Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Turn, Turn, Turn?

We have this book...

It has amazing illustrations, each page from the artistic style of a different culture.

I don't quite know what to say or how to explain the book to The Mayor and The Rooster though.

Oh, Biblical Scholars of the Internet, por favor esplain to me the larger meaning of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8!

Is it just the simple message on the surface of the words? There is a time for everything?

Or is it something else?

When is it time to kill? To hate?

When is it time for War -- and isn't that a slippery slope?

How does one explain this text to the short and loud people?

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and
a time to die;
A time to plant, and
a time to pluck up 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;
A time to cast away stones,and
a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and
a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and
a time to lose;
a time to keep, and
a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and
a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and
a time to speak;
A time to love, and
a time to hate;
a time of war, and
a time of peace.


Stella said...

When I teach this to my classes (I'm a High School Theology Teacher) we talk about the idea of there being a time and reason for everything. Even the most horrible things. We talk about the fact that we may not EVER know the reasons and that is the most frustrating part of faith but it is important to hold true to our faith.

What I find the most interesting when I have the conversation is that I have a number of students who do not believe in God or who are not Catholic or who have not faith yet they understand this. A lot of them do have trouble with the time to kill and hate lines but there is a context that this was written in that we no longer live with. It was a completely different time and different way of life.

I hope this helps a little bit. I would say that to explain it to your little ones to take it at pretty much face value. There is a reason for things and sometimes we know those reasons but often we do not but we have to trust that it will come out as it's supposed to.

Omaha Mama said...

Free will baby.
Not that there is a time when hate, war, killing is right, but that there is a time when it will happen. That lessons are learned from it. And that God's good people will continue to try to do his will. Which is to, above all, love each other.

The other way to answer super hard faith questions that I myself can't always grasp? "Well, God is super smart, way smarter than any people, so we may not understand everything but know that we are loved and that God has a plan that someday hopefully we will be in on. Kids are amazingly trusting of us and of God. They're good with knowing that someone knows. Even if it's not us humans. :0)

Scientific Lutheran said...

I was taught to read this passage through the light of sin in the world.

In the Christ, there was a time to love His creation so much that he sent his Son, and then to hate He who carried the sin of the world, there was a time to allow the Christ to live, to carry His message, and a time for Him to die, so that sin would die, also. Jesus himself laughed and cried, mourned and danced. In all of the statements, there is the Christ.

I don't know if that helps.

But for kids, maybe just start with the fact that there are these times, even if we don't understand why they happen.

Online Printing Company said...

"To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven"

It's true. Most of us tend to forget how things happen for a reason and in their own time. RIGHT TIME it is.

Not Hannah said...

You could always spin it as an opposite thing: everything in creation has an opposite. I think it's probably less about time than it is about purpose.

You might put it in terms of "sometimes you fight with each other and sometimes you snuggle. Sometimes you are sick and sometimes you're well." The good stuff gives us something to work toward when the bad stuff is happening and the bad stuff makes us appreciate when the good stuff comes back around.

ree said...

I don't know all of the answers, but it's my favorite passage of all time.

TRS said...

Good thoughts here already.

I would add that, regarding a time to kill and a time to heal...
maybe you could explain it from an old time farming perspective.

Sometimes you have to kill the fatted calf in order to nourish your family. (That might be a good time to explain where the chicken on their dinner came from.)

Sometimes, when an animal is hurt you have to kill it to ease it's suffering - because it is the humane thing to do. And sometimes, you work to tend the animal so it can heal - because while it is difficult, it is not time for that animal to die.

This can also explain why the doctors in the hospital couldn't help Grandma or Aunt Helen - if they are ready for that.

Joie said...

All these are really, really good responses. Jessica, there is a website I use for sermon prep help since I am not near a theological library. It's called textweek.com and you can go to the passage index and look up commentaries on just about any passage. Some commentaries are ancient and others were written last week. They are chosen for their scholarship and their relevance.

Merrily Down the Stream said...

