This week’s narrative reading is: Ecclesiastes 1:1-11; 3:1-17
1:1 The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3 What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? 4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. 6 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. 7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. 8 All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has already been, in the ages before us. 11 The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.
3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 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. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. 16 Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work.
Some thoughts on the Scripture lesson:
Oh, Qohelet! Oh, Teacher of Ecclesiastes. You say what we don’t want to hear. You point to the folly of our expectation that we are different (and, hence, better) than any people who have come before. Your words reveal to us that our children and our children’s children will marvel at what we did not know, but they will not perceive that which they do not yet comprehend. Your words, inspired by the Spirit, are of God and yet we do not wish to hear them.
Oh, Qohelet! Oh, Teacher of Ecclesiastes! Would that we would heed your wisdom. Would that we should learn that God’s plan for our hope and future is intertwined with that of our neighbors. Would that we would hear and comprehend the truth that God’s vocational plan for us involves finding joy in work and peace in recreation. Would that we would realize that God’s plan for the earth may diverge from what our minds could conceive and that we might listen and hear.
Oh, Qohelet! Oh, Teacher of Ecclesiastes! The times of all things are held in the innermost being of our God, yet we believe that we make these things happen. The bringing of redemption pours forth from the very nature of the Lord, yet we think that it depends on us. The shaping and sanctifying of all things comes from the work of the Spirit, yet we think our creativity and our designs are the pinnacle of creation.
Oh, Qohelet! Oh, Teacher of Ecclesiastes! Help us to perceive the height and depth of the love of God. Reveal to us the wisdom and folly of being human. Help us to find joy in work and play and to give all the glory to our Creator. Remind us that our very lives are part of God’s own plan and work and that all that we are and have is but dust in the light of eternity, yet we are blessed.
Oh, Qohelet! Oh, Teacher of Ecclesiastes! We thank you for your wisdom and we ask God for the grace to perceive it.