This sermon was preached on August 4, 2013 at Winnetka Presbyterian Church. My two texts were Luke 12:16-21 and Ecclesiastes 2:18-3:8. You can hear the sermon below.
So, I have a feeling that many of you, right now, are expecting me to break out into song with the Byrd’s version of Pete Seeger’s song, Turn, Turn, Turn. And if you’re too young to know that classic song, go home, get on YouTube and listen to it a few times…
Now, if I had been a bit more prepared, I might have worked up a little something with Geoff and could have wowed you with my musical prowess…but we’ll save that for another Sunday.
This passage today from Ecclesiastes is very well-known, perhaps because of the variety of different covers of Pete Seeger’s song, Turn, Turn, Turn.
Often played as a rally to peace because of the last line in the song and in this portion of scripture, it is a song that so many people connect with because, I think, it speaks to our human experience in a deep and profound way.
Likewise this passage seems to encapsulate much of what we go through during our lives…for EVERYTHING there is a season…including a time to write a sermon, and a time NOT to write a sermon, which is probably when you have spent 10 days in a car traveling 3,000 miles, and while you are trying to move into a new home, surrounded by boxes, a toddler who is, understandably, having a hard time adjusting to massive change and having meltdowns, and a wife who was celebrating her birthday yesterday…
Just a guess…
Today’s verses from Ecclesiastes are filled with the stuff of life:
birth – death
killing – healing
breaking – building up
weeping – laughing
mourning – dancing
seeking – losing
loving – hating
war – peace
Much of it we like…we like births and new beginnings. We like laughing and building each other up…and next time Caleb is around, I’ll show you how he loves to dance to Justin Timberlake, Adele and other current pop music. You should see the joy on his face as he twirls around and giggles…
These are many of the times in our lives when it is easy to imagine God present with us. The times when things seem to be going our way…when it just feels like God is orchestrating everything in our lives for good…
But do we imagine God present in the other times? In breaking down? In weeping? In mourning? In war? In death?
It was just over 3 years ago that Sarah and I found out we were pregnant. We were excited, and a little terrified at the same time…even more terrified when we went to Sarah’s first appointment and found out we were pregnant with twins! I immediately went home and started up a new blog called “The Dazed Dad” and began blogging about what I imagined it was going to be like to be a dad to twins.
It was not an easy pregnancy for Sarah by any means, but we made it to the ultrasound just shy of 20 weeks and got to see our boys and all their arms and legs and tiny little toes. Soon after that we decided on names: Micah and Judah.
Two days later, Sarah stood up from the couch after church on Sunday, and something just didn’t feel right. We called Labor & Delivery at the hospital, and…(doing their jobs), they calmly suggested that we should probably come in to get things checked out.
We arrived at the hospital, had a few tests done, and within an hour, we heard the doctor say the words: “terminate the pregnancy.” Everything came to a stand still and much of the next two days became a blur. To this day, the doctors don’t really know what happened, just that it was one of those things that happens to some people and is absolutely bad luck.
Sarah had to deliver the boys, and so the following morning, October 25, 2010, Micah and Judah were born, Micah weighing 10 ounces and Judah weighing 8.
They were born alive, and both lived for about an hour. We spent the morning with them, they were baptized, and I became a dad that morning. As I held both my boys in my hands, I felt an overwhelming sense of love for my two sons, and had a small glimpse into what God’s unconditional love for me, for all of us, must feel like…
The next few months were hard…some of the hardest I’ve gone through…
I was mad, I yelled and cursed at God…
One day I drove up to a little mountain in the Bay area where we lived, went for a hike, and I found myself sitting at a pond…praying, crying, asking why…and at that moment, I had a deep awareness of God’s presence with me. That God was there, with me, in all of what I was going through. That God was present with me in the death of my boys…that God was suffering with me.
For everything, there is a season…
And God was certainly present with me just over a year later, when, after many hours of labor, the doctor looked up at me and said, “Okay dad…you want to put on those gloves and catch your son?” I think the prospect of me catching Caleb and being the first to hold him, instead of a medical professional, slightly terrified Sarah, but since she was otherwise engaged…
I reached down and picked up Caleb for the very first time, and handed him to Sarah…
It was absolutely one of the most amazing moments of my life…one of those times when it was clear that God was present and active in that moment.
A time to be born…and a time to die.
A time to weep…and a time to laugh.
I think the wisdom here in our passage for today, and the real challenge, for me, and for all of us as followers in the way of Jesus, is to be able to acknowledge that for everything there is a season…and God is in it all!
The verses go on to say “God has made everything suitable for its time” And that is something we need to be reminded of time and time again, something that we need to try and come to grips with, that God isn’t just present with us when things are going well, but that God is in the hard stuff of life.
These are not easy lessons to learn, by any means, but luckily we have the body of Christ to get us through those most difficult times when we know God promised to be there with us…but we’re just not feeling it.
And I think it takes a lot of wisdom to get to that point where knowing and trusting this truth, simply becomes second nature. But, I think that’s one of the goals we should be striving for as Christ followers.
And that’s the sermon that you might have expected to hear on this passage…
And while I DO think that all of what I just said is important…there is something else that I noticed in this passage from today. The “for everything there is a season” verses, the “Turn, Turn, Turn” song, are sandwiched in between another sentiment that I think is also filled with a lot of wisdom.
Chapter 2 verse 24 says: “There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink and find enjoyment in their toil” and chapter 3 verse 12 says, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live…it is God’s GIFT that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in their toil.”
Being a follower in the way of Jesus SHOULD…ALSO…BE…FUN! Ask any of the youth or adults that just got back from the Atlanta Mission Trip, and they’ll probably tell you something similar!
The writer of Ecclesiastes knows that life is difficult…and wants to remind us that God is in it all…all the stuff of life, the good and the bad…
But at the same time, they want us to know that God wants us to have some fun, to enjoy life, to eat and drink and be merry…and what better way to do this, than in the context of community, the body of Christ.
Now, from what I’ve gotten to know about this congregation and from what I’ve seen about how you all interact with one another and from what I’ve heard from some of your Elders and Deacons…you are already doing a great job at this. Now, you can let me know if I’m just not reading this quite right, but from what I’ve experienced so far, you all genuinely ENJOY each other. You enjoy doing life together, and I think that’s huge!
For everything there is a season…and as we all go through life, we’ll be here for each other to experience those things together. We’ll experience joyous births, we’ll experience tragic deaths. We’ll weep and laugh and dance together! We’ll probably hurt each other…but we’ll also heal each other…all of this.
But in between all of those big moments of our lives…in the ordinary times…in the common, day-to-day stuff of life…let us eat, and drink and be merry with each other in this community! Let us look for the blessings and times that God shows up, as we simply do life together…
And we do that when we come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper…in many ways, Communion is a magical time, a time when we embrace the mystery of God’s presence with us, as we eat the bread, and as we drink the juice, and as we enjoy each other in this community during this time – just like the writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to do:
“I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live…it is God’s GIFT that all should eat and drink.”
As I hope I’ve communicated with many of you, Sarah and Caleb and I are very excited about the opportunity to do life together with you all. To partner with you as we all seek to live out the Good News that we have experienced in our lives individually, and in the ways we see that happen in our life together as a community.
And of course…to eat, drink and be merry! For everything, there is a season…AMEN.