9.30.2008

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 20: 1 – 4, 7 – 9, 12 – 20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3: 4b – 14
Matthew 21: 33 – 46


It feels a little bit like we need to remember that all of the lectionary passages in this season of the year aren’t intended to be read together. At the beginning of Ordinary Time, we made a choice to follow the “historic” selection of Hebrew texts, those that would tell the story of the creation, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes of Israel, Moses and the Exodus. And yet, we do find that the reading do somehow “hang together.” This was sort of one of those weeks - “sort of”...

There is no doubt that as you study the Bible, you will see God at work in the world through amazing actions and through the voice of others. Certainly, the greatest of these actions in the Christian tradition is God's unbelievable act of love, incarnation and resurrection. But part of the reason that the biblical narrative is chocked full of these stories is because time and time again, humanity missed the point. The fall, the flood, the wilderness...right up and through a key piece of our lectionary this week, Jesus' parables about the Kingdom of God. Do we "get it" now?

It is difficult to write to any audience with relevance this week and skip talking about the tense environment in which we currently reside. By all accounts, we are in a financial tailspin that will affect the entire global economy. And to some extent, that tailspin is a product of a growing concern for our individual well-being at the expense of others well-being. (Ouch, that hurts, doesn't it?) Several weeks ago on the heels of the early news about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann preached a sermon at Mars Hill, an emergent congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he drew parallels between the economic disaster we are facing and the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. And much has transpired since then. It really does call the question, what happens when we fail to be obedient and true?

The Hebrew scripture reading continues the Wilderness adventures of the Israelites. Moses is on Mount Sinai, and God is giving him the commandments. The people waiting below quake with fear and trembling because God's presence is visible to them in smoke and thunder on the mountainside. It is interesting to note that this is a "scissors and paste" version of the commandments as selected. Read the entire text and note what is missing from the lectionary..."You shall not bow down and worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments." Whew, harsh injunctions...and worth asking why it was cut from the selection. What do we do with that? This is a list of rules, and one would assume that breaking them comes with consequence. If you look at this text and set it in the context of the past three weeks and the next week's texts, it becomes even more overwhelming...one of the first things they Israelites do next is create an idol for worship!

Psalm 19 is another praise Psalm, this one with an intercession as well. The psalmist affirms the Law and its place in the world, but also acknowledges how hard it is to do right and asks for help in staying true.

We continue our reading in Philippians, a letter written by Paul from prison. Remember that Paul is writing to early Christian communities prior to the writing of the gospel texts. He was a Jewish leader - a Pharisee converted in a famous conversion encounter. He has shed the fetters of strict observance of Law that were not truly based in concern for the other to follow the new Law, or the restated Law, in Jesus Christ. Through Christ's resurrection, the Law has been reframed, and the greatest commandment is an interpretation of the base intention of the law as it was delivered to Moses - to love one another. Paul looking back at where he has been and knows that there are miles to go before he is finished...and he has confidence that he will end in the right place.

The passage from Matthew is the second of a series of three parables that attack the religious leadership in Jerusalem. At the time, Jesus has entered Jerusalem to the cheers of many, has driven merchants and money changers out of the temple, has had his authority questioned by the Pharisees and is aggressively responding with sharp criticism not of all of Israel, but of the leadership that has misinterpreted the law for their own gain and built a "castle in the air" of power and privilege at the expense of many. This particular parable points to the rejection of the prophets who have warned of misdirection in centuries past. He quotes Psalm 118, referring to himself as the cornerstone that is being rejected. And he condemns the leaders, reminding them that they will be broken to pieces. Harsh words, harsh judgment. They've missed the clues time and again, sought their own gain and this is the price they will pay. It is easy to understand their desire to kill him--they had control of religious life in Jerusalem (which was the center of the universe in Judaism), and this was a young man who was threatening their power by publicly calling their commitment and their leadership in to question.

This is a difficult week in the lectionary, juxtaposed against the pain that we find ourselves in right now. We are a nation divided politically and financially. And we wonder, have we forgotten to love one another along the way? Is it too late?

God is faithful. He turns back to his covenant people again and again.

What is our role in this relationship?
What do we need to do to respond faithfully?
How do we deal with authority and commandments in a time of chaos?

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No, we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

“We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel, 1989

9.23.2008

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 17: 1 – 17
Psalm 78: 1 – 4; 12 – 16
Philippians 2: 1 – 13
Matthew 21: 23 – 32


[Disclaimer: Normally, Matt and I strive to be “one voice,” as we write these lectionary reflections, carefully referring to “our” thinking and what “we” have pondered. This week, I (Laura) need to deviate a bit from that style…it’s part of the framework! WE still share this work!]