That is one passage I have always loved.
Never thought of explaining it to the short loud ones.
I would explain a time to kill in terms of putting our beloved labrador down to spare her pain and fear.
I think the whole passage is about the balance - you can't have one with out the other.

Virtualsprite said...

I love how wise everyone is here. These are exactly the comments I was going to make, and then some.

I have a vague memory of something in a book that said we cannot understand the true meaning of love until we learn the true meaning of hate. We cannot adequately defend ourselves against our enemy until we understand why they are our enemy. Maybe it's less about killing and hating and more about understanding that there is murder and hate in the world that we have to deal with and combat with love and compassion.

Jennifer said...

I love this passage, though I do not believe the "everything happens for a reason" idea, nor the idea that "God has a plan that we will never fully know". My idea of God is not of a "man in the sky" nor of a puppetmaster who is in control of all things. Yet, I do love this passage. Because it reminds me that life is about good and bad. That to struggle against "what is", to flail against the currents of life, doesn't make sense. It reminds me to take time to BE. To appreciate. To strive for what is good and just, but that life cannot be only good. And it's okay. (Though questions like when is it a time for war or a time to kill are, yes, very difficult. I believe this passage reminds us not to make big decisions lightly.)

Kyla said...

I'm really enjoying the comments on this one! Enlightening.

Random Thinker said...

The passage is more descriptive rather than prescriptive; essentially it describes what life was to a mid eastern male in centuries before Christ rather than a formula for the living. The idea is to show that there is a cycle to the life and to go with its rhythm rather than swimming against it.

You can translate it to the short and loud people and ask them to create their own version such as:
There is a time for homework
and a time for TV
a time to cry
a time to hug etc. etc.

Sonda in OR said...

We can hate injustice and love justice. Or hate green beans and love bananas.

Kill germs. Heal owies.

They'll get that.

matt said...

I've always kind of thought that could all be boiled down a simple sentiment: "That's life."

It's not making any judgement, it's not listing justification or causation... it's just a simple and poetic statement that's probably meant as a comfort. There will be war, there will be peace. There will be killing, there will be healing. That's life - more specifically, that's life for humanity, and it's something that no one is immune to. Life happens to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Sent by e-mail from Sayre's Dad --

Not the sort of thing I would read to small children. This is Old Testament, written to the Jews by their scholars. I doubt Solomon sat down and dictated it, there's no evidence I am aware of to confer that authorship. Like virtually all things biblical the authorship is lost. Torah, the interpretation of the first five books, examines those writings for meaning and I suspect that this famous section of Ecclesiastes should be read as a Jewish Midrash (interpretation). Read it through the eyes and understandings of somebody 1000 BC and it takes on a very different meaning than read with today's set of circumstances. The uglier bits "a time for war" reflects the realities of life in 1000BC in the Middle East as small kingdoms constantly battled. There is an element of carpe diem and a sense that, while it may make no sense to us, there is a purpose to everything under heaven.
A look at the various commentaries on the internet suggests to me, as is often the case, that you can read whatever you want into it. But for me, the positive affirmation seems to be the God I take comfort in. In a very simple set of terms "Life is...accept it."

Anonymous said...

I think it means there are no absolutes. I'm sure most of us would agree that killing is wrong, but if your family were in imminent danger from an attacker who could not be reasoned with, wouldn't you kill to save them?

Carolyn said...

I look at it in a comforting way...there may be times of pain, but there will be times of happiness and peace. No great suffering lasts forever.

Heather Shake-Shake said...

I do believe in the essence of the message. There is a time for everything. However, it doesn't mean we will necessarily have the understanding of WHY there was that time.

I'm pretty comfortable telling my kids "I don't know" when they ask the tough questions about war, hate, violence, death. Because I don't know. And that's just part of being a human.

Penny said...

In God's time and with the gift of God's wisdom. Very oversimplified, it's about faith.

Anonymous said...

Yep. It is about faith.

(And, sometimes, there IS a time for war, like to stop a Hitler, and a time to kill, like to liberate concentration camps)

Or to kill for food . . . ..