The cycle of a year brings with it many kinds of journeys. Peaks and valleys are part of life. Repetitive cycles of nature, family and community traditions mark the journey with anticipation and memory. This week we reflect on how blessings show up in a variety of ways over time and we contemplate the importance of the rhythms of life. There’s a verse in Genesis 1 that speaks to this idea. Describing the creation of the sun and moon and stars, God says “Let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years.” The Biblical writers understood that creation has a rhythm. We live our lives in moments and days, but we also live through seasons. This morning, let us pause to reflect upon the seasons of our earth and our own interior journeys through the seasons of life. Let us pray, O Holy One, you are our constant companion, our guide and our inspiration. Be with us this day as we reflect upon the gifts within all of the seasons of our lives. Amen.
When my daughter was young, one of my dear friends sent her a sweet book entitled, Over and Over by Charlotte Zolotov, which was originally published in 1957 and re-released with new illustrations in 1995. Perhaps you are familiar with this book? It’s the story of a little girl who remembers a snowman, a pumpkin, and a birthday cake. But she doesn’t understand time and summer, winter, autumn, and spring are all mixed up in her mind. The book takes you through her journey as the year unfolds and the story ends with her happy realization that it will all come round ‘over and over’ again. It was a favorite book for us when our children were young and the illustrations were wonderful.
We read a familiar passage from Ecclesiastes this morning. As one commentator notes, “The writer of Ecclesiastes recognizes 28 common human experiences, some of which, like planting, plucking, gathering and throwing away, might be connected to the seasons of the year. They did not know that the earth turns on its axis and revolves at a tilt around the sun, but they knew that the patterns of light in the sky were connected to the seasons. They understood that humans are as connected to that daily and seasonal rhythm as the rest of creation.”
In our reading from Psalm 90 in one translation, verse 12 reads “Teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” Ecclesiastes suggests that we number our days in many different ways. Biblical wisdom, it seems, is knowing what time it is, whether it is the right time for weeping or laughter, for dancing or mourning, for studying or something else. It is knowing how to receive all of the days and the seasons allotted to us and to use them well.
We hear in verse 11 of Ecclesiastes these words… “God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover God has put a sense of past and future into their minds.” We live our lives in seasons. We can remember winters of the past and anticipate that winter will come again, even when it is summer. The early Celts called the circle of the four seasons, ‘the great round,” and we know that our seasons are marked by climatic changes as the earth rotates around the sun. Depending on where we live, there are changes in temperature and light and darkness that affect the natural world and our own interior lives, our moods, our emotions, and yes, our spiritual journeys. Despite the many differences that exist across the planet, seasons have one thing in common which is that they usher in change and growth.
And beyond the seasons of the year, are the seasons of each life. The seasons which Ecclesiastes might describe as a time to seek, a time to lose, a time to keep, a time to throw away, a time for love and a time for hate are all part of the circle of life. The seasons of life include the stages of human development – like infancy, adolescence, and middle age. Over time, we have developed rituals to mark these changes from baptisms to birthdays, graduations, weddings and memorials. These are the collective moments that we often share with family and friends to celebrate and to grieve, to support one another and to rejoice with one another.
“Teach us to number our days that we may present a wise heart.” Numbering our days involves recognizing what time it is, caring about the moments and seasons of life and to live all of them well. In their book, The Circle of Life, Joyce Rupp and Macrina Widerkehr speak about the inner seasons we move through…”Our inner world has its yin-yang journey of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The moods and atmosphere of our inner space reflect the characteristics of the seasons’ outer space. “ We think of the hope and joy we experience as spring comes alive around us and as we eventually move into the fruitful or carefree time of summer. Autumn and winter provide their own gifts of harvest and solitude as well. Like me, you may wish to remain within a beloved season, but all seasons provide us with gifts for rest, for growth and for transformation.
If we take time to reflect upon the seasons of the year, we may be invited to consider our own personal journeys within each of the seasons and to consider what transformation or growth has emerged within that movement.
“These moods live in both the seasons of the earth and the seasons of the heart. Each one is a teacher. Each has its own truth and wisdom, its own challenge and gift. Each beckons us to come further, to live deeper, to find fuller meaning and purpose. Each season can be a teacher and a guide for those who live with open hearts.”
We know that one of the common practices of nearly all great spiritual figures was their devotion to prayer, to contemplation, to meditation, to silence. In the silence comes an opportunity to be still, to pay attention, and to reflect upon the learning, insight, and wisdom that comes from our lives and yes, from our Creator and all of creation. To gather such wisdom, we must be in the present. Biblical wisdom knows the value of being here and now. Celtic spirituality with its attention to the seasons was a way of saying “be here now.” Be here and enjoy the season of home-grown tomatoes now; be here and enjoy the faces of those you love now; be here and listen to the rain falling upon your garden now. Be here and see the moon now.
The psalmist says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may be wise.” “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love” and “prosper the work of our hands.” “God has granted us a sense of past and future,” the teacher writes in Ecclesiastes. There is wisdom to be found within the book of the Bible and indeed, within the book of our lives. We live best in the here and now, but God has placed within us a sense of the past and future. As we Worship this morning during the beautiful, comforting, invigorating season of summer, let us share this blessing. Bless to us, O God, these people and all our relationships and all the seasons we share. Amen.
-Seasonal Blessings Ecclesiastes3:1-8; Psalm 90, Rev. Kathy Donley
-The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr