One of the first and greatest teachers we will ever have in our lives is the sacred creation around us. On the small farm where I grew up I learned about the cycles of seasons, life and death, growth and stagnation, giving and taking. In Indiana we pride ourselves on our four seasons, and the lessons we glean from each one of them can teach us most of what we need to know about life.
We call autumn fall as leaves dazzle us in yellow, orange, red, brown and fall in a crunchy blanket over the cooling earth. While each leaf dies and falls, the trees don’t die. In fact, the leaves die so the tree can live, so the tree can conserve precious energy through the winter and be alive come spring for new leaves, new buds, new fruits, new life, to resurrect. Fall teaches us that no single death will ever end life. Christians often understand Jesus’ death to end death for all of us: we will still experience a physical death on earth, but will experience an everlasting life thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We read in Revelation today "death will be no more." Some people believe that Jesus will physically return and all the dead will rise again. Some people believe Jesus' return will bring a final reckoning. However you understand the book of Revelation, we worship a creating and recreating God. Even while we wait for the fullness of Christ to be revealed among us, God is making all things new, again and again, and Jesus shows us a way to escape death.
Let me be more specific. Zechariah foretold the power of Jesus, saying, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). Jesus' life and death did not end death itself, rather Jesus invites us out from under the shadow of death. The fear of death undergirds a staggering array of human suffering – fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of illness, fear of aging, but our fear of death also shows up as greed, insecurity, jealousy, and shame. Jesus tells us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Jesus offers us an abundant life free of the fear of death. Jesus tells his disciples, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them” (John 11:9-10). Walking at night, living in the shadow of death, is the “death” that Jesus invites us to avoid. Walking in the light of this world, in the abundant life Jesus us calls us to live, means living with less fear, especially of death...."