Rev. Martha Jacobs
Tis the Season….
Psalm 9, Eccl 3:1-13
January 1, 2017
If you were here for Christmas Eve and/or Christmas morning, you heard me talk about our own rebirth. I talked about realizing that God comes down each Christmas to remind us that we too possess the hope, the joy, the peace and the love that Jesus brought to us then and brings to us now, because we too, are reborn each Christmas Day.
I think that the Ecclesiastes reading is included in the lectionary for this date because of the phrases that we are all so familiar with – a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what has been planted, etc., and are appropriate as we look back and look forward to the year that was and the year that will be.
Whenever Ecclesiastes is read, we usually stop after verse 8, “a time for war, and a time for peace.” But, verses 11-13 are quite interesting. I want to read this section to us again this morning, changing a few pronouns to make it more relevant for us.
“God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover God has put a sense of past and future into our minds, yet we cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. We know that there is nothing better for us than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all our toil.”
Now, I am sure that many of us, especially during this holiday time, would concentrate more on the “eat and drink and take pleasure” part and forget about toil. But, the rest of that sentence, “take pleasure in all our toil” strikes me as something that we would not consider usual or normal. Really, take pleasure in all our toil, in our work, in the day to day grind?
A part of our being church is being a community of hope. A community of faith is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. We are not just a community that gathers to have fun, or to take pleasure, to use the word from Ecclesiastes. A healthy congregation is one that encourages both praise and lament. As a community of faith, we work (aha, there’s that toil word!) to find ways to equip people to be open, vulnerable, and honest in sharing their faith. That happened most recently here during our Stewardship Moments in November and December, when we heard from members who shared their amazing stories of how this church family has affected them spiritually and personally.
We also extend ourselves in ministry with those who are in need, as we will be doing this coming week with our Emergency Shelter Partnership guests. By giving our life for others, we advocate for the vulnerable in our society and in the world. We offer petitions to God on behalf of others and stand as a witness to the God of compassion and justice.
“The church always lives in anticipation of what God is doing next. Even when we cannot see how or when God’s action will come, we trust that God will not forget the poor, the afflicted, and the vulnerable,” as we heard in Psalm 9 and affirmed by Dr. Joanna Adams. She reminds us that God will act, because we know that God has acted in our world and will continue to do so, through our fore-parents and through us. God’s actions will always encourage us to overcome evil and establish justice among all people.
Hope, joy, peace and love do not come automatically. We have to work for them, or toil for them, and sometimes, that work is difficult and sometimes our work is a pleasure. When we come to our communion table, as we will do today, we receive the nourishment to continue to toil, to seek for justice and peace which can bring about hope, joy and love.
The writer of Ecclesiastes asks: What gain have the workers from their toil? How might you answer that question?