Everything Has Its TimeEcclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV)
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;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Life is full of all kinds of different kinds of moments. We have times when we are happy and times when we are sad, times when we are frustrated and times when we are just plain mad. Throughout our lives, we experience successes and failures. We have wins, and we have losses. Sometimes we give, and sometimes we receive. We experience moments on the mountaintops, but we also experience times walking through the darkest valleys. Because life, my friends, is all about change, and change is all around us.
And it is not just us, as human beings, that experience this change. The natural world is constantly changing too. There are changing seasons–with spring, summer, winter, and fall–and changes in the weather–with moments of cloudiness or rain or wind or snow–and beautiful moments filled with blue skies, sun, and even rainbows!
Now, people often say that they don’t like change, especially in the church! But change, my friends, is everywhere, all the time! It’s what makes each day new and gives us the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset.
As a lifelong New Englander, I can’t imagine living in a place where the seasons never change. After a warm summer of sunshine, and time spent at the beach, and camping, and out in our gardens, it is so exciting to look outside to see the leaves changing on the trees, to put on a comfy sweatshirt and visit an apple orchard to pick apples, to walk through a corn maze, to buy a pumpkin, or to eat some apple cider donuts. Fall just wouldn’t seem the same without those things. Now, I know that you may not all agree with me, but come winter, I love waiting for that first snowfall of the year when the weather is crisp and clean and the world seems still and quiet. And then, before we know it, the frozen ground begins to thaw, and the season of spring brings crocuses and daffodils breaking through the sacred soil, like bright yellow bursts of forsythia begin to bloom. Each season, in its own way, brings a sense of excitement, movement, change, and hope, and life is only made deeper and richer in the midst of those changes.
Folks, we are surrounded by so many gifts: the gifts of nature and creation, the gifts of food and friendship and family and faith. But if we are truly faithful people, then we understand that change is one of the greatest gifts of all because it helps us to grow and learn and experience life in exciting new ways. Now sometimes, change happens to us, and other times, we are the ones that get to make the changes.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we hear that “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; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Now, I know that looking at that list, most of us would choose being born, planting, healing, building up, laughing, and dancing. But we need to remember that our lives are richer when we live with balance. That’s why some changes that we think are challenging or difficult or sad actually bring us to a better, healthier place.
Think of it this way: you may think that you’d be happier if the sun was shining every day, but if all we had was sunshine and no rain, we would live in a desert! Friends, in some situations, change simply happens to us, while with other things, if we choose to, we get to make the change happen!
When my son Leo was a senior in high school, I decided to make a change. I had always let my busy schedule dictate the time that I had to spend with my family. But as I saw my youngest child getting ready to leave the nest, as they say, I knew that I needed to make some changes to enjoy the moments that I had left. So, I made a change and promised myself that I would be at every one of Leo’s football games and wrestling matches. And do you know what? As impossible as that sounded, I was there, and I wouldn’t have traded that choice or change for the world! I marked the games and matches on my calendar, and I worked my schedule around them. Now, it wasn’t always easy. It took changing my priorities, my organization, and my scheduling, and remembering what truly mattered. But it made an amazingly positive change for me and for my family that year.
Now that was a personal change that I made, and sometimes we are all called to make changes within ourselves. But we are also called to make changes in our communities and our world, to be the voice for the voiceless, to work towards bringing an end to injustice and racism, to care for those who struggle to care for themselves, to welcome those who have a hard time finding a place to call home, and to be a friend to those who are alone.
So, I wonder. Big or small, what kind of change does your faith call you to work for? And what can you do differently to support that change? Do you need to make a change for yourself, or bring change to your community or even the world? Friends, don’t wait for or expect the change to come from others. But be courageous, and be the change that you long for in the world!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!