(Or what if tomorrow wasn’t going to be different than today?)
Ecclesiastes is a bleak book. Yet, you occasionally catch verses from it prominently read at weddings, funerals, on cards, specifically Ecclesiastes 3 which goes:
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.
That might sound poetic and beautiful, but it comes in the midst of wailing and lamenting about the state of affairs of the world and life. All is vanity, the book begins. Everything will eventually pass away into dust. This isn’t the struggle to deal with suffering as we find in the book of Job – it’s more of a deep questioning of the cyclical nature of all things. Are we just wheels in the cog? Do our lives make a difference in the inevitable passing of the seasons? If we work hard in our lives, will the next person come along and redo all of our work? What is the point?
I imagine that if I could ask anyone to read this book in worship on Sunday, it would be Bill Murray. (For example, check out this clip from Groundhog Day which I may use Sunday.) He alone would capture that mix of dark humor, sarcasm, and world weariness that comes across from these writings. I like that this book is in the Bible. It counters some of the heady optimism that we encounter in other parts. Yes, we can make a difference – yes, God is passionately involved with Creation. But, things cycle and change, sometimes beyond our control. There is a season for all things, which is both good and bad.
In the end, the simplest things are the moments to savor in life. Enjoy your food. Drink well. Find joy in your hard work. Do the little things well, and perhaps the big things will take care of themselves.
“This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.” Ecclesiastes 5:18
See you Sunday or somewhere in between!