It's fall in the Southern Hemisphere. Days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping. Particularly in those regions far enough to the south where they enjoy the changing of the seasons, our sisters and brothers in the faith are celebrating harvest festivals and preparing for fall and winter.
In southern Chile, Lutherans are giving thanks for the bounty of God's blessings even as they approach the barrenness of the cross. For our sisters and brothers in the global south, resurrection life is celebrated along with the harvest and in the midst of winter's prelude. The fields are now browning in anticipation of winter rest, yet their bounty is shared at Lenten suppers and is spread out for the Easter feast.
Visiting the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en Chile (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile) in the early days of the autumn season was a wonderful contrast to our Northern Hemisphere pattern of celebrating the gift of resurrection life as new life springs forth from the earth. While our Easter celebrations coincide with planting, green growth and hope-filled anticipation of warmer temperatures and brighter days, the global south announces the emptied tomb as leaves fall, days darken and the vibrant colors of growth fade.
People who resided in the Northern Hemisphere developed the liturgical calendar, and it made sense to celebrate Easter — a festival of new life springing forth from death — in the springtime.
Yet I love the contrast that takes place when God's people celebrate the resurrection of our Lord during autumn while nature's process of hibernation, decay and dormancy kicks into high gear. I am one accustomed to heralding the rising of our Lord by singing, "Now the green blade rises from the buried grain ... love is come again like wheat arising green" (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 379).
Thus, to sing words of resurrection and new life as nature falls into itself and winds into a season of darkness and dormancy — well, that is something altogether different. It takes a certain kind of faith to proclaim life in the midst of such death.
Of course, proclaiming life in the midst of darkness and death is the church's mission — whether in the personal darkness of addiction or loss, or the national darkness of a dictatorship or war, or in the myriad depths in which humanity and the church often find themselves. Life in the face of death, hope in the face of despair, faith in the face of doubt — this is the mission of the church, no matter the season.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers