) about what is new and exciting at the Unitarian Universalist Association. We have invited UU’s from the Metro NY District and the rest of the state to join us that afternoon. On Sunday he will join me in the pulpit as we reflect together on what it means for us to ‘Join the Move.’ The UUA is moving from historic headquarters at 25 Beacon Street to a new location that is more accessible, has more capacity to support modern technology, and will allow our Association to be a more nimble and responsive organization. Here in Westport we are also on the move, at least metaphorically.
On October 20th we will turn outward even further as we consider peacemaking as a spiritual practice. All spirituality is, to my mind, a balance between the inward and outward. We turn inward in order to restore our minds and hearts so that we have the energy and courage to turn outward to meet the needs of a hurting world.
As we move together through this month of fleeting beauty and gratifying plenty, let us all pause to tend to our inner spirits. And let us all move outward, welcoming the challenges of change and offering our gifts to the world outside our doors.