Guest Sermon on Ecclesiastes by Lauren Speeth
Recorded March 18, 2016 ~ Burlingame United Methodist Church
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you, Lord, our rock and our redeemer. <<a quick, amusing and unplanned break to borrow some glasses>> March is Bible Appreciation Month. And when I think about all my favorite verses, one from Ecclesiastes surely is on the list somewhere. It speaks of faith and the implications of a larger plan. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is a favorite, when I’m in a particular mood. It basically says: tried this, tried that; been there, done that; been high, been low; it’s all too big to understand, so go with the flow and be happy. Of course there’s more, but that’s the nutshell. And oh, there’s power in that last line that we just heard: A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
I like one side of that equation very much… a time of love… a time of peace. We don’t have to look very far to find the other side – war and hate – do we? Just turn on the news, and it’s Tolstoy’s War and Peace unfolding. It’s all so… epic. So Shakespearean. Do you remember the Prince’s soliloquy at the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – as both the lovers lie dead? “Where be these enemies? … See what a scourge is laid upon your hate that heaven finds means to kill your joys, with love! Epic! And then he says, “And I, for winking at your discords too, have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished. ” All are punished. Shakespeare speaks to us all… driving that point home. All are punished when we let hate abound. Okay, we’re living in epic, punishing times. This is a downer. But no, wait…
It can feel overwhelming. We don’t control the nations. So, what IS in our power, today? I say there is a great deal, and when we change ourselves, we change the world. Your effect ripples out… I like to say “never underestimate your ripple.” Because the quality – the essence – that we bring to each day is an active, conscious choice that affects everything around us, and because God’s economy is not our economy, we have power. We can seize that power, as we start each day, as we live each day, and as we bring each day to a close.
Starting each day, we can put on our shoes of peace, actively choosing to work hard to stay grounded in that peace, with God as our helper, whatever arises. We follow the Prince of Peace, and that’s what we’re called to do. I’m absent minded but have reminders in my bathroom including a framed copy of The Lorica Prayer, to start the day right.
Living each day, if we’re actually met by hate, we can try to remember Jesus’ call to love. In the Gospel of John (15:18-25) Jesus told us, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.” But Jesus doesn’t hate back… not even at the cross. He loves. He heals. He forgives.
What if we find ourselves at war – with others or ourselves or some event or so on? We can look inside, and see what’s behind this inner war. If something inside feels like hitting something with a stick, maybe that’s fear – something feels like danger. Kevin and the band chose the songs so perfectly tonight – talking about fear, and love.
Love can be an active conscious choice, something to be practiced and perfected, like peace. Where fear arises, love – perfect love – can cast it out. Writing this, I realized I have to confess I’ve got hate against cancer. Cancer has attacked people I care about, and it’s killing my dog. And I want to hit cancer with a big stick. That’s a signal to me that I need to settle more into that “active, reckless trust in God’s goodness” (that Pastor Jeff always talks about).
Closing each day, we can take our radical “hit something with a big stick” feelings to God, or our gratitude for getting through with just a smidge more peace and love, knowing we are fully known and fully loved. I know God knows my quirks and faults, and loves me no matter whether I get mad at cancer or whatever. And the same with you. Because Jesus promised to walk with us always (just like Kathy just sang). Even until the end of everything.
And to that I say… Amen!
[[Today’s Scriptures: Eccl 3:1-8 KJV & 1 John 2:9-11 MSG ]]