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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 31, 2018

Today’s Scripture ReadingEcclesiastes 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.

While serving as a mission volunteer in Niger, I first learned the art of baking bread from a Nigerien chef. As we were baking sweet rolls, I kept opening the oven door as they were baking. Convinced by the smell and hungry, I thought they were ready. But the chef got so frustrated with my haste, he decided to teach me a lesson. “Go ahead,” he said, “take out the rolls and try one.” On the surface one appeared done, but as my knife cut through its browned crust, past soft, flaky layers, it landed on a clump of raw dough. “See, it’s not time yet!” my friend said with a laugh.

Timing is not only an important factor in cooking, but for all aspects of our lives. In this iconic passage from Ecclesiastes, the author Qoholet ruminates over time. The poetry in these verses provides us a snapshot of the inevitable seasons in human affairs. Life and death, reaping and sowing, war and peace, action and reaction—all of these relate to essential stages of our individual lives as we change and mature. These same seasons are at work in our communal life. Neighborhoods and nations experience cycles of productivity, conflict, and health. Amid these fluctuations, it is easy to feel powerless or even anxious as we ponder what season is right around the corner. But these words of scripture encourage us to slow down and experience time as a gift of God to be treasured.

The kind of time described in Ecclesiastes is called kairos in Greek, and it describes an opportune moment often infused with sacred meaning. This season of Christmas compels us to consider how a transcendent God has brought the extraordinary hope of Christ Jesus into the ordinary rhythms of human life and society. These are moments that humans cannot necessarily control but to which we can respond with attentiveness and faithfulness. In this season, in the year ahead, what is the Spirit nudging us to attend to or cherish in our lives and communities?

Eternal God, thank you for the gift of Christ Jesus, who dwells with us through the rhythms of life. Give us a special awareness of this present moment, so that we might live more meaningfully in the time you have given us. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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