Ecclesiastes: A Time For Planting…
June 11, 2017
by Rev. Melanie Homan
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“A time for uprooting what is planted…”
Rev. Melanie Homan
June 11, 2017
My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; 4 if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, 8 guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time for planting, and a time for uprooting what is planted;
For everything there is a season. Last week we celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the church, and we talked about these words from the book of Ecclesiastes – there’s a time to be born and a time to die. The Spirit keeps birthing and rebirthing the church over and over in surprising ways.
I’ve been thinking about the seasons in our lives – they are not as neat and orderly as the seasons we experience in Minnesota. Many of us love the regular rhythm and pattern of life that comes with our four seasons. Spring turns into summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and then we start the cycle of the year, from life to death to life again. Granted, things are a bit messy at times. We can have snow in May and wear stocking caps in August at the State Fair to stay warm. But by and large, we know what to expect in our different seasons of weather.
But the seasons of life – they are often surprising. The changes come when we least expect, or far past when we ever thought they would come. And we find ourselves unprepared and either distressed or delighted – depending on the kind of change. There is a time to be born and a time to die, and it can make time our sweet friend or unwelcome intruder.
Today we look at these words from Eccelesiastes – there is a time for planting and a time for uprooting what is planted. Planting and uprooting what is planted. I thought that was the perfect fit for today – for a variety of reasons. The Trustees originally were planning for an all-church weeding party after church, but given the heat, have decided to postpone. We have weeds. Lots of weeds and overgrown plants that need to be uprooted. The Trustees believe that any day is a good day – any time is a good time – for uprooting plants. So the next time you walk out to your car or bike and see a weed, remember this passage from Ecclesiastes…there is a time for planting and a time for uprooting what is planted. Pull a weed. PLEASE!
It’s also a season of planting. Planting new seeds of ideas. Karin Erickson wants you to come hear about the unique ministry relationship we have with the Joyce Food Shelf. And we are busy planting seeds there – literally – through the garden boxes that are growing vegetables at the foodshelf – and figuratively. Through Karin’s leaderships, we are moving forward with renewed resolve in meeting the food needs of our community. We have Karin to thank for a lot of the good work happening there. But as with anything – no one person can do it all. YOU are the gift the food shelf needs.
So today is a day of planting seeds and also uprooting what is planted. Food shelf. Weeds. We are in a season for both!
But the MAIN reason that I thought this passage was perfect for today, is obviously because of our graduates! We have all of these amazing youth, who have been planted within their families and this church, where they have been nurtured and cared for with God’s love and our love. The planting and nurturing has been going on for years, although for the parents of our graduates, time is a goofy thing – it probably feels like you were just getting them ready to Kindergarten. But time flies by when you are busy planting seeds of values and ideas with your children. And yet – for our graduates, it’s the right time and season to be uprooted. You are uprooting and going all over the country, to new places, with new adventures, where you will plant yourselves for a while. Even if you stay in Minneapolis or in your current home – you are being uprooted to begin something new.
As you get ready to start this next adventure in life, my mind jumped to the book of Proverbs. It’s this book about the search for wisdom and it’s filled with wisdom. The second chapter starts with these words – “MY CHILD”. “If you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, if you make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understanding – if you cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding – If you seek it like silver, and search for it as hidden treasures – then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God. My child. In this second chapter of Proverbs, the parent speaks in their own voice, urging their child to “listen to ‘wisdom’ and ‘understanding’. The parent points beyond themselves to wisdom, which is the whole goal of parental teaching”![i] We can so easily focus on wanting our kids to be happy that it becomes the be all end all of parenting. Yet in these passages of scripture, happiness is not the goal. Wisdom is the goal. And parenting is meant to point us towards wisdom. “Wisdom’s call to humans is echoed by the call of humans for Wisdom, like lovers seeking each other in the street.” Cry out to wisdom and it calls out to you.
“The quest for wisdom is necessarily a quest for God, for wisdom comes from God.” And we humans – we get to know God somewhat as we get to know a language, through interaction with our parents and teachers and others who speak and act in the ordinary activities of life. As we adults relate to God, world, and others, we communicate to the young people around us, a certain understanding of God and reality. And a child’s business is gradually to take responsibility for his or her life in response to parents, persons, the world, and God.”[ii] So that’s what our graduates have been spending years doing – gradually taking responsibility for their lives in response to how they see us living.
Our passage ends with these words: “Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul”. And once something enters your heart – it guides how you live. It guides your actions towards God and your neighbors.
So be careful what you let enter your heart. One of the great benefits of the wisdom you’ve gradually come by, even as you will keep growing in knowledge – is that wisdom is what helps you keep your own counsel – it helps you think for yourself. And we definitely need to be able to think for ourselves. There is power in wisdom that protects you. As Mirian Lichtheim writes, when you seek out wisdom, “You will be able to look inward, to maintain an independence of thought, and stand up to inveiglements.”[iii] We’re always learning, right? Which is why I looked up the word inveiglements when I read it and had no idea what it means. Inveiglements are words or objects used to entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements. No flattery or artful talk – inveiglements! – will get past you, if you seek after wisdom!
It’s easy to see the importance of this independent wisdom, when we think about these graduates going out to take on the world – but it’s important for us, too. How many of us, have given up on seeking the wisdom and knowledge of God and have replaced it with less satisfying endeavors? How many of us have independence of thought? How many of us cry out to wisdom in the streets, waiting to hear her response before we act?
I think that’s why knowledge of God is also called “the fear of the Lord”. A little bit of fear or “awe” is an anecdote to our false sense of “knowing it all”. None of us know it all. As Paul writes to the people of Corinth, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Now, we know only in part.
Whether you are going into the workforce or on to more schooling to learn as much as you can about the things you are passionate about – remember that a little bit of fear or awe of wisdom is important.
As you leave, you are being uprooted. But a part of you stays here, and we are just going to be so excited to see you whenever you return. And we’re going to want to hear all about what you’re learning and discovering about life.
When I was getting ready to go to seminary, a master gardener from the church I was attending gave me a bouquet of irises. Irises are beautiful. They are brilliantly colored and they keep coming up every year. We have a bunch out in the parking lot – take a look at them – they are beautiful. But there comes a time when irises are less brilliant. Fewer flowers because they have outgrown their space. And when that happens, the thing you are supposed to do is uproot the plant. And then you cut it up and replant it in new places. And when you replant it, you give it the space it needs to become abundant and vibrant all over again. That’s what you’re doing. Being uprooted so you can continue to grow.
What a gift you’ve been to our community. We give thanks for you, and extend our prayers and blessings as you are uprooted so you can continue to grow in the wisdom of God.
[i] The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, volume 5, pages 42-43.
[ii] The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, volume 5, page 43.
[iii] The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, volume 5, page 45.