Welcome to October. Welcome to the beating heart of autumn in New England. Welcome to the season of harvest festivals. Welcome to the season of changing leaves, falling leaves, first frosts and first snows. There’s a poem in our hymnal from the late Rev. Robert Terry Weston that says, “Autumn, we know, is life en route to death. The asters are but harbingers of frost. The trees, flaunting their colors at the sky, in other times will follow where the leaves have fallen, and so shall we.”
So shall we.
All seasons offer up their metaphors. Autumn offers us, among others, “life en route to death.” This is why I want us to explore the theme of salvation during the month of October. Salvation has something to do with “life en route to death.” Of course, there are many definitions of this word. (Some are mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter.) We are typically most familiar with current Christian uses of the term which equate salvation with eternal life and which contend that one must have faith in Jesus Christ in order to achieve it. But most Unitarian Universalists don’t profess that kind of faith. Ours is a far more earth-bound faith, rather than a “bound-for-heaven” faith. Our faith is far more concerned with what happens in this life, rather than with what happens after we die. But, Still we die. Or, as the Rev. poet says, “So shall we.” And given that we shall die, the question that constantly confronts me is, “how shall we live?”
When I ask, “What saves us?” I’m really asking us to reflect on the things that give our lives meaning and purpose. Because as Unitarian Universalist, our salvation tends to come through the things that give our lives meaning and purpose. As Howard Thurman has said—and as I have quoted in this column and in other sermons—“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
On Sunday October 10th we will have a lay-service addressing salvation from this perspective. I will offer my reflections on salvation on October 17th. Then, on October 31st, we will hold our annual Day of the Dead celebration. It is my hope and prayer that our reflections on “this life” salvation will make us all come alive in new ways.