Pastoral Newsletter Article for May 2021
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
Over this last year or more, many of us have felt we are out of our element. We keep hearing – “We are in new territory.” I don’t know about you, but I am sick of “new.” I want old. I want what once was. Maybe you have had to spend the last year working from home, while your children are doing distance learning. Or vacations you had planned have been put on hold multiple times. The cruise was cancelled, or the trip to Europe was thwarted by Covid. Or worse, you have been unable to see your parents because they moved into a nursing home last year and they aren’t allowing visitors right now. Basically, all of life for what seems like eternity has been change, which we don’t handle well anyways, continues to strike us in the gut like a firehose of anxiety.
I think that is why I have continued to turn to Ecclesiastes. It is a harsh book written by King Solomon of Israel, and in it he bemoans the fact that he has everything and nothing. He has all the wealth, all the power, all the women, all the parties, all the freedom, but his fears and anxieties around the frailty of life caused him sleepless nights. In the opening chapter he makes the point of telling us that we are naïve. What was old is new again, what has been will be, and that there is nothing original happening today. He sees life as a cycle of forgetfulness, where one generation looks down on the other for one reason or another, only to find themselves in the same boat just a few years down the road.
My family is being hit hard with this right now, as many of you experienced before us. Our daughter is heading off to college this summer, and we don’t know what that will be like. We keep asking, “Are we ready for our baby to leave?” Our son will be starting high school next year, in a new school district, and he is already taller than me at the age of 13. I don’t like that he is growing up. His voice is deeper. I had to teach him how to shave. He can do more pullups than me now! “O, the travesty”, I tell myself. Yet, I think of all the change that hit us this last year. I think of all the directions our lives have had to go in order to make it through one of the most difficult times for many of us, and you know what I realize? God has been with me, with you, this whole time. The world can fall apart around me. Jobs can end. Houses can be sold. My grandma can die. My children can grow up and not need me anymore, but God is still God. He is that One that is “nothing new under the sun.” He is that One who stays the same, always. He is the constant of all our everchanging futures. He is the Rock and refuge of our souls and the foundation of all that is good in our lives and in the world, both now and to come. He is “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23) That in every tragedy or joy that came this last 14 months, and will come this remainder of 2021, God stands as the Lord of all. He is yours and you are his, always.
Solomon doesn’t leave us with some woe-is-me tale at the end of Ecclesiastes. Yes…he has his moments, but his closing verses speak volumes to us – “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) So, Church, wherever you may be in life, hold onto God. Hold him tight. That is what it means to fear him. Not cowering or trembling as much as a desperate reverence in which nothing else matters but him being yours and you being his. Because troubles will come and life will be hard. Risk is the nature of this mortal world. But thanks be to God that he has overcome the world, that when old becomes new again, I pray that God remains you constant desire and hope. May he guide you and lead you down life’s path so that when all seems lost, you won’t be, because he holds you as much as you hold onto him.