I need wisdom today. Do you? Let’s listen in on ancient voices of wisdom that speak through Ecclesiastes 3: 1-17. I’ve only ever preached this text during a funeral, so it's with humility and gratitude that I engage these words in the ups and downs of the present- as you and I are just trying to live one day at a time.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account. And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there. I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
Let me begin today by saying how grateful I am to be preaching. I have 4 sermons remaining in this current call among you all…and as timidly as I began this past decade of my life, my season of preaching almost weekly, I know I will miss it. The chance to wrestle with an ancient word in hopes of better understanding my current life and how God’s goodness connects with each of your lives. That’s what preaching is for me, uncovering mystery that lies just below the surface, waiting for intention to extract it. But make no mistake, whether or not it’s me or you or anyone else extracting the meaning, it’s always there. Wisdom eternal, that’s the living word of God…and I feel this truth keenly today, as I reflect on ancient wisdom in Ecclesiastes. No matter how many times I revisit this passage, it takes on new meaning because my season of life- and yours- is always in flux.
God has made everything beautiful in its time. God has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
For as much as we’d like to think we’re in control of our lives, each of us encounters a season of sheer mystery…sensing the ground shifting under our feet. And I know you personally feel this in some way AND each of you is connected as a church body, a family of faith in transition. I am right here with you, feeling like the future of this church body is very much outside my control.
And yet I trust, without a doubt, that God makes everything beautiful in its time. God sets eternity in our hearts. We may not be able to fathom what God is doing, but we trust that God is present and on the move with us. Just this week- after I worked on parts of this sermon, God’s spirit moved and we are confidently preparing a wonderful plan for a diverse and faithful crew to fill the pulpit this Fall…nothing I could have done on my own- so praise God for beautiful surprises.
It was exactly 6 years ago today (my birthday) that I preached my first official sermon here as your pastor. I didn’t know at the time how long I’d be here, I only knew to trust that this was a good fit for us- church and pastor starting something new. And as we reflect on all that God has done among us, because of our faithfulness to one another and faithfulness to God’s call, I am amazed. And grateful, and so very filled with emotion. I know you know this, but it’s worth saying again- our season of life together has been fruitful and wonderful.
In the midst of challenges, we draw together. When faced with personal tragedies, we show up for one another. When given chances to welcome new members, we embrace the change and invite new perspectives. When asked to get a little messy, oh we do that well. Whenever a chance to feed one another arises, no one has EVER gone hungry under this rool. We lovingly transformed our spaces of shared life- the fellowship hall, the kitchen, a new sign, and oh so very soon…a new elevator. We’ve embodied the sacraments in worship, we’ve decorated and adorned our altar, we’ve celebrated so many spiritual milestones and memorials, liturgical seasons, and simple pleasures of being together in an authentic way. We’ve been the hands and feet of Jesus the very best way we know how.
I proclaim in the midst of this season of change, emboldened by the wisdom of the saints and the writers of Ecclesiastes…God indeed makes everything beautiful in its time. And so I offer this promise: no matter who’s in the lead of this faith family, we will continue to be made into the beautiful, eclectic, transforming body of Christ that began long before any of us and will continue long after each of us is gone.
For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven. May you know the love of Christ more deeply than ever during this season in the life of the church. May you show up for one another more deeply than ever. May you ask for what you need and offer what you can more deeply than ever. May you plant and pluck up what has been planted, may you cry and may you laugh. May you scatter stones and gather them, may you mourn and may you laugh. May you continue to embrace the seasonality of life, one day at a time. Always united in one Spirit, one Creator, one Christ. Amen.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.