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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 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; 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. What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.

He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. (NRSV)

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when Shannon Kershner and I were sitting in the chancel and heard the Christmas worship schedule announced, we looked at each other and rolled our eyes in panic, gulping over our sense of racing time. Now, here it is—New Year’s Eve already! Thanksgiving and Christmas both remnants of the past. I think time is like water from the faucet running through our fingers. We can’t hold onto it.

The writer of Ecclesiastes is focused on time. There’s a time for everything. His list speaks of actual physical work—a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. He also hints at emotions—a time to weep and a time to laugh. There’s a time for everything. Even a time to mourn. That’s why this scripture is often read at funerals. It puts everything back in God’s hands and recognizes how little control or understanding we have.

On this New Year’s Eve, we find ourselves thinking of time once again, remembering the past year and taking stock; looking forward to the next year and making goals perhaps or at least hoping for a better year. And maybe for some it’s just another day in the calendar, slipping quickly from our grasp.

Regardless of how you view the turn from one year to the next, I hope you’ll view all time as a gift from God. An oft-quoted poem by Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Recognizing that God has given us the gift of time, what is it you plan to do with another precious year?

Gracious God, giver of all time, remind me that each day is a gift you’ve granted to me. Help me to use time wisely, not only for my sense of control and calm but for your purposes. Let each of my days include the sharing of your love, the spread of your blessing, the increase of your compassion, and then, when each day is done, remind me to give thanks and look forward to whatever you have in store for me the next day. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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