Ecclesiastes: Less Pastel, Refreshingly Real
For some reason I associate spring with pastel colors, and those shades always remind me of those “Precious Moments” Bibles that were popular a couple of decades ago. The characters from those ceramic statues that you could buy in Hallmark stores became the models for cute little pastel paintings of Bible stories. I’ll bet you can guess which stories – Noah and the cute animals boarding the ark, Moses as he’s called by God through a burning bush, David strumming on his harp as cute little sheep sleep beside him under a star filled sky.
The stories that got the pictures were, of course, also the front page material of Sunday School curriculum as well during my growing up years. I heard about the ark, but not about Noah’s drunken stupor afterward; learned about Moses getting the commandments, but not so much about his dangerous temper which eventually cost him his ticket into the promised land; learned about David the harpist, and David the murderer of the mean giant, but heard nothing about David the murderer of his illicit lover’s husband, a lover seduced as much by his abuse of power as anything else.
The problem with focusing exclusively on pastel moments is that we come to believe that we live in a pastel world, a world where God’s children are always floating just slightly above the earth in a state of blissful innocence and simplicity, this elevation being their reward for loving Jesus. Some of us grew up with pastel’s everywhere, sheltered as we were from all forms of the real world, but most of us were introduced to some other colors early in the story. When I was in high school a good friend, a Christian who was himself as pastel as they come, was killed because a drunk driver ran a red light and slammed into his car. All the mauve, magenta, and pale yellow in the world couldn’t immune him from the effects of someone who drank too much and drove too fast.
Event by event, other colors spill onto the canvas of our lives so that instead of looking like a “precious moments” picture out of our Bibles, our lives end up looking like a cubist rendition of what it means to know both beauty and suffering.
I love Ecclesiastes because the author shatters our pastel illusions, forcing us to look at the world in all its real colors, convinced as he is that the reality of the red pill of truth will be a far more ennobling diet than all the pastel pills of illusion in the world. This spring we’ll be studying Ecclesiastes on Sundays, because real hope is rooted in the kinds of colors that exist on the pallet of reality, untainted by the pastel naïveté dreamers. And it’s the real colors, the real truth, that will set us free to live fully, serving, celebrating, loving, and mourning in Jesus’ name. I hope you’ll join us for this new series in Ecclesiastes called: “Reality Bytes: Postcards from the edge of meaning.”