A sermon delivered by Wendell Griffen, Pastor, New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Ark., on December 31, 2011.
3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Pastors share what people experience and then we try to help assign meaning to the experiences. We are called on to do this for all kinds of experiences: births and deaths, joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats, periods of nobility as well as times of guilt and shame. This is part of the responsibility that comes with being the “resident theologian” in a congregation. If people trust us, they trust us to help them assign meaning to the experiences of life. So I am grateful to you for allowing me to help us assign meaning to why we are here at the end of another year.
We are here to express our faith in God’s justice. Much has happened in the world, in our individual lives, and in the life of our congregation. Every person in our congregation, like everyone elsewhere, has been through ups and downs. Hopefully we made some new friendships. Yet we’ve also lost loved ones whose relationships cannot be replaced. We’re dealing with health issues, job issues, school issues, unemployment issues, personal, congregational, social, national, and global security and justice issues, and more.
Some events (like being born and dying) simply happen to us. Aging happens, and with it comes the knowledge that we are never stuck in time. It is fanciful to imagine being ageless like Peter Pan, but we should remember that Peter Pan is a fable based on the experiences of a fellow in a place called Neverland.
Other occasions (like planting and plucking up what is planted, making war and peace, keeping silence and speaking) don’t happen on their own. We are morally responsible for making them happen.
Like our slave ancestors watched and waited with hopeful hearts to learn whether the Emancipation Proclamation would be signed by President Abraham Lincoln, we’re watching and waiting. We don’t know what will happen. Whatever happens will affect us for better or worse.
And we know something more exciting. Like our slave ancestors, we know that God can be trusted.
- God can be trusted when babies are born and when loved ones die.
- God can be trusted whether we are planting or harvesting.
- God can be trusted whether we are in a time of killing or healing.
- God can be trusted in breakdowns and buildups.
- God can be trusted in times of weeping and times of laughter.
- God can be trusted in times of discarding and times of gathering.
- God can be trusted in times of reconciliation and times of estrangement.
- God can be trusted whether we’re seeking or losing, keeping or throwing away, tearing or mending, keeping silent or speaking, loving or hating, making war or making peace.
- We’re here to affirm with our slave ancestors that despite all that happens to us including the things we can’t control, God can be trusted!
Farmers know they must plant in order to harvest. They don’t know what the weather will be during the pre-planting time, during planting, over the course of the growing seasons, or at harvest. They simply know there is a time for planting and harvesting, with all the work that go with it. Farmers know about drought years, flood years, and equipment breakdowns, personal injuries, price fluctuations, and a host of other things that make farming seem foolhardy.
Yet at the core of every reverent farmer’s life is a faith in a Power much greater than weather, market prices, and other things. So farmers are now preparing for the coming growing season despite all they don’t know and can’t control, and all the highs and lows they’ve known. They trust God for the strength to go through whatever happens. That trust gets them up every morning and puts them to sleep at night. That trust keeps them going back to the bank even when crops have been ruined by floods, droughts, or pestilence. That trust keeps them going when equipment failures happen.
We are here to remember, like our slave ancestors, that we trust God! And we are here, like our slave ancestors, to affirm that we will continue trusting God!
- We will trust God no matter who runs the government.
- We will trust God no matter what our financial situation may be.
- We will trust God whether up or down, sick or well, happy or sorrowful.
We are here, like our slave ancestors, to remind and encourage each other that we share a trusting faith in God’s justice. And we are here to declare that God will not abandon us. God will not turn us loose. God will not forget us.
- Because God is faithful, we will enter 2012 with our head high.
- Because God is faithful, we will enter 2012 with our eyes lifted
- Because God is faithful, we will enter 2012 with hopeful hearts.
- Because God is faithful, we will not be afraid to hope, plant, build, laugh, speak, work for justice, oppose oppression, care for others, welcome strangers, forgive our enemies, protect the vulnerable, and be agents of the kingdom of heaven.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, and a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion.