Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/14/17 Sermon - Rethinking Time

“Rethinking Time”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

How many of you, by a show of hands, like to be “on time?” How many of us like to be on time, but continually find ourselves running just a few minutes behind? The concept of being “on time” didn’t exist before the 15th Century. In fact, the minute hand on the clock didn’t show up until the 17th Century. The idea of our lives and the events in them being controlled by blocks of allotted time is relatively a new one.

Before the Industrial Revolution, in the middle of the 18th Century, most people lived in an overwhelmingly agricultural economy and used the natural rhythms of the days and the seasons to regulate their day. Time was relative to where you lived.

The tolling of church bells to call parishioners to worship or funerals, or to mark occasional calamities or celebrations, was used to keep people informed of important times that were determined by sundials.

We can’t even wrap our minds around this today. Scientists have perfected the time piece with the invention of the atomic clock. With the addition of using quartz, the clock became not only efficient in keeping time, but cheap enough to buy personally and wear on your wrist. Mind you, the quartz watch was invented in the 1980’s.

I remind you of how the concept of time has changed in just this century, so that you can try to step back a bit and imagine Solomon’s concept of time, as he wrote this poem.

In Solomon’s day, there was an understanding that each moment, was an unearned gift from a gracious God, rather than a commodity to be traded or spent for something else.

In our Scripture today, Solomon has cataloged 28 seasons of life and placed them in sharp contrasting pairs within a chiastic poem where he weaves together pessimistic and optimistic themes. After a short introduction, verses 2-8 are made up of 14 antithesis.

These statements are not prescriptive,

Solomon did not write these to tell people what to do,

rather they are descriptive,

where Solomon has taken what he has experienced and seen in his life and recorded the seasons of life in prose.

As we read through them I am certain that you will recognize some of them, perhaps all of them, as seasons that you yourself have experienced.

Solomon begins his seasons of life poem with the most fundamental season, one day we are born, and then one day we die. Both of these are generally out of human control. The French composer Hector Berlioz was quoted as saying, “Time is a great teacher. Unfortunately, it kills all its pupils.” Solomon knew that the seasons of one’s life were set in motion by God. In fact, the entire universe interacts and reacts according to the seasons God has set in place. God set it up this way.

And even though humans continue to try to make sense of it all, we ultimately come to the understanding, that there are some things beyond our control. Solomon put it like this, “The best thing to do is to be happy and enjoy yourself for as long as you can.” Yet, how many of us take that advice? Rather we get caught up in the necessities of this world, and try to control things we have no right controlling and get ultimately frustrated in the process. Somehow it seems too “simple” to stop worrying about what we can’t control and enjoy the gifts God gives. We often forget that God is the creator of time. The wise Solomon put down into words, the very parts of time that create the rhythm of our reality.

The trick is, knowing what time it is.

How often have you held on for dear life to something which was actually finished and done? Like a relationship, or a program? Only to realize that you had been wasting your time. Solomon was right, there really is a time to build up and a time to break down.

Solomon realized that there was hatred in the world, and yet he also saw those who were called to heal. As Christians we need to remember that Christ came into the world and experienced, first hand, our world of hatred and piety. Even though he felt it, first hand, Christ showed us how to take the higher road. He claimed a kingdom of peace.

A world of peace that he had originally created and had come to restore. We read in Mark 1:15

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus came in order to defeat all the things that are determined to separate us from God and from one another. All of the pessimistic items Solomon penned.

That means…. for this time….right now…..today…..here…...as we are thinking about our time on earth….. All the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX have been defeated.

Now is the moment of our salvation, which is rich with divine possibility. Are you ready for it? Are you open for it? If we are to be like Christ, this means also in how we spend our time. Jesus knew all there was about time. He knew when he was suppose to reveal who he was and when he was to wait. He knew who to trust and who to say “no” to. Today, right now, is rich with possibility because of the gift of Christ.

With Christ, there we are no longer hindered by sin, we are no longer bewildered by sin. We are set free from our sin, and that freedom allows us to live a life with “great positive possibility”, as the theologian, Karl Barth called his age of time.

Christ is the the turning point to all of Solomon’s ambiguity. His questions are real, they exist today, and although Jesus doesn’t always give us clear, concise answers to the why’s of our lives,

He does give us hope. Hope that this is not all there is. Hope that yes, our experiences on earth are as Solomon has penned, but they are not the final answer. “For greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”

Solomon’s poem incapsulates human existence. Time, life and death, love and war, humanity and deity. And for Solomon, the deity has supplied all of these experiences, and with them comes answers and many questions, of which Solomon found to be meaningless, under the sun. But Solomon’s message is the same for us today as it was when he penned it in his lifetime,

Recognize your humanity,

Embrace the mysteries of life,

And fear the Creator of life.

I close with this ancient story,

“Where shall I look for enlightenment?” the disciple asked.

“Here,” the wise one said.

“When will it happen?” the disciple asked.

“It is happening right now,” the wise one answered.

“Then why don’t I experience it?”

“Because you don’t look.”

“What should I look for?”

“Nothing. Just look.”

“Look at what?”

“At anything your eyes light on.”

“But must I look in a special way?”

“No, the ordinary way will do.”

“But don’t I always look the ordinary way?”

“No, you don’t.”

“But why ever not?”

“Because to look, you  must be here. And you are mostly somewhere else.”

Many of you know that I am a busy person, but may I continue to learn that I am never too busy to be present in every moment, whether I am busy or not.

“For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Yesterday is but a memory, and tomorrow but a vision. But today well-lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness, and every tomorrow, a vision of hope.”

Let’s pray.