Each season brings with it a promise. Spring brings the promise of new life, for example, and summer the promise of warm days at the beach. Autumn brings the promise of clear light, invigorating air, and red and yellow foliage. But fall is also a time when we focus on promises: our promises to each other, our promises to God, and God's promises to us.
We've been reading about God's promises to Abraham in Genesis. God asks Abraham to go to a new land, promising to "make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." Later in Genesis, we read about even God needing to be reminded of promises, through the rainbow:
"When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh..."
Jesus, of course, promises that "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." This is part of the promise of church. When we come together with the intention of worship, God promises to be there among us.
"Coming together," in my mind, means more than just assembling on Sunday mornings. We do things to keep the body of the church alive, to serve our community in the spirit of God. And these, too, are promises. We promise to show up, to support the church with our "time, talents, and treasure." We promise to create times where our children can come feel the joys of community, and where our youth can learn that their job in the world is to make a difference, to learn that they are even bigger than the families they live in and that they can help change this world for the better.
This is really the promise to Abraham: Go somewhere you've never been, create community, do my work, and I'll "make of you a great nation."
How do we respond to this promise? Well, Abraham responded, in part, by balking, then forgetting, then becoming impatient and giving up too soon. Don't we do the same? Isn't it wonderful that the story we read isn't about someone who does it perfectly, but about someone much more like us, someone who needs to be reminded, again and again?
Every spring, we end our regular church year with a sense of energy, with the joys of vacation bible school and the great work of our youth in June. Then summer comes and we forget.
Every fall, we have to turn back towards the promise. Like Abraham, we have to say, "Yes, God, we're going to get up and go. We're going to reach out to each other, to return to our work together." But first, of course, we have to remember what we're called to do, what we get from working and celebrating in community, and what we have promised to do in this world of blessings.
In this way, the "promise of fall" is really to make fall "a time of promises." Every year, we go through what Abraham went through: we face the struggles and the promise that come with following God when God says, "Go..."