Read this week's text, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, 3:1-17
I'm struck by the tension between the words from chapter one - everything is vanity, nothing is new under the sun and chapter three - there is time for everything, the world contains every possible activity and emotion known to humankind. There doesn't have to be tension, of course. The entire course of humankind can be both comprehensive and nothing but vanity but it doesn't seem so to me. At least today that is.
I've been helping a woman die for the past couple weeks. She has finally entered hospice care after more than two decades of fighting a heart condition. She's 51 years old. Her 17 year old daughter said to her a week ago, "Mom, I hope you know it's ok if you let go." Her friends and family have been visiting, one at a time, remembering moments of life - those moments mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3 - moments of laughter and moments of tears, moments of building things and moments of tearing things down, moments of love and hate and speaking and silence. How do you let go of all of that?
Our lives are actually so very precious, every small or large moment of it. This rather vain and I would add mundane human life is - well, it leaves me speechless at times. I feel the writer of Ecclesiastes was writing from a position of incredible privilege - of wealth and power, with health and time in his favor. It's only when we are privileged enough to take life for granted that we lose sight of the preciousness of it all.
Is life vain or is it valuable?
Is life a worthless endeavor or is it worth every precious moment?
The writer of Ecclesiastes could use a dose of Zen Buddhism and a lesson in living in the present. We could all use a lesson in living in the present.
What season from that list in chapter 3 are you in today? Not tomorrow or yesterday but today - what is today for you? Are your sowing or reaping? Mourning or dancing? Tearing or sowing? What is your present moment filled with?
What value do you place on it? Or do you agree with the sentiment of chapter one, that this present moment for you holds nothing new under the sun? Is this present moment like the wind, coming and going?
I dare say if we spend any time in the present moment, we find tremendous newness. We may find it to be like the wind in its coming and going but the wind feels really wonderful against our faces. This day may run into all the others but it still has to go through us. I wonder if what the writer considers vanity is that he or she missed out on so many present moments trying to find meaning in them.
Preaching Ideas -
Eating a Raising Meditation - Have you heard of this? This simple meditation allows a person to savor every aspect of a single raisin. I think this would be a fantastic exercise to do during worship.
The Precious Present By Spencer Johnson. This book may be a helpful illustration. It's simple, a parable of sorts. And I know Eckert Tolle has a book called Here and Now - but years ago Henri Nouwen wrote one with the same title. I commend it to you for devotional reading. Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
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