A reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 for Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Mosaic Baptist Church
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.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSVA)
The above musings on the seasons of life are credited to Solomon.
During his reign as king of Israel, Solomon was known throughout the world for his wisdom. In fact, the book known as Ecclesiastes, from which this poem is taken, is part of the ‘wisdom literature’ collection in the Old Testament.
One of the many reasons that this poem is treasured is that it ‘rings true’ in the ears of so many. Life is far from constant. It has been well said that the only constant is change.
Perhaps this perspective is most obvious to those who have been around for some time. As I read Ecclesiastes it is a considered contemplation of the temporary nature of many of the aspects of life that we pursue. Money. Love. Work. Building. Indulgence and pleasure. All are recognised here as passing. Even wisdom itself is mined for what is permanent.
And none of it is.
Life is all gift – and all fleeting.
Perhaps this is why this poem sits in the midst of this book. It insists that all the aspects of the human experience have their place and are passing.
As we saw in our last post, balance is something we gain – at best – momentarily. It is fleeting and and has to be approached, found, and then approached again. We considered the tightrope walker who is constantly moving in and out of balance.
Perhaps as we interact with this timeless poem we can begin to see this balancing act across all of life. Birth. Death. Planting. Reaping. Killing and healing. Breaking and building. Sorrow. Laughter. Mourning and dancing. Scattering. Gathering. Embracing. Letting go. Keeping and casting. Tearing and sowing. Silence and speech. Love and hate. War and peace.
Life is seasonal.
And so Solomon, in all his wisdom, found a place for the extremes of life. Life, for him, was not always in balance. Rather, it was a constant balancing act.
So where does God – the creator of everything – fit into this? For Solomon, God was the one constant. For his perspective all God’s good gifts were temporary. God was the only one that was lasting. By the end of his book his advice is simple: ‘The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.’
I tend to think of God as the tightrope in our guiding analogy. God is the middle. The support. The one that gives meaning to every other aspect of life. The one we do well to maintain contact with.
God – the one most accurately revealed in the very human life of Jesus – is the one that a balancing life is constantly returning to.
How wold you describe the season you are living through at the moment? How does it help you to think of it as temporary and passing?
Are there seasons in your life that you are glad have ended? What did you get out of these seasons? How have they changed you?
Are there seasons you look back on and idealise? What is the danger here?