Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And the answer is…Ecclesiastes

We humans have a hard time proportioning life. What I mean is that it seems we’re forever looking, forever waiting for life to begin. We’ve all this angst when we’re young about career and marriage. We run to seminars and make these subjects the topic of a fair bit of teaching in the Christian community along with a mainstay over a pint (or a Pepsi for the theologically ‘dry’). Then we get those things settled, and we have angst about financial security and the well being and success of our offspring. Thus do we spend our middle years running a taxi service to endless events in hopes that our kids will be well rounded enough to gain admission into a good college, even as we work hard for promotions in order to assure our own well being. As the clock keeps ticking, we slowly begin to gain new anxieties, now about health care, retirement, and aging parents.

But somewhere along the way in this journey, a meaning crisis bursts forth. whereby we look around at what we're doing and wonder if it has any meaning. Or perhaps, if it is meaningful for the moment, we're struck by the temporality of it all and the inevitability of loss. For me, such a crisis (in mini proportion) happened the other day while skiing. I was looking around at the incredible beauty of the landscape, my eyes scanning the horizon to ingest the glories of Shuksan, Sefrit, Goat Mt., Winchester Mt., and Tomyhoi Mt. There they all were – on full display in their finest whitened glory. And though I was enjoying the beauty of it all, there was a bittersweetness to it that I only think about on days when I’m skiing alone. It was the sad realization that a day would come when I’ll not be able to do this, or see this, ever again. I looked around once again, wondering when I’d leave these mountains for the last time.

Skiing down offered no time for reflection, but soon I was on the way back up again, and I begin to pray. A song came to mind from the band Iona, and slowly I began to recall the message of Ecclesiastes: you can’t stay – but you can enjoy it while you’re here, if you’re living it out in relationship with God. Those who don’t know God, or believe God exists are stuck with this bittersweet sentiment perpetually, usually more bitter than sweet for those who are thoughtful. But for those who know God – “In the day of prosperity be happy. But in the day of adversity consider – God has made the one as well as the other.”

I went home that night and read Ecclesiastes from cover to cover, something I’d not done in years. What a joy – what a blessing – what a straight up assessment of life under the sun, filled with practical counsel along the way. I’ve determined to study it thoroughly and teach through it, either in the fall of 07 or the winter of 08. If anyone knows of good resources that would be helpful, please advise. In the meantime…“whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going…” Carpe Diem.

4 Comments:

At 7/3/07 21:06, Blogger Peter said...

I have found Murphy and Huwiler's New International Biblical Commentary (Hendrickson, 1999) to be very helpful. And, it's 3 for 1; you get Proverbs and S of S as well. Also, check out Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes through the Lens of Contemporary Film by Johnston (Baker Academic, 2004). Don't just take my word for it; Brueggemann, McLaren, Romanowski, and Patrick Miller praise the work as well.

pax,

Pete Armstrong
Sanctuary CRC

 
At 8/3/07 16:55, Blogger Bryan said...

Here is an excerpt from "Lives" by Modest Mouse. I really enjoy the reflective simplicity of these comments (and the song ain't half bad either)

It's hard to remember were alive for the last time
It's hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
To live before you die
It's hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
That our lives are such a short time
It's hard to remember, it’s hard to remember
When it takes such a long time
It's hard to remember, it’s hard to remember…

 
At 9/3/07 11:17, Blogger Sarah said...

Sarah here from Ravencrest/ Tauernhof. Thanks for writing this blog...Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible, and I seem to find it so encouraging. I'm glad to find someone else shares my thoughts and reads it outside the postmodern and cynical era in which we reside in. I don't have any great resourses to offer or opinions to muster, but I would suggest perhaps talking to Hans Peter. He preaches a great series on "prediger" and maybe in a small dialogue with him, you could attain another viewpoint on how to read it and therefore teach it. I hope you're well and all the best and God's blessings!

 
At 12/3/07 23:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes.

Regarding your part: "but you can enjoy it while you’re here, if you’re living it out in relationship with God. Those who don’t know God, or believe God exists are stuck with this bittersweet sentiment perpetually, usually more bitter than sweet for those who are thoughtful."

I'd like to hear/read more about what you mean by this "bittersweet sentiment perpetually... for those who are thoughtful" Several of my thoughtful friends do not have a relatonship with the Lord, but I see life in them.

 

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