The Season of the Virus
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.
The Season of the Virus
The writer of the familiar verses in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 knew that life consists of the passing of time, and seasons that come and go. Ecclesiastes predicts that we might expect to go through a season like this, the season of the virus. The writer even points out that there is “a time to refrain from embracing.”
We are also living in other seasons. In fact, if we are not preoccupied with coping with life in the time of the virus, we might also notice the beautiful spring season that is unfolding around us. Or we might think more about our current season of Lent that will soon reach its conclusion on Palm Sunday.
Time has a different quality these days. For many of us it has slowed down, as we sit at home, with limited opportunity to venture out. Some of us are “marking time,” or counting the days until things return to normal.
Scripture tells us that we should number our days. We can do the math. If you live 75 years, your life consists of 3900 weeks; 27,300 days; or 655,200 hours. The ancient Greeks also had a word for this. They called it chronos. Chronos time is linear, a constant continuum of moment after moment, day after day. As human beings we know chronos time as a series of unrepeatable events in the course of which everything moves relentlessly forward.
But there is more to it than that. There is the concept of kairos, which suggests that time is also defined by its quality. Not all time is the same, and some moments are much more valuable than others.
Our lives are marked by our own unique seasons. For us the passing of time is not just a linear succession of days; it is defined by events, relationships, and experiences. We recall our seasons not just by when they took place, but by the quality of the moments, by the people who were with us, by those who we loved and with whom we shared our lives. Those times reside now in our memories, but they have a permanent quality and a value beyond estimation.
And finally, and perhaps most important, there’s this: as Christians, we see time differently. As followers of Jesus we recall that when he began his ministry in Galilee, he said, "The time is fulfilled." He meant that now is the time for salvation, not just of individuals, but of all of God’s creation. God was and is even now reconciling the world to God.
So as we experience God’s saving grace, we are able to live more fully in all the seasons of our lives. Our salvation leads us to live completely in the here and now, but also to live “in eternity.” Frederick Buechner reminds us that “God inhabits eternity but stands with one foot in time. The part of time where he stands most particularly is Christ, and thus in Christ we catch a glimpse of what eternity is all about.”
The old hymn “O God Our Help In Ages Past” tells of how the past, present, and future come together in God’s promise of eternity. The opening verse says it this way:
O God our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home.
As for the season of the virus, it too will pass. For now, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves: How will we remember these days? What will we take from this time? For we live in the Kingdom of God that is here and now but is also the future reality for all of us.
We live now but we also live as inhabits of the grand eternity that God promises. We live in the great good news that God inhabits all the seasons of our lives, and will do so forever.
Praise be to God. Amen.
Pollen and snow. Photo taken in Blythewood S.C., Sunday March 12, 2017