A Time To Seek and A Time To Lose

July 16, 2017
by Rev. Melanie Homan

No audio available – Lake Harriet Band Shell service.

View, print or save PDF: Sermon.07.16.17.A Time To Seek and A Time To Lose

Ecclesiastes Sermon Series

“A time to seek and a time to lose…”

Rev. Melanie Homan

July 16, 2017

Lake Harriet Bandshell service

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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 to plant, and a time to pluck up what 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 throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, 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 for war, and a time for peace.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Turn, turn, turn – we can thank The Byrds for knowing this scripture by heart!  Throughout the summer at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, we’ve been taking a closer look at each one of these phrases.

The only constant in life seems to be change, and change is happening all around us, it’s happening TO us. Some of those changes are amazing and great and we look forward to them and can’t wait for them.  Every single day, Dylan says something like “Mom, how many more days until I turn 6.”  “133.”  “Mom, how many more days until I turn 6.”  “132.”  Every day.  My son can’t wait to go from being 5 ½ to being 6.  I had a friend who had a retirement countdown as his screensaver on his work computer – so he had a daily reminder of the big change he was more than ready for.  I think he had that countdown on his computer a good four years.  That’s a long time to wait for a change!

But often, change comes when we aren’t expecting it, aren’t wanting it, and aren’t ready for it. We like things how they’ve been, or we like things how they are, and like the boats out on the lake – all we want is a little smooth sailing…or, a LOT of smooth sailing.  We don’t want people messing with “stuff” when life is goooood!

The writer of Ecclesiastes gives the impression that there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to cry and a time to laugh – that it’s time for either one or the other. But, the reality is that it’s all jumbled up and happening all together at the same time.  Crying and laughing, mourning and dancing, war and peace, loving and hating – they exist together…constantly in flux and changing.

The author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t say so, but there is a time for work and there is a time for vacation…vacation is one of those times we just can’t wait for. Every summer we go on a camping road trip to visit a national park.  We LOVE national parks!  There is breathtaking beauty and amazing geography all over our country.  This year we drove to Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton National Park in Canada.  I learned a lot about myself on our trip.  I also picked up some knowledge about rocks, plants, animals, melting glaciers and climate change.  I learned that 8 nights in a row is my limit for sleeping in a tent.  I also learned that Canada is celebrating the 150th year of its confederation, and all of their parks are free for everyone…for the whole year.  FREE is awesome!

Through park ranger programs we learned about invasive plant species, how glaciers formed the cirques and various features in the mountains, how to tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear (and no, it has nothing to do with color), and that there are 26 glaciers left at the park (but they are expected to be completely gone by 2030).

I also learned some things that anyone with an ounce of common sense would already know (but, they were still important lessons for me). I have this habit, which I blame my mother for – as she does the same thing – of waiting for the little red light to come on in my car before stopping to fill up the tank with gas.  Here’s my reasoning…If I stop to put gas in the car when there’s a quarter of a tank or more, over time, I’m going to make more stops at the gas station.  TIME is precious, and I don’t want to spend my time at the gas station.  So, I wait until I absolutely HAVE to stop for gas.  This is all well and good when you live in a heavily populated area and there are gas stations everywhere.  What I learned the hard way is that this is NOT a good philosophy when you are driving through North Dakota.

Here’s what I learned in Montana…You don’t want to be driving in Montana when your check engine light comes on in your Toyota, and it starts shaking violently. If you think gas stations are rare in parts of North Dakota, auto shops that carry parts for Toyota vehicles in Montana are even more rare!

In Ecclesiastes, it says, “there is a time to seek and a time to lose.” With our phone going in and out of service, we started making phone calls to every town along Interstate 94, asking about auto shops and then asking about parts.  See, we had found a shop that diagnosed the problem and told us what parts we needed…but, they didn’t have any of the parts.  The proverbial needle in a haystack would have been easier to find.  With cars whizzing by us at 80 miles an hour on the highway, we poked along at a pathetic 50 miles an hour – if we went over 50 our van shook.  We made call after call after call.  Searching.  Seeking. Praying.  Bargaining with God.  (like that ever works).  We drove like this for hours, until we landed in the town of Glasgow, MT where we found Chappell’s Automotive.  The Chappell brothers – I can’t tell you how much we love the Chappell brothers – called around and found the parts we needed.  They stayed open past their closing time to fix our van.  They even had popcorn and crayons and coloring books ready for the kids.  In the middle of nowhere, we found what we were looking for.  Against the backdrop of a large “Jesus Saves” sign, tumbleweeds blowing across a deserted highway road, our automotive repair prayers were answered.

