Ecclesiastes 3:11: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with those words of the title from baseball great Casey Stengel. He sometimes spoke in what was called “Stengelese,” including sayings like, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded,” or, “Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.” Think about that last one for a while.
I was thinking about Casey’s observation about a game not being over until it’s finished and I thought of some other occasions where it’s important to know when something is finished and when it is still going on.
Perhaps you’ve been at a concert, and the director holds the singers for a grand pause. Anyone who knows about music understands that there is more to come, but there are those who believe that because the song has stopped and the director’s hands have stopped, the song is over and the time for wild applause is nigh. And so it begins.
Awkward. There’s no going back. The mood has been ruined for anyone who didn’t clap, the director, the singers and who knows who else.
All of you know the words of the poet of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” God created our experiences and the universe with these pairings of opposites and it is by knowing and experiencing them that we understand something about the nature of God.
Praise God for opposites, for time, for being in time and yet somehow beyond it so that we, going through the ebb and flow of our lives, may accept God’s gift of his Son, who experienced, suffered and enjoyed as we do, and gave up his life that we might live with Him beyond time. Amen
Psalm 1:1: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
I don’t know if or how you have marked milestones in your life. Some of these are familiar to all of us and, in our culture, nearly universal. I didn’t wear a gown as a baby, and I missed wearing knickers and graduating to long pants, but I did get my driver’s license when I was 16, a de facto rite of passage for my time, and then there was high school and college graduation, my first “real” job teaching, marriage and children, and retirement.
Some of these markers, especially later in life, signaled the transition to maturity as best I could manage it, and sometimes I fought them. When I turned 45, AARP started sending me invitations to join, although I thought I had to be 50. At least that’s what they said, but they didn’t really mean it. I was irritated by this reminder that I was growing older, until Dave Cossey told me they had the best discounts around. My attitude changed dramatically with that.
I’ve noticed other less formal ways to mark milestones. There was the first time a cashier gave me a senior discount without my asking for it. In fact, I was a little under the age, but I never pass up a discount, so I took it without revealing my true nature.
After decades of opening doors for women and my elders, I found myself one day having a door opened by a young person. I looked around to see for whom he was opening the door, and then realized that my graying hair had betrayed me. I also find myself able to sit in the presence of others, after decades of giving up my seat to someone older. There are advantages to aging, after all.
Psalm 1:1 speaks of not consorting with those who do not know the Lord, sinners and the scornful, and it does this in terms of not walking, standing or sitting with them. I would suggest that, on the other hand, we are called upon to walk with God, to stand for what is right and just and to sit in mercy for those who have wronged us and with justice for those who have been wronged. This is what Jesus did, and we are to follow his example. And our walking and standing and even our sitting in this way will lead us to grow in Christlikeness. Praise God for sending Jesus to be an example and to die on the cross so that one day we will be able to stand in the presence of God Almighty. Amen.