Tag Archives: hope

A Time for Everything, but Especially…–Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
–Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

It’s pretty much impossible for me to read Ecclesiastes 3 without hearing the Byrds singing. If you’re so inclined, you can click “play” and listen as you read on. (Or just listen. After all, it’s your time.)

I’d like to focus not on “a time to cast away stones,” which I know is the part of that passage that holds the greatest meaning for you, but on that first half of verse 2. “A time to give birth, and a time to die.” We tend to emphasize the first part of that pairing without acknowledging the inevitable second part. The moment we are born, we start dying. That’s a simple truth of mortal existence, but who wants to talk about the time for that particular event under heaven?

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously urged his father, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and I would not be one to argue for accepting an early exit from this life. It’s easy for me, at age 52, to say, “I’ll be ready to go when I hit 90,” but I’m pretty sure that I’ll feel differently when I’m blowing out 89 candles on a cake.

There is, however, a difference between being ready and eager to die on the one hand and being open to the fact that death will one day arrive. Knowing that death will immediately put me into the presence of Christ, as 2 Corinthians 5:8 makes clear, does not incline me to take an early trip in that direction.

Knowing that death will come one day should sober us to use each day that we have in a manner worthy of the God who gave us that day. Knowing that the first death will not be followed by the second death but instead by an eternity in a glorified resurrection body allows me to live those days I do have without fear.

What prompted the Byrds to record “Turn! Turn! Turn!” or Pete Seeger to write it? I’m not sure. Pete passed from this mortal coil in 2014, and I won’t speculate on his eternal fate. What I can state with confidence is that we all had a time to be born and will all have a time to die. Living with the hope of Christ makes the latter fact far less ominous.

The Problem with Tomorrowland

There’s nothing that seems to motivate a certain stripe of Hollywood star like the opportunity to wag their finger at all of us unwashed masses, shaming us for not agreeing with them on the cause du jour.

At the Oscars this year, it was Patricia Arquette opining in sound-bite fashion on the exceptionally complicated idea of gender pay inequity. This summer, in theaters, it is George Clooney preaching through Tomorrowland about global warming and other forces that threaten to put an end to civilization.

On first blush, nothing can seem more relevant to someone who is concerned with the Christian body than a force that threatens to kill off all of those bodies. But the problem here is that while the various human-destructive forces seem to continue growing in power and scope, the solution offered by the likes of Clooney is so anemic. As reviewer Kevin Fallon explains, Clooney’s character in Tomorrowland is a stand-in for the audience, for all of us.

He’s the one who, like all of us, is educated on the environmental issues and human behaviors that are leading to the destruction of the Earth and the end of civilization. He, like all of us, knows that we hold the power to fix these things, should we choose to do so. And he, like all of us, is resigned to not doing anything about it.

The world will expire, and all of us with it, unless we do something, right? Let’s all clap our hands and say, “I do believe in fairies!” Oh wait, that’s a different Disney vehicle and a different part of the Magic Kingdom.

If the threat of global warming is as bad as the experts have been predicting for so long, then it will not be halted by a few million earnest movie-goers “doing something about it.” We cannot protest our way out of the drought in California. We cannot petition our way past the threat of extinction. No matter how hard George Clooney works his “concerned” eyes–you know that look, don’t you?–fracking will still be driving Matt Damon bonkers.

If there is hope for a threatened world and our threatened bodies that live in that threatened world, it does not lie in the sanctimony of George Clooney. Whatever hope the world has lies in Jesus Christ.

But better yet, even if there is no hope for the world, even if we are all going to die through our own folly, our souls and our bodies still have a hope in Christ. That’s the only Tomorrowland worth my time.

A Light in the Tunnel (Hebrews 2:5-6)

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:    “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:5-6)

This world is just no durn good. You’ve got tornados here and flooding there. People are protesting against the military and other people don’t care. The government taxes us too much and they don’t do enough for us. People are wasting far too much time watching TV and there’s nothing good on. Have I mentioned that they’re putting all sorts of chemicals in our food? I tell you, it’s a mean old world.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, I’d mention–and I guess I am mentioning–the fact that everything seems to be getting worse. Take a look around you and you’ll see topsoil washing away, jobs moving to Indonesia, and families disintegrating. Just this morning gas prices jumped by 13 cents. If that isn’t a sure sign of the final collapse of American civilization, then I’m not sure what is.

I tell you, I look at my children and my grandchildren, and I worry about what sort of a world they’ll be inheriting. I figure that by the time Uri, the youngest, is 25, the ozone will be depleted, Social Security will be a dim memory, and the K.C. Royals will still be mediocre or worse. There’s just not much hope.

If all of that rant sounds anything like you, then I have to direct your eyes, ears, and heart to to the verse above. It is not angels to whom God has subjected the world. True, but that sentence suggests that the world, the awful, disintegrating world, has been subjected to somebody. To whom?

It’s here that we break out the All-Purpose-Sunday-School Answer: “Jesus.” I have to ask myself, when I get into a despairing mood, if any world that has been made subject to Jesus is truly headed for a complete and final disaster. A disaster? Yes, but neither complete nor final. That’s the hope I’ll hang on to when times are difficult.