Turn, Turn, Turn!
In this well-known text from Ecclesiastes, we are reminded of the rhythm of the seasons and the routines of life. What is the wisdom the Teacher seeks to share with us about faith and our lives?
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
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Turn! Turn! Turn!
Have you every wondered what the secret of life is? Faith Hill had a song in which she says what she thinks the secret of life is.
Now I don’t know if the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes would agree with Faith Hill, but I’m not sure he would disagree entirely. Faith seems to be saying that the secret of life is enjoying life’s simple pleasures and the author of our passage today says to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in work.
Both of these are on to something with their idea of enjoying the simplicity of the life we have been given. Yet we live in a world that says we must continue to achieve and accumulate. When that is our focus is on gaining and gathering all the things we don’t have, like education, money, and experiences, it makes it very difficult to enjoy the things that we do have. We find ourselves living in the future rather than the present and we are prevented from enjoying the gift of our lives now.
Dr. John Claypoole, pastor, professor, and prophet is known for saying, “Life is Gift”. I think he meant that all life is gift and our work is to find the gift in it. This is in accordance with the author of Ecclesiastes. He has come to the end of his life and he realizes how little control all human beings have over the course of their lives. It seems at first like a terrible perspective to have. Yet, if we allow the idea to work on us, it is possible that we can be freed from all of the toil and worry that we live with when we relinquish the illusion of control that we struggle so hard to keep and allow ourselves to live the life God has given us.
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Nikki’s Video Script
Turn! Turn! Turn!
Happy New Year! I hope that in the time between your Christmas celebrations and this New Year, you have had time to spend with your loved ones and enjoy some of the of joys of this life. I say that, because today, we will be looking together at one of the most well-known passages from the book of Ecclesiastes in verses 3:1-13. These verses of scripture were made popular in song by The Byrds, when they released their song, Turn! Turn! Turn! in 1965.
The book of Ecclesiastes is written by one who is called the Teacher. Tradition holds that it is written by King Solomon, but the book never makes that distinction. As we read through the book and make our way to the end, we get the idea that it is written by someone near the end of their life who is now ready to disseminate all the wisdom he’s collected over many years of living. The Teacher has found no satisfaction in the things we all toil away at — he has learned there is not satisfaction in a life lived only for work, or in only the pursuit of knowledge or intellectualism, or in chasing after raucous and hard living. None of these things bring ultimate pleasure and satisfaction. Rather, in life, it is better for us to pursue the simple pleasure of every day, and to appreciate the simply joys of family, friends, and loved ones.
And todays passage is the epitome of this teaching. The teacher is saying to us in this passage, nothing in this world really ever changes. God has made it so all these things are a part of life — being born and dying, planting and plucking, laughing and crying, war and peace, gathering and throwing away — to try to avoid any of this is fruitless and impossible. And even more, to try to control these things or determine when they will come and go is a waste of our time. We do not control when things happen — God does.
And so, the Teacher simply says the best thing is to find a way to enjoy the simple pleasures of this human life — be happy, eat, drink, and find a way to enjoy your work because you will always have it.
Some find this book depressing, but if we allow the lessons it has to offer really sink it, there can be great relief in letting go the illusion of control over life, and how things happen. There is joy to be had in this life if we allow ourselves to embrace it and not try to control all that happens or live only trying to change things. This doesn’t mean we become sloths and not care about life or the world. It does mean that when love of work becomes workaholism, or the pursuit of knowledge becomes elitist, or when celebrating the simple pleasures of life becomes a way to escape life, then we have missed the point.
Life is continually moving. We cannot stop that. We can make a difference in the places we live and work, and then we can enjoy the life we have been given. It is good to do this and to realize that we are not the one making this world Turn and Turn and Turn. That is up to God.