1 For everything there is a season,Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1, 5, and 11; from the New Living Translation (NLT)
a time for every activity under heaven.
5 A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
Can you recognize the seasons? Here in Alabama, the “Seasons” are just words printed on calendars, especially this time of year. In fact, our state motto is “If you don’t like the weather when you get here, stay around. It’s bound to change soon!” It’s really hard to know how to dress sometimes. We either dress in layers or keep a couple of changes of clothes in our cars. Winter for the morning. Fall for midday. Summer in the afternoon. And Spring in the evening. If you doubt me, then obviously you’ve never been in our wonderful state.
But this morning I’m not talking about “Seasons” on the calendar. I’m talking about the Seasons In Life. I absolutely love the Book of Ecclesiastes. I love it for it’s rawness; the blunt ways that Solomon describes that season in his life where he was living under the sun, or another way of saying it, under heaven. He’s been living without God at the helm of his heart, mind, and life. This man known for his wisdom, left wisdom at home and pursued a life that left him drained and empty. He called it chasing after the wind.
And it is part of his painful journey that spoke to me this morning, and I pray it speaks to you. Chapter 3 speaks about all the events that happen in life; and that’s a lot of different events–opposites, if you would. And this morning I was reflecting and meditating on the end of Verse 5: “A time to embrace and a time to turn away.“ Discerning when it’s time to embrace and when it’s time to turn away isn’t always easy, and sometimes even more difficult to know that it’s time to turn away.
Such is the saga happening right now in many lives. Do you try to stay and make your marriage what God designed it to be, or walk away? Do you change careers or stick with the one you have? Do you keep bailing out that prodigal child or let them face the consequences of their choices and actions? And if you are a United Methodist, do you hope that things will change. . .and soon? Or do you turn away? And how do we know the WHEN to turn away?
I truly wish I could give you a simple formula that works in every situation. But I can’t. It’s always a matter of personal choice. But to make the wise decision (unlike Solomon) we need counsel; more than good counsel, we need great counsel. And that comes only by looking about the sun, and to The Son. And I can tell you this–that when the pain creates more and more problems, then that is a sign something needs to change. And here in the United Methodist Institution, it’s the season to decide which side you are on. Remember Joshua’s challenge to the Hebrews? I fully recognize as a soon not-to-be United Methodist pastor, this is the season for me to turn away. It’s been a painful choice–but it’s also been the right choice for me. And I am now embracing Verse 11–“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” I am entering a beautiful time; albeit a little bit, call it unnerving. But I know this is the Right Season for this move.
And as far as the United Methodist Institution goes, you can choose to live with leadership that is living under the sun. Or you can choose to live above the sun. The Season Of Separation or the Season To Stay is upon us. Our choices are very clear: to live under the sun (meaning with human understanding but without God’s Truth) or to live above the sun (meaning a life of faithfulness and holiness as revealed in the Holy Writ). That decision to refrain from that embrace and to turn away can, and often is painful. But it is the right choice. Using a Biblical Image, the handwriting is on the wall. For 48 years I’ve watched an organization trying to live under the sun. And it’s just not working. Can you recognize which season you are living in? Under the sun? Or Under The Son?