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Ec1-2 To risk answering aphorisms with platitudes, can we answer these with Jesus? v2 All is vanity, except preaching Christ crucified 1Cor15v14. v3 If we gain nothing by our toil, we gain everything by Christ's toil Rm8v32. v4 Earthly generations come and go, and even as this generation will end Mt24v34 there is now an enduring tribe to light it 1Pt2v9 (?). v5 There is a Son who is risen 1Cor15v20 never to set 1Cor15v42. v6 As the Spirit comes Jn3v8 again and unpredictably, he is no vain movement of air 2Tim1v7. v7 The hydrological cycle of a closed loop system, and what the law of thermodynamics could not do (Rm8v3), God did, so that streams of living water would flow Jn7v38 from our dry and weary land Ps63v1. v8 We wait on the Lord Is40v31 for that which the eye has not seen 1Cor2v9. v9 Yet behold He is making all things new Rv21v5. v10 You may have heard it said, but Jesus tells you Mt5v21 27 31 33 38 41. v11 Remember Jesus Christ? 2Tim2v8. ... There is a realism to these bitter snippets, history cruelly repeats itself and, with some comfort, summer follows winter follows summer. Quite beyond acknowledging cycles, there is an intellectual despondency readable here, against which I must preach to myself memorised scriptural statements of sometimes unseen reality. The reality that God is in-breaking. Oh my soul, be surprised by Hope. .. Vain knowledge etc in 2 and 1v12-18 The more you know, the more you know you don't know. The more you understand how the world works, the more you realise it doesn't. This is related to yesterday's 'ridiculous' and the day before's 'rich'. Pejorative 'rich'ness is a blindness to the happy fleeting ridiculousness of these things. So, invest that which perishes into that which cannot perish spoil or fade 1Pt1v4. Is this Being towards not-death? Out of my depth, but Hope-full.
Ec3 Reading this chapter evokes something painful, the fear of loss. Each of these couplets should be lingered over, they speak to hopes and fears of different colours and tones, but the ache in the acknowledgement of each reveals idols and insecurities, and ultimately a right returning to the God on whom everything else can crumble around. v14 everything God does will last forever, God is my rock. And in this, God's economy transforms this otherwise overwhelming transience. There is v11 eternity set in our hearts, a Levinasian longing for the God who always exceeds our horizon, v14 eliciting our awe. & so this is the infinite, the everlasting within the ever-changing. In God's economy, everything that is of the kingdom last forever: these will remain 1Cor8v13. God chooses us for fruit that will last Jn15v16. Every kingdom investment, every participation in God's salvation, all comportments of faith, hope and love, these are eternal, though the loved may die and sorrow will find you. The kingdom remains, and we will remain Eph6v13 if we remain within the God who is forever. Love wins, and the injustice of v16-18 will pass away, it will be burnt up Mal3v2-4 1Pet1v7. And Mk1v15 the Kingdom of God is near, eternity is very close. v18 We are different from animals because we are being-towards-death. We know our mortality, a marker for all our self0consciousness, which feels like more of a curse than a blessing at times 4v3 but isn't really. God we thank you for the gift of being born, the adventure of being alive, teach us unself-pity, the joy of seeking you.
Ec4 Today we talked about how a community is more-than-two. It's hard to say something that has not become a wedding-service platitude of v9-12, so God we ask for the lived experience of being not easily broken because we are two better than one and with you three. Be our un-self-relatedness. Thank you, that you made us to need one another, I am grateful.
Ec5-6 Because God is God I can let my words be few (and short). The proliferation of words, as it my wont, is an evil insofar as it obscures my v1 ignorance, v7 fantasies, v4 hidden debts, v8 power structures, and my duplicity, hypocrisy and insecurity. .. v1 Listening. Speaking the gospel is mostly listening? Listening to the shepherd and listening to his sheep. Listening to their questions, listening for the question behind the question and then offering a mustard seed sized offering. .. Wealth. The v12 sleepless restless evil and the 5v10 6v2 vanity of a 'rich' trajectory is to be contrasted with 5v20 6v3,7 present 'satisfaction'. There is a right appreciation of the present moment and its good gifts. “Where would you want to be?” asks Shame's Brandon. Here and Now? The fraught battle to be unescapist is so because we are bad people from a bad place bound unto judgement. 'Rich'ness, addiction, nostalgia, escapism are substitutes for a Cross in the past and regeneration in the future. God help us to a Godly hedonism, a right presencing, a fearless future, a listening patiently, and a diligence in the cause of speaking love concisely.
Ec7-8 8v14 Vanity, vanity. Vanity, we noted, is both vain and in vain. Vanity is the lies we tell ourselves, others and God, as last night's Acts5. Vanity is unconfessional self-deceptive anti-grace. Nostalgia 7v10 is a vanity, it wants to blame modernity, society, or technology rather than oneself for injustice. Prosperity theology 7v15 is a vanity, it believes it can earn or bargain with God, rather than surrendering to the 8v12 but-if-not that is God's glorious economy of wellness. Power over others 8v9 is a vanity, the attempt to pretend to ourselves that our dominion over another will validate us. But in vain, 8v7-8, death reveals our lie, the Holy Spirit shines uncomfortable light onto out pretence, sweeps the carpet from under us. So truth then, the integrity & authenticity of the 7v4 house of mourning, & of 7v13, 23, 27-28, 8v17 confusion, questions & mystery. Jesus meets us here Mt5v3-4.
Ec9-10 Here in the kitchen a spider's silhouette is busy on the other side of the glass and a crow, a few houses down, drops into flight from a tv aerial which sways a little to a stop, its place remembers it no more and feel like I'm in a French film. .. Ec9-10 Better and necessary Ecc's reminder of death than our culture's tireless denial of death. 9v10 Better life lived on all cylinders towards an imperfect ambition than the idling engine of the perfectionist procrastinator. 10v16 To all the kids on the catwalk, and the anti-aging cream of Greer's babes and 24/7 McDonalds, to these we say 10v7 you are not hedonistic enough. There is a better joy than escapism. 9v7 8 9 God approves, imagine that. God approves, and by living with a Jn12 sense of the sense with such faith we seek to hear the good-and-faithful-servant, and the Mt15v38, let us be such living dogs v4.
Ec11-12 Too much study is weariness, how does the academic hear this? Too much study is study done 12v11 not listening to the voice of the good shepherd, like all things, we can choose whether we are listening to the good shepherd or not, that is the measure of its value, whether we are inclined to the voice we love and recognise, being led trustingly and adventuringly. Jesus, you are the good shepherd, we want to know the sound of your voice in & through & before all things. These passages are about wasted time and valuable time, 12v1-8 on being-young and being-towards-old-age (I think more of being-towards death than these two, what might these perspectives offer?) You will die, whatever you do, & as long as you stay alive you will get older, regardless of your ways, but there is a divine economy 11v9 12v14 where what you do matters, it can have value, good or bad, and we will be held to account. I will be held to account for today, for the extra sleeping, for my working, resting, listening, giving. Let me hear this God, and so so not drift through. Let today count, let us approach today as holy ground, with holy fear, but also joy and thankfulness for what can be. Let us hear 11v1 as a word for ourselves, let us invest and overflow and give ourselves to goodness. & let us stop, as Kieślowski to 11v7 watch the light play, this is time well spent.