Jan 5

Rev Gav

Is there a time for everything?

In this reflection on bereavement, Rev Gav reflects on what the writer of Ecclesiastes means when writing that there is a time or season for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there are going to be times in our lives when we experience all these things: birth, death, planting, harvesting, destroying, healing, breaking, building, weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing. There is a time for everything but, importantly, not necessarily a ‘right’ time for everything. 

I sometimes hear at funerals the phrase, “It was his or her time,” or, “there must be a reason,” as if the person’s death was predetermined and planned by God to be at that exact moment, and this is especially true when the deceased is young or the death was unexpected. I wonder if we do this to protect ourselves and to reassure ourselves that God is in control, however, the truth is that bad things happen to good people at the worst of times. Accidents happen and people get ill for no apparent reason, and, if you will excuse my language, it sucks… big time.

Despite studying theology and philosophy, I do not know why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. I suspect it has a lot to do with free-will and the almost infinite set of possibilities and circumstances that exist. The very possibility for good things, as we perceive them, to happen means there is an inherent possibility for bad things to happen. We live in a world where chaos exists — in our bodies, in our minds, in our relationships, and in the environment, and on days when we reflect on the death of a loved one and the preceding illness, we rightly ask, “Where, then, is God in this?” And the answer is, “Right here with us.”

Christians do not believe in a remote, inaccessible God, but a very present and accessible God who stands with us in our suffering, and suffers with us. Some other religions reject the idea of a loving God because a loving God risks that love being rejected and therefore such a God will suffer, and a suffering God cannot be all-powerful, omnipotent, and beyond pain. Not so, Christianity. We believe, know, and trust in a suffering God, a God, who when seeing and experiencing our pain and suffering, hurts alongside us, sometimes carrying us, crying with us, wrapping his arms around us, and comforting us.

Why is the world like this? Why does God choose to allow there to be free-will and a lack of determinism? Why does God allow there to be pain and suffering? Well, as I mentioned, without the possibility there can be no creativity. God is creative and in the process of creating — bringing order out of chaos in the world — and we believe that God has created us in his image, to be co-creators with him and to use our God-given creativity for good in the world.

Why does God choose us to be part of the solution for the world? I think it is something to do with the fact that God loves us. Every act of creativity that we do is bringing order out of chaos, whether creating art or music, listening to a friend, healing a relationship, tending an illness, reducing our dependence on single-use plastics, or finding global solutions to end poverty or hunger. 

Our human creativity knows no bounds, and we are working towards a day when there will be no more hunger or pain or suffering. We are not there yet, but I do know that God is cheering us on, encouraging us, inspiring us, and celebrating with us.

And so we find ourselves here today, weeping and mourning. We have witnessed brokenness, destruction, and yes, death. It is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad when we remember.

And although it may be a time to mourn, my prayer today is that you would know the very real presence of God with you — his comfort, his joy, and his peace, and that you would use your god-given creativity to minister to each other — to hug, smile, encourage, support, and love one another. For it is also okay to give thanks and to celebrate our loved one’s life. It is also okay to laugh and to smile, to embrace, to listen to the Beatles, to sing, to allow poetry to speak to our souls, and to continue to plant, build, harvest, and dance. For there is a time for everything.

Amen.

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