Finding direction in a restless world through Ecclesiastes

Published 9:18 am Friday, October 1, 2010

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By The Rev. Tom Biatek, United Methodist Church

“…For everything there is a season, And a time for every purpose under heaven.”

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— Ecclesiastes 3:1

We live in a world of constant motion. Our galaxy hurtles through space. Our world circles around the sun. The winds of change blow unceasingly. Our lives move inexorably from the past, through the present and into the future. As the Preacher writes in the wisdom-rich book Ecclesiastes, “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits, the wind returns.” Our world is marked by an unstoppable restlessness.

There are restless movements in life that are filled with a sense of wonder. Our present change from summer to autumn is as beautiful a transformation of our world as one could hope for. One fine day, we have sunshine and green grass then suddenly, after the first frost, we are dazzled by brilliant fall colors and a biting north wind. I have never lived in an area of the country where the change of seasons carries such sudden beauty and drama. Life can change with beautiful amazement from one day to the next.

There are other transitions that we face that are not so wonder-filled. Our lives can often take a dramatic turn from easy comfort to stormy hardship. In our hard economic times, we can quickly be moved from the ranks of the employed to the long lines of the unemployed with an unexpected decision from the higher-ups. Any of us can face the transition from health to sickness in the blink of an eye. One small slip, one slight misstep, one unfortunate circumstance and life can change in a heartbeat. I have a friend who by simply doing what he normally would do in the course of his day — driving home from work — was a part of an accident. A patch of ice, a moment of inattention, an unexpected adjustment of the car ahead and lives are changed forever. One moment, all is normal. In the next moment, nothing will ever be the same.

So what are the constants? What does life have to offer in terms of stability and peace? What can we deem reliable in this restless life we live? Our Preacher from Ecclesiastes points to a few things that we can embrace — the value of a friend, the comfort of religious practice, the legacy of a good name. Our Preacher offers certain bits of sage advice for dealing with the challenges of life. Enjoy our youth, strive to live without anxiety, live each day well and know God. In the final analysis the Preacher says that, while we cannot always have the control of life that we desire, there is God, in control, to whom we can finally place our trust. The Preacher reminds us that all life, from the self-proclaimed greatest to the seemingly insignificant, has value beyond measure. Living our life well, in and of itself, is its own reward. God will judge us, if we are to be judged, on how we take this one life we are given and claim it as the gift from God it truly is.

“I know that whatever God does, endures forever;

Nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it;

God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.

That which is, has already been;

That which is to be, already is;

And God seeks out what has gone by.”

— Ecclesiastes 3:14-15