(Pastor's Musings for the June Hilltop Newsletter)
Antiquity speaks to us through Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 with the following words:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
For me, these ancient words are part of my youth, part of my own passage from youth to young adult. When I read these words, my memory starts creating sounds in which I mentally hear the 1960s American answer to the British Invasion, The Byrds, reminding us in the Folk-Rock classic “Turn, Turn, Turn” that within life there is a time for all things. This is a true “golden oldie” drawn from ancient scripture.
The book of Ecclesiastes is part of the Hebrew wisdom tradition. The title Ecclesiastes echoes from the Greek with sounds like “preacher,” “assembly” or “those who have been called out.” The root word in Greek is the same word that gives us the word “church.” For my purposes here, I want to focus on the translation “those who have been called out.” Within a community, those who have been called out pass along their wisdom from one generation to the next.
On the first Sunday in June as we recognize our seniors, we will focus on graduation as a passage from one element of life and maturity to another. (I confess, the first time I heard the term “senior recognition” Sunday, I thought it was recognition of our older members and wondered what age qualified a person to be a “senior.” You have permission to chuckle at my lack of wisdom.)
Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is “a time to seek, and a time to lose.” I suppose that many of the seniors are ready “to seek” an adventure, while many of the parents are reluctant to “to lose” their senior.
Ecclesiastes also reminds us that there is “a time to keep, and a time to throw away.”
I offer that part of the passage of life includes knowing what “to keep” and what “to throw away.” In fact, it is more than what, it is both what and when. What do we keep and throw away? When do we keep it and throw it away?
What we keep and knowing why we keep it is foundational to understanding the future being created before us. Our ability to accurately see the present and vision the future is clouded by parts of our past that should not be kept, but rather discarded. All of us, to varying degrees, keep parts of the past that are better thrown away. This is a natural part of the human condition. Naming what needs to be kept and what needs to be discarded is important in creating our future. It’s what the Byrds tell us is necessary: to “Turn, Turn, Turn” in their paraphrasing of Ecclesiastes.
We should note that in the Hebrew Bible “to turn” includes the idea of repenting. In short, it is about looking at who we are, and turning the very direction of our lives.
Our individual and corporate goals are to understand who we are in order to allow us to connect with our best possible future and then shift our focus so that we can make that future a reality.
That is a passage worthy of the name.
Selah, Pastor Dennis