Hey Folks! Happy Sunday! This blog post is of my final sermon at Church of the Pilgrims. Hope you enjoy!
I started with a tearful preface saying that I’ve been serving as a Young Adult Volunteer at the church and at The Pilgrimage for the past 11 months and that this is my last Sunday that I’ll be working for the church (my last work day is the 28th but I’ll be staying in town until the 3rd so I have one more Sunday at Church of the Pilgrims). I went onto say that I have fallen in love with this church and this congregation and I’m so incredibly grateful to have been apart of this community for the last 11 months. So here’s the Sermon:
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13
There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
a time for killing and a time for healing,
a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
a time for crying and a time for laughing,
a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
a time for throwing stones and
a time for gathering stones,
a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
a time for searching and a time for losing,
a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
a time for loving and a time for hating,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from all their hard work? I have observed the task that God has given human beings. God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.
I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work.
Throughout the summer, here at Church of the Pilgrims, we have been preaching on familiar and favorite texts. At the beginning of the summer we had church members write down scriptures they would like to hear us preach on. The resulting list has been a good way for me to familiarize myself with the Bible as a whole since I’m one of those people who have never read the Bible cover to cover. One of the suggested scriptures was the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this book, it sort of comes off as a sequel to Catcher in the Rye. The author has lived a very privileged life and according to him in The Message translation, practically everything in life amounts to being either smoke or spitting in the wind. In the first chapter the narrator goes on for a good amount of time saying how meaningless and boring everything is and even though I was up for a challenge, I had no idea how to spin a scripture saying that everything is pointless. So I started to do some research on Ecclesiastes and the third thing that came up in my research was the Byrds song “Turn Turn Turn” and I realized when will I get another chance to preach on a scripture that Pete Seeger made a peace song out of? And now here we are.
In my research on Ecclesiastes, there seemed to be an argument in the philosophical protestant realm over if the author is a realist or a cynic–at least 38 times the author describes things as either “Nothing but smoke or spitting in the wind”, most of the time in reference to material, worldly possessions and priorities. Like I said before, sometimes the author comes off as nothing less than a privileged person whose had everything handed to them in life and is just over all of it. Even when it comes to God. More than a few times he implies that the only reason God is omnipresent and all knowing is so that we will live in fear of God.
It’s interesting how the labels cynic and realist get lumped together so often. In my experience, we as humans have more tolerance for cynics than realists. If you’re a cynic there’s more of an air of “oh, they’ll get over it” whereas a realist is more likely to be seen as more or less of a rude butthead.
Somehow Ecclesiastes manages to ignite both of these feelings in me when I read over this passage. He wrote this book shortly after the Babylonian Exile which was one of the many events that had taught the Hebrew people that their lives as they know them would not a piece of cake. Looking outside of my own experiences in the past year, I think it’s been made clear to us as a human race that the world we live in isn’t conducive to living an uninterrupted carefree life.
As Ecclesiastes tells us, there’s a season for everything and a time for every purpose in our world. The author makes it clear that there will be time for birth, healing, laughing, embracing, but we also get the smack of reality that there will be war, hating, losing, mourning, tearing down. Now by accepting the fact that there’s a time for death, hating and so on, does not mean we are condoning it. But we have to accept that these things are inevitably a part of our lives as living, breathing, caring human beings. Last year when I was in Portland, there came to a point where I barely had friends, I couldn’t stand both of my jobs and I was realizing that depression was starting to creep it’s way back into my life, I realized that the reason I knew I was having such a bad time was because I knew how great my life had been the year before.
As for now, when my first YAV year is a week from being over, which doesn’t seem real yet, I’m still trying to remind myself about that important detail as often as possible because it just hasn’t hit me yet. What I need to be doing is taking one of Ashley’s Ashleyisms to heart. Accept your reality. The thing that is keeping me from accepting this reality, is that the fact that I’m leaving, is not a reality that I want to accept. I’ve never had a job that I enjoyed this much, never had so many bosses that legitimately care about the staff member’s and the church’s collective well being. This church and my YAV community up in Petworth have been the agents that have helped me to find appreciation and a place in my heart and life for both the church and intentional communities, the two things that I was most worried about and not looking forward to coming into this year.
