Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they continue to flow.
All things are wearisome;
more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been,
in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
by those who come after them.
I think I’m tired of hearing the word “unprecedented” on newscasts and opinion editorials. It’s like we think that this is something we’ve never had to deal with before now. I understand. We all want to be special. We all want to be known as the generation that dealt with something this horrible and frightening. It IS horrible. It IS frightening. What is probably the MOST frightening is that there are many who are NOT frightened. I actually think my children are more frightened by this than I am. But my daughter-in-law works in public health circles. She KNOWS what this is far more than I do.
But then we read the Bible. Wow. What a radical thing to do! There, in Ecclesiastes (perhaps my favorite book in the Bible) are these words: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Hey! Just a minute! We are in unprecedented times!
But are we? Unemployment now matches or surpasses that of the Great Depression. Fear? Duke University closed its famous chapel in the hours after 9/11 because they were afraid it would be targeted by terrorists. (I am rolling my eyes…) During World War II, homes had black-out curtains so lights could be on at night in case some kind of enemy plane would look for a place to drop a bomb. All the same, the time of Ecclesiastes did not have weapons of mass destruction, the internal combustion engine, the internet, 24-hour news, or the game of golf. How could it possibly think there is nothing new under the sun?
What is not new is human reaction. What is not new is poor leadership contending with good leadership. What is not new is how we’re trying to grasp what is true and balance it with what is necessary. What is not new is that humanity goes both ways in this and any time of trouble. There are those who rise to serve and help and save and give of themselves to make things better. There are those who are selfish and use this to divide and destroy. There is human patience and human recklessness. There is human love and human evil. Nothing is new under the sun.
We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who are being required in the very essence of our faith to be the ones who serve, who save, who give, who unite, who love, and who are patient. We are the ones, in the very essence of our faith, who are called to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. We are the ones, in the very essence of our faith, who are required to be wise, caring, and understanding. These are not options or suggestions. When our successors look back on this time, they will see that the churches that practiced restraint, that insisted on peace, that refused to be reckless were the ones who most faithfully guided humanity through this time. Of course, that won’t be anything new, either!
O Love, that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
Eternal God, help us to live into our faith, into the calling of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser