Saturday, February 13, 2016
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death…
[Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a The Message]
We are all familiar with this passage in its more traditional King James translation.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die…”
We’ve perhaps most often heard the line in a song made popular by the rock group, The Byrds, back in the 60’s, and sung by several other folk groups as a protest song during those days. Pete Seger is given credit for authorship of the song, known more commonly as “Turn, Turn, Turn.” I chuckle each time I read that.
Of course, it is generally assumed that King Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, but scholars even call that into question.
Nevertheless, though people are familiar with the song, thanks to The Byrds, many can make little sense of it. It is most often read at funerals to depict the seasons of one’s life. I most recently read the passage at the funeral of my friend, Keith Rathbun, who died suddenly on January 26.
The readers may note that I’ve been using Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” translation for my focus reading. It helps every so often to hear the words differently from what we’ve become accustomed to hearing them. And I was struck by Peterson’s choice of the words, “a right time…”
I am firmly of the belief that no one ever thinks there is a right time to die, no matter how much that death had been expected, and least of all, when death comes suddenly, as in the case of my friend.
But death happens. It is a fact of life. We are all destined for the same fate. So how are we to live while we do have life?
In our gospel reading from John, Jesus talks about his own death. We will hear these words again on Tuesday of Holy Week. A recurring theme in this Gospel is that Jesus is the bringer of life, light and truth. Behind it is the message that God is the source of that life and that it is by trusting in Jesus that we can share in that life. And if you consider light as the metaphor for life, then the words of Jesus are rich with sound advice.
“While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” [John 12:36 NRSV]