Life is a little crazy for us these days. Collectively in our household this fall, four returned to work as one took a new job. Oh, and Matt was preparing for a trip to Israel in the midst of it all. In a good week prior to September 1, we Try to think and talk about the lectionary reflections for a solid 5 days before we start writing, and we strive to post by Tuesday night...

That was Before September (commonly referred to as B.S.). Lately, the lectionary reflection has been a bit more of a Discipline. I have class on Monday afternoons and Tuesday nights. And generally speaking, I have 250-300 pages of reading to do weekly. And that mostly happens on the weekends. So interpreting the lectionary passages on top of all that, plus our jobs, has put us on sort of “RUSH” mode. Oh, and did we mention that Matt’s cutting his teeth on his New Job?

And yesterday, Matt left for 12 days in Israel. And we sort of had time to talk about the lectionary. Sort of. A little bit.

And packing is hard. And travel stress is hard. And this weekend it seemed the kids were all over the map. And the laundry needed done. And the dog needed fed. Oh, yeah…so did the kids. And the grass was tall. And on and on and On.

So Monday, I opened the email that Matt sent moments before he left for the airport that afternoon, sharing some words for our Lectionary Reflection. And they are Good Words – words to be shared later. But Monday night is a blur of getting home from class, gathering the kids from their respective schools, putting some semblance of a meal on the table, hastily blessing it and devouring it, then racing Brook 22 miles across the county to Scouts. Then home to oversee baths and bedtime for the girls, decompress over dishes and laundry, debrief with Brook upon his return, and collapse into a sleeping heap.

And then Tuesday comes. And the day is piled up with a backlog of work, followed again by gathering everyone up from school, throwing something like dinner before them and then racing off to class, where I field emails and texts about their Wellbeing.

Tonight, as I was gathering with classmates I posted this to my Facebook status:
“Laura is murmuring about the lectionary blog. Maybe if I hit my laptop with a staff, words will come out…”

And So it Goes.

This week in the Hebrew scriptures, we see our friends the Israelites continuing to wander around the wilderness following the direction of Yahweh through Moses. A quick recap....they were slaves, became unhappy, God provided their release; they became hungry in the wilderness, they complained against God and Moses, God provided food for them; and now we see that they have come to a place where they are desperate for water. It is interesting to note the language in this (and the last few chapters also) passage. They complain specifically about why things have been done to them...it is all in the passive voice...the way they speak it is as if they had no choice in the matter....I wonder if this was actually true. They had been brought this far and they were still complaining against Moses and God because they feel they have been snookered in to being out in the wilderness without any food or water. Moses, like many leaders, takes these criticisms to heart. He is personally hurt. He cares for these folks and they are complaining and he feels responsible. And it appears Yahweh has basically the same response when Moses takes the new complaint to him. An interesting question (we will not know the answer to on this side of the Veil) is how does God respond when folks complain and threaten God because they believe they (the humans) know more than God does. Hmmmm.....

The Psalm this week is once again one of Thanksgiving, recounting how God met the Israelites need for water in the desert. What more does one need? Water, cool and fresh, in a dry time. The Psalm doesn’t, however, say anything about the people Complaining. In fact, the Psalmist declares that “we” will tell of the “glorious deeds.” Hmm. Yes, glorious at what point? When did “we” decide the deeds were “glorious.” In the wilderness, everyone seemed pretty set on Grumbling.

Paul’s letter to the community at Philippi is written from prison, and it is a letter that addresses concerns and conflicts that the church was experiencing in the broader community (persecution, false prophets, differing interpretations of teaching, etc., etc.) and inside the church community (some falling out between leaders). The chosen text calls the community back to Christ’s example of humility. Jesus, in the face of persecution, humbles himself on a cross in death. The end of the chosen text is interesting – “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you…” Ah, is that the Discomfort they are feeling? The Unsettled space they find themselves in? God at work within them?

Finally, and perhaps most Perplexingly, Jesus is in the Temple, teaching. He’s been approached by elders and priests who are questioning his authority to do this. These priests and elders are Murmuring, and Jesus reminds them that it is their actions and not their Words that will make a difference. And he responds with a parable – as he so often does – a story that Does Not Sink In Right Away. Go ahead. Read it again and again and again. Kind of frustrating? This is not just a simple story. It has to work on you a bit. And even after it has, you will probably continue to find meaning or perhaps confusion in it each time you visit.

Throughout the wilderness story, the word “murmur” is used to describe this perpetual complaining. Murmur. It just sounds unsettled, doesn’t it? In Paul’s letter to Phillipi, the first verse past this weeks selections advises “do all things without murmuring and arguing…”

But are we capable of that?
And when we do, do we Grow or Change or Experience God?
Where are you murmuring in life right now?
How do you sense God’s grace present in response to your murmuring?


