Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three views of toil in Ecclesiastes


I have noticed three views of toil in Ecclesiastes:
  1. Folding of the hands, no toil, hands self indulged, unable to receive a gift. Ecc 4:5, 3:13.
  2. Two handfuls of toil, too much toil, grief and sleepless nights, hands full, too busy to receive a gift. Ecc 4:6, 2:23, 3:13.
  3. One handful of toil one handful of tranquillity, toil, quietness and satisfaction, a hand free to receive a gift. Ecc 4:6, 3:13.
How do we receive this gift? Jesus said:

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

Friday, July 17, 2009

Already you can feel a pit in your stomach...


The beginning and ending of last Sundays sermon - 9.45am and 5pm

The Beginning,


It’s a Monday morning and you become vaguely aware that the alarm is going off. Already you can feel a pit in your stomach as you realise another week has begun. Why can’t life slow down!!

In the five minutes in the car yesterday, with the person you promised to spend the rest of your life with, you had worked out that every night and day including the weekend was already booked. And that you would only see each other this week on your way to or from another task.

As your feet hit the ground you feel the resentment of having to wake the kids again, they don’t seem to be able to get themselves out of bed anymore. You know that the next hour will be a battle to get out the door and that at the end of the battle you will not have done all the things you intended to do and you will leave home with the guilt of things left undone.

As you start to decide what to wear you feel a growing irritation about the washing and the ironing still to be done. This is only exacerbated as various members of the family start shout at each other:
“I can’t find my pants, my shirts missing, why can I only find odd socks where are my shoes”
As you check your emails, while grabbing a quick breakfast already the mobile is ringing and the home phone has been answered, it’s one of your parents -just wanting to chat…!

We then explored Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 and we observed that the universe is not designed to enable “gain” (see previous post) and that those who attempt to fly in the face of reality can only ever know grief and frustration in the end ”. Instead, the art of living well will involve seeing life as a gift and living in thankfulness to God.

The End


It’s a Monday morning and you become vaguely aware that the alarm is going off. Already you can feel a pit in your stomach as you realise another week has begun, but instead of getting out of bed straight away you spend a moment giving thanks to God for the gift of a new day. You know it will be busy this week and you ask God to give you strength and wisdom to make good choices.

In the five minutes in the car yesterday, with the person you promised to spend the rest of your life with, you had checked that you still had your date night booked and that the day on Saturday had been left free so that you could clean up the house and prepare for family and friends to come over. The plan is to have a long brunch-you had even made sure that there was room for the brunch to turn into dinner. It’s busy but it’s nice to have time to connect.

As your feet hit the ground you feel the resentment of having to wake the kids again, they don’t seem to be able to get themselves out of bed anymore and then you remember that they had been on the church camp and you give thanks for the signs of God working in their lives. Before you wake them you pause at each of their doors and ask that God would walk close to them and that they would walk close to Him.

You know that the next hour will be a battle to get out the door and that at the end of the battle you will not have done all the things you intended to do, but you have worked out by now that that is OK –and you give thanks to God for his heavenly wisdom in helping accept what is.

As you start to decide what to wear you feel a growing irritation about the washing and the ironing still to be done and then a smile comes across your face as you realise that a new program of shared responsibility will be put into action next week. You give thanks for the gift running water and a washing machine..

Various members of the family start shout at each other:
“I can’t find my pants, my shirts missing, why can I only find odd socks, where are my shoes”
You decide not to check your emails and you keep the mobile turned off while you care for those you love and deal with those members of the family who are always losing things, but are wonderful anyway.

The home phone has rung and it's one of your parents -just wanting to chat. You give thanks for parents who still want to stay in contact…

Thursday, July 09, 2009

To all those who try to “gain” from life.


In our sermon series The Art of Living Well we have been suggesting that wise people read life and its patterns well.

Ecclesiastes 1:3 questions:
What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?
As the following verses unfold it becomes evident that pursuing gain is futile. Ian Provan, Ecclesiastes pg 63 sums it up this way:
To all those who try to “gain” from life whatever it is they claim to be doing, Qohelet presents stark reality… The universe is not designed to enable “gain” to happen and those who attempt to fly in the face of reality can only ever know grief and frustration in the end”
So this is the pattern of life, how do we apply these insights skilfully to the choices at hand and how do we enact this with integrity and care? Ideas anyone- (for Sermon on Sunday)?