You make your way to a seat near the back. You don't really want to be there but you know you probably should, I mean you do have a reputation to uphold. Groups of people gather around the coffee-maker exchanging pleasantries, nibbling on donuts, and sipping dark liquid from styrofoam cups with little red straws. Children bob, weave, and dodge their parents grasp once they catch sight of the other offspring creating an equally chaotic ruckus in the Sunday School room. The elderly women of the church congregate in their row, the row they've been sitting in for over 30 years. On the elevated stage you see a keyboard, guitars, and an assortment of microphones. To the left is the podium-of-all-podiums, the pulpit.
As you are sitting in your cushioned seat, fully equipped with Eucharist cup-holders and offering envelope side-pockets, you are trying to not make eye-contact with anyone lest they come and "greet" you. As you survey the masses, you can't help but think: "Why am I really here? What was the real motivation for me coming to church this morning? Am I just trying to keep this mask of holiness and piety tied to my face? Or maybe because I want to ask that cute girl (that loves Jesus) how her weekend has been?" All possibilities considered, you are there, Bible and journal in hand, but there's no more time to think about ulterior motives, the pastor is preparing to speak...
The pastor welcomes everyone in attendance, thanking them for their presence as the body of Christ this morning. He lists a few announcements, reminding everyone of the church potluck next Sunday and to continue to lift up those that are sick in prayer. He invites the worship band to the stage for the opening songs. You fake your way through the songs because you just aren't feeling as spiritual as the couple in front of you with both hands lifted. The screen goes black as the keyboard continues to play and the worship pastor asks you to bow your head and join him in prayer. He concludes and the senior pastor makes his way to the stage, carrying a very well-used Bible.
The pastor invites the congregation to "turn with him to Ecclesiastes 3," found in the Old Testament. You flip through the Pentateuch, the books of history, some other books you've never read, the Psalms, Proverbs, and finally land in the Book of Ecclesiastes.
He asks you to follow along as he reads verses 1-8:
"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 dance; a time to cast 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 cast 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."
That passage is one that spoke very clearly to me this morning while I was sitting in church. It also helped me find the real reason why I went to church this morning. Fortunately for me, God showed me that my reasoning for attending was not any of the superficial and selfish reasons I listed above, for He had a much greater purpose in mind.
While listening to the sermon this morning at Gospel Community Church, the pastor explained how this list written by Solomon was so much more than a scripture one typically reads at funerals. The title I'm giving this list (based off his interpretation of the passage) is, "The Seasons of Life." Each of these different occasions mentioned above accounts for everything we go through as people, every moment we experience in life can be placed within the confines of these verses. These are the seasons that we go through in order to be shaped and molded by the will of God. Look closer at some of the verses:
"A time to be born, and a time to die..."
God gives us the gift of life, but also has the authority to take life back. Life and Death greatly influence each of us, whether it be a new sibling born into our families or losing a loved one to cancer. We all share common ground in the matters of Life and Death.
"A time to kill, and a time to heal..."
Life is filled with relationships, some good and some not so good. We must understand that family, friendships, and relationships are important, but they can never take precedence over a relationship with God. We must also understand that there are times where relationships may become strained, the result of that strain can be one of two outcomes: they can be made whole through reconciliation and a mutual understanding of forgiveness, or they can end as a result of irreconcilable differences and failed attempts at making peace. It is a difficult reality to face but there are relationships that are meant to be healed, and relationships that are meant to end. But no matter the outcome of the relationship we must remember to reflect the love of Christ in all encounters.
"A time to weep, and a time to dance..."
Life is going to have its joys and its sorrows. The amazing thing about the God I serve is that even amongst the most terrifying tempest, He is still there. There is a gross misconception that becoming a Christian solves all problems and guarantees a successful or worry-free life. Being a follower of Christ for several years, I can tell you that while life is better and now filled with purpose, I have seen my fair share of sorrow and grieving. It always intrigues me how someone can reject the existence of God when someone they love dies or face some incredible difficulty in their life. We have all lost someone that we love, it is a part of life. But tell me where God said he would make life easy? Tell me where in His Word He says that I will not experience difficult times? I do know however, that throughout the New Testament Jesus reminded His disciples that they would soon face dispersion and tribulation, but he assured them and said, "take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Christ promises hope and peace to those that choose to accept Him. I know that apart from Christ, my life means absolutely nothing. Like Solomon, I have tried to find joy and purpose in people, popularity, and material wealth, but nothing satisfies. No one person can assure me of my worth. My name will never be proclaimed enough to curb my appetite for attention. No accumulation of money and wealth will fill my pockets to completion.
Christ, however, died for me, showing that I was worth His very life. Christ, however, gave me the opportunity to reflect the love and glory of Christ through my own body in accepting Him and His Spirit, each encounter gives me the ability to give glory to the One worthy of it. Christ, however, fills me with riches of the Spirit and treasures that will not be touched by thieves that steal or rust that decays. He is the only reason I live and He is the only true joy in this life. All life springs from His mouth and all joy rushes forth from His hands.
As I sat in reflection of the sermon I came to the understanding that God is shaping me through every season I face, despite my understanding of His reasoning and purposes. Who am I, the clay, to ask the Potter of His plans for my existence? What sense of entitlement have I to demand to know every detail of God's plan? I have no right. I have no reason to request. He is Sovereign above all else and that is worthy of itself to trust Him.
Church this morning felt like what I described above. It felt like an act and a task. There was no motivation from myself to attend, but my Spirit stirred within me. But when He replaced the hardened heart of stone in my chest with a heart of flesh, He instilled a Spirit in me that will not be dismayed by circumstance. Life is too short to go on questioning the seasons we face throughout it. When will we come to the realization that God is trying to move in us? The seasons you face: the life, the death; the joy, the sorrow; the love, the hate; it is all for His purposes. Seek Him, for He has sought you.