AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMEPLETELY DIFFERENT!
Psych! The scripture we are going to deal with today informs us that "there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9b) Good morning. I hope you had a great weekend. It was certainly a beautiful weekend here in Madison, but we pray for those who are in the path of the Hurricane hitting Texas.
I do want to take just a moment and look at the scripture that I quoted above. Friday we saw where the Teacher/Preacher in Ecclesiastes (the one doing the talking) declared everything to be "meaningless/emptiness/vanity" under the sun. He made this declaration on many occasions throughout the book. He asks: "Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! There is something new'?" (Ecc. 1:10)
Of course, we know that new things seem to emerge all the time. A few years ago one had never heard of the internet, or hand held phones that served as a computer, or cars that parked themselves. New things "hit the market" all the time. Not long ago Zander said to me, "Dad I want to go to Best Buy." I asked him why, and he said, "To buy a pop socket." Now, I of course got to thinking, "Hmm....I've popped a few bones and joints out of their socket before, but what in the world is a pop socket?" Of course, they do make such a thing, along with many other things I no nothing about. So, in response to the Teacher/Preacher: "If you don't think there is anything new under the sun, take a walk through our world today."
I said all of that to now say this: I believe that the Preacher/Teacher was correct. Sure, we have all these new fangled gadgets, but... I have often hoped and prayed that I would be asked to teach a class on preaching. (hint to anyone out there looking for someone to teach a class on preaching) If I could do so I would teach on the importance of originality in a sermon. The truth is, everything that can be said, has been said. What else is there to say about the crucifixion and the resurrection that hasn't been said? Years ago, I made the statement that I found it difficult to preach on Easter because I couldn't come up with new material. (I was young then) A quick thinking parishioner informed me: "Pastor, on Easter you shouldn't worry about coming up with new material. Just tell us the Easter story. It never changes, and it never grows old."
Have you ever had someone come up to you and say, "Hey, I've got this new joke I'm dying to tell you." Regardless of whether you want to hear it or not, they are telling it anyway. So, they begin to tell the joke and act as though they received it straight from the author him/herself. But, as soon as they begin you realize that the joke is as old as the hills. But, you laugh as though you heard it for the very first time. Then, a young person says to you; "Hey, you need to hear this new song that just came out. I think you'll love it." You listen to it and say, "Well, I liked it the first time I heard it thirty years ago." They argue, 'You couldn't have heard it thirty years ago, it just came out!" Well, no...It came out thirty years ago.
Was the Preacher/Teacher in Ecclesiastes just bored with it all? I don't know about you but I deal with the "same 'ole, same 'ole" almost every day. Sure, there are some interruptions to my routine, but for the most part it's arise, get ready and go to the office to see what awaits me. Routine is something that we all have to deal with. But, here's the thing: it's what we do with routine that matters. You see, our task is to take what has always been and make it fresh. Have you ever walked through a store and discovered that the deodorant that you have been using for fifty years is now "new and improved?" But, you didn't think that there was anything wrong with it. All that may be new and improved is the look of the bottle, but it at least has a fresh, new look. Sermon material may be limited to what has already been said, but that does not mean that it can't be made to be fresh and relevant for today.
Yes, I thing the speaker in Ecclesiastes has a point. The challenge of monotony is what we do with it. The day started with me getting up from bed, and it will end with me going to bed. In between I did the same old work that I do every day. Well, yes, but is that a bad thing? No! We have to have consistency in life. Even God designed a pattern for how things were to operate. Before we groan over it being Monday all over again, let us not forget the fact that God created Monday. So, if we are bored with the same thing day in and day out, why don't we look for ways to freshen things up a bit. If the marriage is "boring" instead of doing something "new" with a "new" person, why not try something different with the same person.
The Preacher/Teacher wants to know: "What's the point of it all if it is so predictable?" Well, the point of it all is quite simple: God is the point of it all. I think what the author is saying is: life isn't all about me and what I want, and what I desire. Life in all its predictability is a gift given to me. I did not design the layout of life, God did. Therefore, the Preacher/Teacher concludes: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecc. 12:13) Could it be that the reason life follows a particular pattern is so we can be better held together? The commandments were designed to bring the person to a "place with God." Perhaps life, in general, is like that. Even when we live out our days, Monday, Tuesday...It's Friday! TGIF...Then it's Monday all over again...same old thing...yadda, yadda, yadda...We can remember God created each day for a purpose.
Well, tomorrow we will begin to tackle a little book that we don't hear much about. In fact, other than the one sermon I preached from it, I'm not sure I have ever heard a sermon preached from this book. It is the Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon. (sometimes referred to either) Join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick