“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest…shall not cease.” Gen. 8:22
Now is the time of harvest. Dried corn stalks stand row upon row at forlorn attention in dying fields. Heaps of brilliant orange pumpkins and vari-colored gourds are mounded, ready for market.
By day the city streets are shrouded in the pungent blue-grey smoke of burning leaves, while nighttime brings the chill illumination of the fabled harvest moon.
It is harvest time. It is also thanksgiving time; for now, with the promise of seedtime fulfilled, grateful hearts turn again to a bountiful Lord. The seed planted has grown and borne fruit. Food has been gathered in for the winter. We shall not go hungry. The harvest has given us a promise of security through the wind-swept, barren months ahead.
Yet the promise of the dying earth is not the desolation of winter, but the quickening of spring. The earth dies in a hallelujah-blaze of glory. The rapidly aging trees spread oriental carpets of color on the earth’s floor. Sumac studs the diadem of the hills with rubies in a setting of maple gold, while the valleys are gowned in iridescence webbed with black lace.
The earth is dying in glory, the glory of praise. It is a picture of death and a promise of life.
The promise of life. This is how the death of a Christian always is: The hallelujah chorus of life. For death is not a destruction, it is not the end, but it is, rather, a gentle passing from life unto Life. We do not die as those desolated ones, mired in the clay of eternal destruction, we do not die as though this was the end of life. No, the Christian dies in the promise of life, in the hope of glory. It is for this promise he was born, for this hope that he has lived. Death, for the Christian, is the beginning of life, not the end. It is the beginning of glory, for the veil is torn from his eyes and he beholds…Life! It is though the colors of the earth’s autumn were washed over and over until the brilliance was gone. Thus is the earth’s glory compared to heaven’s glory!
Still, if the Christian must die in the glory of the promise, how much more must he walk in that glory. To walk in the knowledge of death is not to walk under the constant gloom of night’s shadow, but to walk in the noon-glare of reality. And this reality is the promise of glory eternal. It is to walk with an awareness of one’s destiny, with a responsibility to one’s self. Today, when so many are searching for some nebulous entity called “Identity,” the Child of God knows who he is, why he is and whereunto he must go. It is though he was given a road map of life which says: This is why you are here, this is where you are going and this is your reward.
Death is never an easy experience. The bonds which hold us to this earth are not easily broken, nor should they be, for, until the last step is made across Jordan, we are of the earth, earthy. Still, the death of a Christian is a chorus of praise, for we are crossing, not stopping. It is as though we blinked an eye and were in glory.
A leaf falls rhythmically from an aging tree. Gently it wends its way earthward, silently joining its brothers below. It is the last leaf and the tree is bare. Bitter winds sweep past the tree, bending it with their fury. Branches break and fall into the drifts of bitter snow. But the winds stop and the sun shines. Rain falls and barren black bark hints of yellow. Death has been overcome with life. It is the season of quickening.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 7 November 1969