Now, I don’t mean to paint either of these experiences as completely awful or completely perfect. Both had their ups and downs. But to quote myself from one of my favorite Prayers of the People, “we need to thank God for the ups and downs in life, because we know how boring our lives would be if everything was easy and handed to us.”
I think this is what Ecclesiastes is really trying to hit home. Every time, every season, good, bad, indifferent, is something that has been given to us by God. To ignore the good in life is to not know the bad and if we don’t accept the bad, how are we supposed to know what the good is? As Rachel Pacheco and Ashley can attest, I’m not the biggest fan of emotions. When I showed up at the beginning of the year I had about 5 feelings and crying wasn’t something I did. Ecclesiastes is saying, feel all the feels! Cry all the cries, laugh all the laughs, plant all the plants, do stone things with all the stones!
That being said, and keeping in mind that there is a time and season for all of these feels, we are never going to look at our calendar or watch or phone and see that it’s healing o’clock, or that it’s tearing down season. There’s not even a clock that’s been invented that can get Pilgrims to church by 11. Even though it would be incredibly convenient to have an app on my phone for this last week and a half that tells me when to cry, dance and heal I realize the closest that I’ll get to this will come in the form of Snapchats from Amanda. We, myself included, need to remember to stay open to feelings all the feels, even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable and especially when we are in the high and low points of life. And even if you’re like me and sort of have a milkshake of emotions, happy to have met so many amazing pilgrim people and to become a part of your lives, grateful to have been apart of so many fantastic communities, sad to be leaving, looking forward to what’s next, peppered with the uncertainty of what that will be, I gotta take my own advice and feel all the feels.
To close, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting this mornings scripture to reflect my past year to show that all these feels are worth feeling and that they are everywhere in our lives
There’s a season for everything
and a time for every matter under the heavens:
a time for going to Young Adult Volunteer Orientation and realizing that your perception of what Presbyterian young adults are like, is completely wrong and a time for figuring out what you have to die to, to make room for something new,
a time for planting in the garden and a time for picking weeds and reaping your harvest,
a time for the untimely, unfair, unexplainable deaths of innocent people and a time for protesting these attacks, being apart of blood drives and sharing love
a time for building a waterfall in the sanctuary with the help of close friends fueled by pizza and beer and a time for walking into the Sanctuary a month or so later and see Ashley tearing it down,
a time for participating in a memorial service for our unhoused neighbors that have died on our streets in the past year and a time for being Santa at our Christmas party with pants that don’t fit and Teddy Webster crying at the sight of you
a time for mourning the Pulse nightclub shooting at the pride festival and a time for dancing in the parade the day before,
a time for making directions for Pilgrimage groups and
a time for breaking kids perceptions of what the homeless experience is,
a time for Serving and eating thanksgiving dinner in the Pilgrimage with the rotating homeless shelter and a time for giving my first sermon with glitter still in my hair from meeting Alaska, my favorite drag queen, the night before.
a time for getting lost on your way to work when you think you found a shortcut and a time for realizing that I don’t know the names of most of our Open Table guests, people that I’ve seen and eaten with on a regular basis. People that will still be in their same position in life when I get on my plane next Wednesday
a time for learning to see myself as a bookshelf with, the wood, paint and screws staying the same, but the things on the shelves and the decorations are constantly changing
a time for prepping the soil to plant flowers for all saints and finding these weird onion like things in the soil and tearing most of them up and a time for Nancy Daugherty to inform me that they were tulip bulbs and a time for celebrating with Larry, our building engineer, when the Dallas Cowboys lose a game and a time for telling him that there’s something broken in the pilgrimage,
a time for doing biblical storytelling and a time for taking a dramatic pause
a time for appreciation and love to be poured out on staff appreciation Sunday and a time for being scared and angry about what is being said at the RNC
a time for war and a time for peace.
I know that there’s nothing better for us to do as Pilgrims but to enjoy ourselves and do what’s good while we live. Better yet, the fact that all people should eat, drink, and be happy is a gift from God. Thanks be to God
Benediction! (which I got from my Dad)
May God go beneath you to protect you, may God go before you to lead you, may God go beneath you to hold you up, may God go beside you to be your friend. We go not in fear, we go in peace.
So I’m crazy and watched the sunrise over the National Mall this morning. It was gorgeous and an amazing way to start my day.
And here’s a picture of me preaching this morning (note the tissues on the pulpit)! Thank you all for your support and love to all!