Time Will Tell

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

            A time to be born and a time to die;

            A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…

            A time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance…

            A time to keep silence and a time to speak;

            A time to love and a time to hate;

            A time for war, and a time for peace.

Selected from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8   NRSV

We live in a culture obsessed with time, and it’s always hard to tell what time it really is, I think.  At home, there are several atomic clocks which set themselves via a radio signal from some official time-keeping place in Colorado.  They are guaranteed to be accurate to the second.  Except when the signal fails, or Daylight Saving Time shifts us all by an hour, or the battery runs out.  Then, no one in our house knows what time it really is — until we look at our phones. My father used to joke that the person with one watch always knows what time it is, but the person with two watches is never quite sure!  He wasn’t wrong!

This uncertainty around “what time is it?” isn’t just a modern-day issue!  For thousands of years, human beings have tried to figure out time — the clock kind of time and the life-cycle kind of time.  The writer of Ecclesiastes surely wrestled with that, just as we all do throughout our lives.  Is it time to go to school?  Is it time to get married or have children?  Is it time to buy a house?  Or sell one?  Is it time to change jobs?  Or retire?  Is it time to give up driving?  Is it time to see the doctor?  What time is it?  Each of us lives with these questions, and each one of us must answer them for ourselves.

There are other questions as well, that are often more difficult.  Is this a time to keep silence, or is it a time to speak out for what we understand justice to mean?  Is this a time to plant new seeds of hope and faith, or is it a time to harvest what has already been planted?  What is in our garden that needs a little more fertilizer before it’s harvested and what needs harvesting now?

What time is it, anyway?

As a church in an interim time, we are living with those questions together as well as individually.  Is this a time to weep and mourn over what “used to be”?  Or is it a time to look to the future and dance into the possibilities that may lie ahead?  Is it a time to be silent?  Or is it a time to speak the truth in love?  Is it a time to love one another?  Or is it a time to point blaming fingers in every direction?  It’s up to us and the church leadership to figure this out!

The thing is, these aren’t either-or kinds of questions.  Ecclesiastes points out that there is time for all of it! It’s not like we only choose one thing on our journey through life.  We will all — individually and together — move through all these ways of being.  And none of it lasts forever.  Not the planting, not the harvesting, not the mourning, not the dancing, not the warring or the peacemaking.

What time is it?  Perhaps it’s time for us to stand amid war and proclaim peace.  Or to break the code of silence to stand with those who have no voice of their own. Or to stand at a grave and live with hope toward a future time of laughter and joy.  Or to live in unity, even in the midst of division.  Maybe it’s time to wrestle with the question: If not now, then when?

A Prayerful Hymn for All Who Seek to Know What Time It Is:

In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways,

Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways?

God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,

We your people, ours the journey, now and ever, now and ever, now and evermore.

Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,

Who will life the olive branches?  Who will light the flame of care?

God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,

We your people, ours the journey, now and ever, now and ever, now and evermore.