"Signs of the Kingdom:" A Fall Reflection from the Rt. Rev. David Reed
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
I’ve spent many days of autumn…trying to hear what was in the wind. Let our walks now be a little more adventurous. (Henry David Thoreau, paraphrased)
Summers fly. Winters walk. (Linus Van Pelt, in Peanuts by Charles Schulz)
All I needed was a new lunchbox.
Coming back to work after Labor Day, following my family’s end of summer vacation and now more than a distant month ago, all I needed was a new lunchbox, and the excitement of fresh starts and new beginnings would be complete. The Church doesn’t have a liturgical season for the movement from summer to autumn, but maybe we should. Summer flashes by and suddenly, it’s fall again. Then another blink of the eye, and it’s Halloween. Ready or not, the seasons change, bringing the paradox of newness in the midst of endings, and some of these early fall days have felt just like the first day of school.
Maybe it was the blessed rains finally falling across the Diocese. Maybe it was the days of false autumn, teasing us with cooler mornings. The reappearance of yellow school buses; the shift from lazy summer baseball games to the urgency of the playoffs; the sweet fervor of Friday night football—all signs of something changing, something promising, in the wind. Jesus chides his disciples for reading the signs of nature and missing the signs of the Kingdom and the Spirit’s movement. How many signs can we name that call us to rekindled hope and anticipation? Within the ordinary rhythms and changes of the seasons, can we see the holiness, the wonder, and the beauty of what our God is doing?
Coming back to the office last month was like stepping into a whirlwind. Staff and volunteers were making final plans for the “We Will Continue - And How!” festival in San Marcos. The Standing Committee had been, and still is, meeting weekly to prepare – and how! – for the election of our next bishop in February. The fall calendar is filled with ordinations, new seminarians beginning their studies, calls and installations of new rectors, the best-attended Cursillo since pre-COVID days, and the re-emergence of on campus college ministry. The wondrous 75th Anniversary Celebration at Camp Capers as well as Episcopal Schools Week have just happened, and the Chapel of the Holy Family and new Lodges dedication at Mustang Island Conference Center is coming up later this month.
And of course, there’s you and your church. All the opportunities to gather for worship, ministry, and fellowship are signs of the Kingdom and of the movement of the Spirit. Even our longing for such gatherings signals that our God is bigger than the impact of the pandemic and confirms that his Kingdom is greater than the many divisions infecting our society. Yes, we will continue. So much of the “and How!” depends on us, individually and communally. What are we willing to commit to, to stretch ourselves for, to retry or try for the first time? As some things end, how will we see and rejoice in the newness that is emerging?
Regardless of the resources your church may or may not have, what your church needs most is you. We need one another for our life in Christ and for our formation as his disciples. Never think that your church doesn’t need you, or that you don’t need your church. Take an adventurous walk into your church this Sunday and rejoice in the day the Lord has made.
A change of seasons, like a change of scenery, can bring eye-opening and heart-stirring awareness. It can also bring wistfulness or anxiety, with a natural invitation to remember what has been and begin preparations for what is yet to be. In nature, and in our society, autumn is an invitation to reflect and restart.
I experienced this invitation in multiple ways throughout the “We Will Continue – And How!” weekend. Gathering with friends from across the Diocese for no reason other than the joy of reunion and shared learning felt familiar, with a new layer of poignancy after seasons spent apart. During the opening Eucharist, Radney Foster sang his song, “A Little Revival,” backed by an amazing orchestra of local musicians. The lyrics declare, “God always sends someone down, just to stir things up. / Hallelujah! A little revival / Deep in my soul, a little revival.” And in the Rev. Becca Stevens’ keynote address, she included this beautiful prayer:
God revive my heart. Turn me to the rising sun when I need to be inspired. Turn me to the wilderness when I need to be lost. Turn me toward the business of the world when I need to work. Turn me toward the mountain when I need to be refreshed, then turn me toward the sunset when I need rest. Finally, in your mercy, turn me toward the way of love with joy. Amen.
The changes that come with fall are dependable and yet never simply “the same ol’, same ol’.” Much about our shared life together is different than this time last year. We are certainly different, and we may be able to “see the hand of God at work in the world about us” (Eucharistic Prayer C) more clearly because of these changes. In this season, the Spirit may draw our spirits toward fresh revival.
May God give us both roots and wings to live in a season of change. May the Father give us grace to make the most of this time. May the Light of the world give us eyes to see signs of his presence more clearly in the shortening of these days. And may the fresh wind of the Spirit lead us to love bravely and generously and bring us revival.
Love in Christ,
Bishop of West Texas