There is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. There is a time to seek and a time to lose.  The Chappell brothers challenged us to lose some of our preconceived notions as they embodied the practice of radical hospitality to strangers.  I’m pretty sure if we’d had a conversation about religious beliefs or political beliefs, we would have discovered a WHOLE lot we disagreed about.  Our daughter was wearing her “love wins” rainbow shirt, while they had several deer heads mounted up on their walls.  And yet, we were desperately searching and they were the answer to our prayers.  We sought help and we were offered holy hospitality.  At the same time, we got to lose some of our stereotypes.  We also got to lose our false sense of control.  It’s a humbling reminder.  I also got to lose my habit of driving on empty.  I told the Chappell brothers about our North Dakota adventure.  They looked at me incredulously and said, “DON’T EVER DO THAT!!!”.  Okay.  Point taken.  They refrained from expressing any strong point of view on anything but that.  But, on that point, they were clear!

“There is a time to seek and a time to lose.” What is it you are seeking right now?  Now is the right time to lose something – what is it?  Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything.  When I asked my friends what they were seeking and losing, I was reminded how different and distinct the challenges we each face are.  We have a lot in common, but our challenges are also unique.  I put a call out on Facebook for some help for my message this morning, and these are some of the answers people offered in response to the question “What are you seeking and what do you need to lose?”

Michael is searching for happiness, love, and more time and he’d be okay with losing some weight, surliness, and white privilege.

Is there a time to seek power and a time to lose power in order to make room for others?

One of my colleagues, Paul (who is currently in seminary, which is a process that completely turns your beliefs and ideas upside down) said, After a year of deep learning and reflection and a minor crisis of belief, I’m seeking equality and feel like I really am willing to give up the immense amount of privilege I carry to find it.”

Several people shared that the thing they most need to lose is their pride. I have a friend who is on the brink of homelessness and she shared that the thing she most seeks and desires is security and she’s had to lose her pride in order to ask for help.

Some of us are seeking peace – peace within – and we’re looking at what we need to “lose” or let go of to achieve it. Others are seeking peace as it is described in the Bible, as shalom or wholeness.

My friend Teresa said she’s seeking to gain meaningful friendships and is okay with losing toxic relationships. Glenda is seeking faith and understanding and would love to lose her less-than-wonderful traits!

Laura is seeking out honesty, love, and authenticity, and she really wants to lose all the crap in her garage. Letting go of “stuff” can feel pretty amazing!

Victoria is working on losing her preconceived expectations of life and embracing with wonder “what is”.

Linda is seeking creativity and contentment, and is okay with losing perfection.

One of my Sunday School teachers, from when I was a kid, had a different take on losing. She is losing her independence as her health declines and it’s a losing that is hard to accept.  There are all these helpful, caring people in her life who are seeking ways to help, and it all sort of backfires because she’s still trying to accept the loss of independence.

My parents recently retired and moved up here to the cities, and my mom said she is searching for fulfillment in retirement. She wants to lose the idea of “always playing it safe!”, which makes me think I need to brace myself for whatever wild and crazy ideas they come up with.  They already do a lot of wild and crazy things and, if they think they’ve been playing it safe, this could be interesting!

My amazing sister Jamie, she wants to lose some of the hopes she’s had for how things or people should be, of how she wants them to be, while still trying to fulfill what is important to her. She wants to be content, but still seeking after what she needs to be true to herself.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. There is a time to seek and a time to lose.  What do you seek?  What do YOU want, or need, to lose?  Whatever that is – I’d like the kids who were in Vacation Bible School to stand up right where you are at – and help remind us of what you learned this week from Psalm 34.  It’s a pretty good rallying cry, in response to what we seek and what we need to lose.

Do good.

Seek peace.

And Go After It!!!!