In Ecclesiastes 3:1 the Preacher/Teacher/Assembler of Wisdom sayings states: For everything there is a season, and a time for everything under heaven.
New Year’s, for me, has always been a time for reflection, goal setting, and re-engagement in the routines of life and ministry. I look forward to the quiet days, or moments, after the hub-bub of Christmas services, events and gatherings to sit with the Lord and ask, “What’s next? What time is it? What is it time for?”
Do you do this?
As I’ve sat with this passage from Ecclesiastes 3 this time around I’ve been reminded that God is the orchestrator of time and its rhythms. Unfortunately we often get away from this way of thinking and try to control and organize time for ourselves. For example, I was listening to a leadership podcast while walking the other day and the speaker said that a week was simply an arbitrary unit of time created by humanity. I was shocked. I have respected this speaker’s work and writing, but I completely disagreed with his assessment of a week’s origin as a unit of time. I wanted to shout, “Wait, go back and read the first chapters of Genesis!” There God establishes the rhythm of a week with its anchor of Sabbath keeping.
God invites us to live into the rhythms of time – be they a 24 hour day; a 7 day week, complete with Sabbath; a 30 or 31 (and once a year 28) day month; a 365 day year; and the liturgical year of worship followed by the Church (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany; Lent/Easter and Ordinary Time). When we do live in these rhythms, we find refreshment and renewal. When we don’t, we fall victim to thinking that we, and not God, are the orchestrators of how time works.
In his writing about this text from Ecclesiastes, Eugene Peterson suggests that the time and place in which the book was written (likely mid-3rd Century BC) was a relative time of peace and prosperity. Such times have a way of lulling faith to near sleep, or complacency. Peterson uses phrases like “gone to seed” and “a kind of slackness” to describe the condition of the original audience of the Preacher/Teacher/Assembler of Wisdom sayings’ book. It was a population that was not engaged. They were complacent and stagnant. They’d gotten out of rhythm in their living of the faith and life. But the writer calls them back into time, and back into rhythm by asking, “What time is it?”
What times is it, in your life, right now? Would you consider that question? Is it a time to weep or laugh; to dance or mourn? Is it a time to embrace, or refrain? Time to plant, or uproot? Time to speak, or keep silence?
Aren’t those great questions?
They are only if we will consider them. It’s only as we are willing to enter into God’s rhythms of time that we will be able to hear and respond to these questions. Maybe it’s time to do just that.
Happy New Year!