Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sitting with Solomon

Last night as the Church calendar was preparing to enter into Lent, we began reading Ecclesiastes in the regular Tuesday night Bible study that meets at my house (in which we remembered to commemorate Fat Tuesday with plenty of beer… Dead Guy Ale was the hit for the night).
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
I was struck by the fact that most people in the room of 21st-century grad students connected with the author’s lamentation so many centuries later, yet we tried to bypass the point in the light of the Incarnation. When struck by the vanity and weariness of the cyclical world, the constant ocean that we like streams pout into with out ever being able to fill, we want to immediately jump to “Jesus changes that!”

But before such a hasty dismissal, let us remember that the author, who obviously knew nothing about the Incarnation, certainly has a message that we have not learned and a Faith we have never had to attain (our Bible study got into a big discussion about whether or not we could see ourselves obeying God just because he’s God rather than because we know things will be better for us if we do). We would do well to learn from him, to let his faith instruct ours before we instruct him with our knowledge of later history.

Rarely are we forced to sit with difficult truths about human existence as the author of Ecclesiastes invites us to do, and as the Church calendar writes into two out of the six seasons. But unlike Advent, Lent is not about sitting with our longing for redemption as we wait for Christ’s coming; we sit with our sin as we wait for his death. I am accustomed to thinking I can identify sin, confess it and change it in the same fell swoop; Lent invites me to simply sit with it.

I can’t end this post with a pithy glimpse of hope about the redemption we will celebrate in 40 days. I am not ready to look to the conclusion until I have sat with Solomon here in Ecclesiastes 1 for a while.

1 comment:

Clifford said...

I was thinking the exact same thing.