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Outside my study window, a shivering branch catches my attention: upon it has alighted a plump tree sparrow, its short beak foraging for insects. Upon its sandy-colored head and thin striped tail feathers, the morning sun plays like a child messing with finger-paints: shadows and light kiss. In no hurry, the sparrow’s foraging continues, as also its twittering enlivening my backyard: a microcosm for what occurs in many parts of the world.

But who has time to look? To enjoy, the myriad gifts freely offered in our daily bread? Certainly, matters of extreme urgency had filled much of my earlier life.

Only during Gloucester retreats did my inner chatter cease, and the seascape come alive with the message of Jesus: Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

So the tree sparrow continues carrying the message of feeding. I have only to look out my study window to be filled—and the nourishment is always different.

For weeks, breezes tossed about a smear of cherry-red limbs like red-vested monkeys with their handlers—The show was ongoing, day or evening. Neighbors gaped as they passed by with their dogs: It was the red maple tree atop the hill, outside my study window.

Autumn’s unusual dryness, though, caused the leaves to blanch and drop to the ground and shrivel, as if in slow motion—even powdering when scooped up. What had been stunning appeared vapid, washed out, vacant. All that remained were strapping branches, the hosts of this stunning display, still to undergo their final denuding.

Such diminishment bruises the psyche. Longing for what was escalates the absence of vibrant life with its full panoply of color. In its place, seasonal browns, grays, and blacks begin to shroud the outdoors. With the onset of winter’s bite nearing, more challenges emerge: chapped hands, cold feet, nipped cheeks, masks and layers of clothing, ice/snow storms, and so much more.

Such seasonal change twinges our grief, our humanness, our resiliency. Yet, color does return, on all levels…This remains our hope.

“Take example, all ye that do hear or see how that I loved best do forsake me, except my Good Deeds that bideth truly.” So proclaims the dying Everyman, as he steps into his grave.

What can we learn from the protagonist of this anonymous morality play, The Summoning of Everyman, performed in Medieval and early Tudor settings? Aside from the Middle English in which it was composed and its allegorical richness, its lesson still speaks to those willing to listen.

Like us, Everyman is “finely dressed,” engaged in largely mindless pursuits each day until summoned by Death to get his “book of count’’ in order and follow him. Terrified, he asks if Fellowship and Kindred and Cousins and Goods can accompany him. Death approves. However, once his buddies learn of his destination, they slack off. Again undone, Everyman calls upon Good Deeds, but she is too weak to follow him. In a feeble voice she calls upon her sister Knowledge to move Everyman toward conversion of life. This happens, and Everyman continues his journey, accompanied, as well, by Five Wits, Beauty, Strength, and Discretion.

However, as Everyman approaches his grave, all his companions depart, except Good Deeds. After a short spell, an Angel escorts Everyman to heaven.

Like Everyman’s every-day world, ours bristles with distractions, with menace. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 24:42 to “…stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.” Such watchfulness deepens joy in our service of others.


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