There Is A Season Turn! Turn! Turn!

This is a sermon originally given on 1.1.12


Looking back on the past year, I participated in or recognized 6 ‘new years’ because of various friends & opportunities- January 1 [Gregorian Calendar New Year], Chinese New Year in February, Nowruz [Persian New Year] in March, the academic calendar new year in August, my birthday [a sort of personal new year] also in August, & Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year] in September. That’s a whole lotta new years! A conclusion is that we, not as Americans or Christians, but we as humans need new years. We need renewal. Why this very church is on Renewal Way. That’s the name of the road out there. Seasons bring renewal. We need seasons.


As Christians, Christ followers, we have been made new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” I love that verse- it gives such hope. We have been made new.


Even so, we need re-new-al. In the living & breathing day-to-day sense; in the growing in Christ-likeness sense; in the spiritual growth & moving toward knowing God, recognizing God more every day sort of sense. We need renewal, starts & stops. St. Benedict wrote in his Rule “always we begin again.” 


I realize that renewal is not the first thing we always feel with a new year. In the year ahead there are unknowns. If you’re anything like me this can be a source of anxiety for sure. So much happened last year, what could possibly be coming ahead? A new year is not a complete restart, this is both good & bad as some issues, situations, people, things we’re glad to carry over into this new year, while there are other issues, situations, people, things that we’re glad to get rid of. Determining what should stay & what should go is certainly a challenge, but God will guide us. He is faithful. He is present.


Seasons are our present reality. We need seasons because they’re a way to mark time. Some seasons are difficult to transition in & out of, and some seasons are more difficult to live in while others are easier. Seasons are an opportunity for reflection.


The ancient Roman god Janus is depicted as a 2 faced god. One face looks behind & one face looks ahead. He is the god of beginnings and transitions. The word janitor comes from Janus. What does a janitor do? They clean & straighten up what has already become a mess, but they also prepare the space for events to come. January also comes from the word Janus- a time of looking behind & looking ahead. This is natural as the calendar is renewed- starts over. January. May we not only look behind & look ahead, but also look clearly into the present; the now.


When looking at our lectionary texts for today, I see 2 common denominators- time & God’s authority. God’s authority is not bound by time & God has authority in every time- yesterday, today, & forever.


When I graduated from A&M and came to Truett Seminary; came to Waco; came to this church that I love deeply, it was a challenging time & I got this neat little ring here. I must confess to you that Ecclesiastes 3 is quite possibly my favorite chapter in the Bible even though I first became familiar with the passage from the 1965 hit by The Byrds- Turn! Turn! Turn! Oh, that song makes my hippie heart beat wildly. I loved it even more when I realized it was from the Bible! Cool music & Scripture!? It doesn’t get much better than that!


I was thrilled to see that this passage just so happened to be in the lectionary selections for today. I was drawn to this ring because it is a visual for Ecclesiastes 3. It is nothing terribly amazing to look at, but what it represents is amazing. There is a snowflake, leaf, sun, & a tree- representing the 4 seasons. As a ring, it is in a continual circle, rotating. When I got this ring at that time of transition & shifting seasons in my own life, I needed a reminder of God’s presence in every season, even those that are surrounded with unknowns; surrounded by lots of changes. I needed a reminder of my commitment to faith & God’s commitment to me that He will never leave or forsake me. In this ring, the seasons are in place.


There’s a rhythm to the seasons, isn’t there? In the Church calendar, there are times of feasting & fasting. It seems that this rhythm mirrors life, doesn’t it? When we find a season that we like, we want to exist in a Narnia-like world, where there is 1 season all of the time. In The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, it is always winter, but never Christmas. Balance necessitates different seasons. This is a rhythm of life. A rhythm the author of Ecclesiastes gets.


However much I tried, hoping for the coolness of autumn didn’t move the 110 degree days of summer along any faster. However much I try during these occasional cool snaps, longing for the warmness of spring will not bring it any quicker. Even in Central Texas where it’s a coin toss whether you should wear a sweater or sandals on New Year’s Eve, there’s a rhythm to the seasons. Sort of. 


I understand that considering God’s authority over time & presence in all seasons may not be a word of comfort. In fact this may add to frustration. I know. We must remember that somehow- somehow– God will work things out for His children. No season is forever.


Traditional Hebrew wisdom goes something like this- obedience to God leads to blessing; disobedience leads to suffering. This thinking is a simple answer to a complex problem. It has been my experience, & I’m sure yours too that easy answers; simple answers, are rarely satisfying.


If this simplistic understanding is the case, what about the story of Job, a holy man suffering? The author of Ecclesiastes questions this thinking too by affirming the presence of many seasons & suggesting that people have incomplete awareness of the whole picture; of all of time. Yes, we should do what we can to improve difficult seasons that we are in if we can. Yes, we should savor the precious days of precious seasons. In the end, we can’t always be sure which season is which until the season is over & we look back.


1 Corinthians 13:12 comes to mind- “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”


After the comparison & contrast of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 [A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. And so on…] what comes? V.11 says “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”


Even though we can see a year from beginning to end or even a season from beginning to end, we cannot see the whole picture completely from beginning to end! Let us remember & trust in God’s presence in all seasons. God alone embraces the wholeness of time.


In this New Year, I pray that everyone, including myself, will greet the seasons, whatever they are; greet the situations & time with whatever comes. I hope that we will ask God for peace; ask God for wisdom in how to respond & live in the seasons ahead. May you know deep within that the God who reveals things to us, also fills us with hope for a future of peace and renewal. Amen.