I remember feeling on the final morning of the bike ride I did with Steve Hasler, our former Churchwarden, last year a certain melancholy. I did feel excited and pleased that the long journey was about to reach a successful conclusion but I was sad that it was coming to an end. Packing your bags at the end of our holiday in Croatia this year gave me a similar feeling. The sense of satisfaction that the time may had gone well, along with the readiness to return, was tempered by wistfulness that it was almost over. These fleeting wistful feelings reminded me that every ending and every good-bye is an experience, minor and momentary, of grief.
John Keats who wrote the famous poem ‘Autumn’ that begins ‘Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ recognizes in his poetry how close joy and sorrow are. In ‘Autumn,’ he laments that the ‘songs of Spring’ are over, yet he urges his readers to ‘think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— while barred clouds bloom “to colour with a soft warm tint or glow” (OED) the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains Fields made up of stubble, the remaining stumps of grain left after reaping with rosy hue; even if it is tempered by wistfulness.’ Although tempered by wistfulness, there is beauty to be noticed and joy to be experienced in this season
In this ambivalence, where we know that our moments of joy are transient and even in our sadness, we can discern some joy, we are made aware that our longings do not find their fulfilment here. We are reminded that we are ‘strangers and pilgrims here’. Created to enjoy God forever, our deepest desire is for God and for his Kingdom. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently put it, there is “an inconsolable secret in each of us’, the desire for the ‘the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a county we have never visited.’
Belonging to God’s people is characterised by ache, this yearning for eternity. The book of Revelation describes heaven as a city where there is ‘no need for sun or moon for the glory of God is its light’ where will flow ‘the river of the water of life, bright as crystal’. Here, finally, all our yearnings will be satisfied; our hopes fulfilled and our dreams realised. We will know God’s joy, peace and love constantly and always.
In the Kingdom season in the Church’s calendar, ‘All Saints’ to Advent which includes Remembrance Sunday, we focus on God’s eternal Kingdom. As we seek the coming of God’s Kingdom in the midst of the ambiguity of our experience, we plead for the renewal of God’s church, work for peace and justice, and anticipate the End when we’ll ‘glorify and enjoy God forever.’