This Saturday, I'm preaching at a memorial service for a woman who lived her life as fully as she possible could. Her daughter asked me to use Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, and talked about her mother gave her life to children, working tirelessly to see vulnerable and abandoned children adopted and cared for. Alzheimers claimed her memory and life, but not before she impacted more lives than you could count.
That's what got me thinking about the seasons mentioned in Ecclesiastes. They're paired evenly and, I believe, are meant to show a balance in the things that build up and the things that tear down. But they are not even, not in how they play out and not in how they reflect God's work in our lives.
Think about it: if we spent the same amount of time being born and dying, the same amount of time planting and plucking up, the same amount of time seeking and losing, where would we end up? A balance in this sense keeps us stuck in one place, bouncing back and forth between poles of activity, between seasons that are opposite of one another. That's not how the world works, and I doubt it's how God intends us to work.
We often seem to shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, there's a season for everything under heaven, and this must be that season's turn to rain on our parade." We've been going through some tough seasons in our communities as we deal with drugs, gun violence, racism, a growing income gap between wealthy and poor, and increasingly divisive politics. "Oh, well, it's just a season," and we change the channel or give thanks that the "time to break down, the time to kill, the time to weep, the time to die, the time for war" are someone else's time.
Jesus' parables and actions give us a different lens for understanding the seasons of Ecclesiastes, and how we're supposed to respond as Christ-followers. One sheep is missing? It's not the time to lose, it's the time to seek. A person is caught in sin? It's not the time to gather stones, but instead the time to cast away stones. A prodigal child who squanders everything and comes back shamefaced and empty-handed? It's not the time to refrain from embracing, but the time to embrace. Even in the face of death and destruction, Jesus said the temple would be rebuilt in three days and death would not have the last word.
When we claim Jesus as the one we will pattern our lives one, we change from shrugging at the seasons to redeeming them, turning them from seasons of despair into seasons of resurrection. We seek the places where God is turning the world into the place where God's justice flows down like streams, and we direct that living water into new channels, new seasons.
"I have seen the business that God has given to [us] to be busy with," (Ecclesiastes 3:10). In following Jesus, our business is to be about changing the seasons.