As I walk through Humboldt Park in my neighborhood in Milwaukee, I make the corner around the lagoon and before me is a tree which is ablaze but is not consumed. I have an impulse to remove my shoes. After all, I am standing on holy ground. Not because this sight makes it holy, but God created this tree, this ground, this moment, and therefore it is holy. I wonder what Moses saw. I wonder if the miracle that he saw is anything like the miracle which exists before me. Nothing about this is unexplained or unknown. I understand how and why leaves change colors and fall. But the presence of an explanation or understanding does not remove the fact that this is supernatural. It is miraculous.
God has given two books, the book of scripture and the book of creation, both attest to God’s transcendence and immanence. God cares about everything, and God cares about particular things. God upholds the universe and God upholds this moment.
I do like autumn. I like autumn largely because I find it to be a particularly meaningful and reflective time. Autumn is a time of lessening sunlight and increasingly growing night. The cool (and sometimes cold) wind can send a chill to the bone. Autumn has a particular scent in the air as trees cut of life to their leaves and the leaves die on the branches and turn bright shades of yellow, orange, and red before falling and turning brown. Who knew that death could be beautiful?
Autumn, like its cousin Spring, is an interesting season. While summer and winter lasts for months, autumn lasts for a short time, if at all. It is fleeting. It is a season which only serves as a transition from summer to winter, autumn is a bridge. Autumn is unpredictable, as one day it can be warm — almost like summer — and the next day can be cold — almost like winter.
The sound and feeling of leaves crunching beneath my feet returns me to my childhood as I would seek to get the last bits of outdoor enjoyment before the deep freeze of winter set in.
For me, autumn has always been a time of transition and reflection. Much of my life has been structured around the academic calendar, and autumn was a time of the new and unknown. New courses. New teachers and professors. New books. A new class. New faces.
Autumn brings a sense of uncertainty.
It occurs to me that God seems to work in and through uncertainty. Moses was uncertain about what he saw — he thought it was a bush which was blazing and was not consumed — and God spoke to him through that uncertain sight. The ancient Israelites were uncertain about where exactly they were headed for when God led them through the desert. Even the disciples were uncertain about what was really going on when they began following Jesus.
It is not that God likes to (or tries to) keep us in the dark. I think that we are just not patient at watching God unfold things.
Autumn is the time where it is no longer summer but it is not yet winter. It is a time of transition, a time of in-between, a time of already but not yet.
Perhaps one of the reasons that I find autumn so meaningful is because it functions as a microcosm of sorts for the tension and uncertainty that exits in the world in which we inhabit, between the two comings of Christ.
While the bush blazes today, I know that the rain that is coming tomorrow will quell the flames and pull off many of the fire-colored leaves. In a couple of days, with nothing left to adorn the bare branches, the tree will look consumed.
But this is only a foretaste, after all. And I look forward to a day when autumns will, once and for all, be resolved and where there will be no need for burning bushes, for God will dwell with us in the joy of the everlasting spring.