22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

A Time for war and a time for peace

30 April, 2017 Ecclesiastes 3 Anzac commemoration By Rev Dr Christopher Page

 

Introduction
The Book of Ecclesiastes was written by an unknown Jewish teacher/preacher/philosopher anywhere between four hundred and two hundred years before the birth of Jesus.  It is an intriguing mixture of poetry, wisdom, pessimism, cynicism and a very good dose of realism.  Here is an example:

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.

What do people gain from all their labours at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say.

Oh dear, it may be good poetry, but not the most upbeat view of the world.  I don’t think you would hear these words at a seminar on the power of positive thinking.  Nevertheless, the words are true and at its best it does remind us of both the ambiguities and the great cycle of life and nature.

 

Some words from the preacher
Before I get to Chapter 3 and the words Barbara read earlier, let me quote a few other passages from this unknown writer. After a lengthy tirade about the meaningless of seeking wisdom and knowledge, come at least some positive words:

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

But soon he is back to his favourite theme:

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?

To the person who pleases God, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to those who miss the mark, God gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth so as to hand it over to someone else. Chasing wealth is just a chasing after the wind.

 

That’s a bit more interesting.  We begin to see that the preacher is an observer of life and human nature.  Get as much wealth as you can and one day it will belong to someone else.  It reminds me of the man who wrote in the first line of his last will and testament: Being of sound mind, I spent it all! 

And there is a deep truth in these words that are heretical to the modern 21st century consumerist.  The unquestionable mantra today is that the more money I have the happier I will be.  But you know, I suspect we don’t really believe it.  Because like the author of Ecclesiastes we only have to look around and see that it is a lie! A couple of years ago Bill Spencer in the Australian Daily Mail wrote:

The secret of happiness may be to not expect too much from life. For if you start off with low expectations you could end up pleasantly surprised, according to a scientific study into human happiness.

British scientists found that day-to-day wellbeing does not reflect how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected.

Now don’t get me wrong. First, we all have expectations but they can’t be unrealistic and secondly, there is nothing romantic about enforced poverty. To be poor is often to have all expectations taken from you.

Another few words from this book:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Is the writer beginning to say that friends and relationships have more value than wealth and even our work and toil?  This could parallel the gospel reading: Greater love has no one than this, that they would lay down their life for their friend.

 

Cynic, Pessimist or Realist?
The words of chapter three of this book have echoed down through history with power and poignancy. Is the writer a cynic: things will never change!  Or a pessimist: this is as bad as it can get! Or a realist, someone who observes the way the world is? The words of chapter three are so commanding that I am tempted to just read them all again.

But I will look at just one line: There is a time for war and a time for peace. I suggest that the author is holding a mirror up to all of us.  He is asking us to open our eyes and look at the world order that we have created.   While nature can be red in tooth and claw - and pain and suffering are woven into the fabric of this world; we created war! We created the tribalism and nationalism that pits human beings against each other.  We make and now defend and attack what we chose to call the sovereign state.

Is there really a time for war now in the 21st Century? Well, perhaps it had some place in the evolution of humankind.  Maybe when we shot arrows and threw stones at each other…? But today when we can see the brutality war visits on all those around the world, just by watching our evening news? Or when we now have the capacity to destroy every living thing on this beautiful planet? Well, perhaps we should put more energy into a time for peace. So if we did create war, why with God’s help can’t we create peace?

It was Abraham Lincoln who, while reuniting the North with the South after the American civil war, said the famous words:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

 

Making Peace
The preacher gives no easy answers to the question, “How then do we make peace, how can we create a time of peace?”  The closest he comes to this is in chapter 9, where he writes:

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than the weapons of war, but it only takes one fool to destroy much good.

Perhaps we need to look to another prophet to lead us toward our goal of peace.  The goal that all the wars of every century have hoped for, from the prophet Isaiah:

God will discern between the nations and will settle their disputes. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isaiah 2:4

So while making peace in our world is in our hands, it must be formed and shaped by our openness to the Spirit of God.  It was Hans Küng the Catholic theologian who said in 2005 that “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions.”  That’s the job we have to do – that’s our job! To bring peace to our neighbours – to bring peace to our friends and to even bring peace to strangers we may call our enemies.

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