You can look to the stars in search of the answers
Look for God and life on distant planets
Have your faith in the ever after
While each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth
And heaven's here on earth

We are the spirit the collective conscience
We create the pain and the suffering and the beauty in this world
Heaven's here on earth

In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

Heaven’s in our heart

Heaven’s Here On Earth, Tracy Chapman

9.17.2008

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 16: 2 – 15
Psalm 105: 1 – 6; 37 – 45
Philippians 1: 21 – 30
Matthew 20: 1 – 16

I can't get no satisfaction...

When we join up with the Israelites this week, they are grouchy, hungry, scared and just convinced that they have been led astray. They are nagging Moses and Aaron. They even suggest that maybe it would have been better to stay in Egypt. At least there they had food, even as they sat in the shadow and under the whip of Pharaoh. Yahweh tells Moses that he'll handle it. It seems Yahweh intends to test them...to see if they will follow directions. Moses and Aaron remind the Israelites that their complaining is not against them...it is against the Lord. Just as their safe passage to this point is not because of Moses and Aaron, but instead, because of the Lord. To make a point, Yahweh even appears (the glory of the Lord) in a cloud. Aaron delivers Yahweh's direction, and in the evening, quail cover the camp, and in the morning, manna covers the ground. If you read on through the chapter, you'll find that the Israelites are given very specific instructions, and that no matter how much or how little they collect, each has enough. It's amazing really – in spite of their muttering and grumbling, Yahweh gives them what they need.

The selections from the Psalm offers thanksgiving for Yahweh's provision for the children of Abraham and Jacob. It celebrations the amazing course of events that have shaped the lives of the Israelites. Remember that it is believed that the Psalms were gathered and recorded during the Jewish diaspora that followed the fall of the Temple. In retrospect, in an effort to "rally the troops" who were scattered by persecution, this hymn of thanksgiving gathers together the high and low points of history and sculpts them into an epic tale with God as the hero.

Paul's letter to the church at Phillipi was written from prison. He seems to be balancing the hardship of being persecuted with the joy of knowing that people are learning and sharing and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. It seems as though he knows that an option for him is death, and in that option he would find comfort; but he also knows that his time on earth is for the good of the growing church. His hardships are resulting in change – in new communities and new believers. He encourages this community to live "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" and to be strong in the face of opposition. At the end of all of that there will be reward. Somehow gain comes only with struggle.

Jesus' teaching through parables continues in Matthew. Jesus tells another parable about the kingdom of heaven, comparing it to the landowner who sets out to hire vineyard workers at several times during the day. At the end of the day, regardless of the length of time each worked, they all receive the same reward. This creates a little stir among the workers, who fail to see the justice in that (and who seem to expect to change something with their grumbling). Instead, the landowner affirms his right to choose what he will do with his money, and he chooses to be generous with those who have worked less. "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Do these stories stir your sense of justice in any way? It seems that we have a pretty keen sense of what is right or wrong when it pertains to us. But is our judgment solid? God was responsive to whiny, sulky Israelites in the wilderness. Was it because they were whiny, or because they had needs? (Hmm. We are so reminded of parenthood here...the hungry toddler who is beyond reasoning...a handful of cheerios and a glass of milk works far better than a time out at that point.) Paul seems caught up in a related but different question. He knows that his life is unpleasant on earth doing the hard work of teaching and preaching and healing. He's knocked around and threatened and imprisoned. And he knows deep in his soul that in death he will find great peace in Christ. But he can't just walk away from his work among the people. He can't give into his own "murmuring." In the parable of the landowner and the vineyard workers, the workers have a deep sense that those who work harder deserve more. And the landowner, giving out of his abundance, chooses to treat each worker equally.

It seems to come back to perspective again.

Can one person's complaining be another's heartfelt prayer?
Does God "test" us to see if we are honest and true?
Is my feeling of being treated unfairly necessarily mean I have been treated unfairly? Conversely, does justice / equality for all necessarily mean justice and equality for each individual?
What is each of our responsibility to respond when we feel we have been wronged by another or by God? Complain? Listen? Accept? Something else???

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted
there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer.
let it be.

Let It Be, Paul McCartney

9.09.2008

The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

During worship at KC the last few weeks we have been thinking together about what it means to be a community and how we are able to build better communities that are centered around Christ. One of the qualities of community that has been mentioned a couple of times but has not been directly discussed recently is the concept of Forgiveness.

We don't know about you, but this is not an easy topic for us. The more we think about it the more we recognize how much emotion and life and reality is tied up in the actions of Forgiving and Being Forgiven. To Forgive someone, you have to have been wronged in some way....someone has to have wronged you. To Be Forgiven you have to have wronged someone somehow. None of those are pleasant options. Then there is the added stickiness of perspective. I might feel you have wronged me, but you do not...and I expect you to ask for Forgiveness. Or you might feel you have wronged me, but I don't see it that way and you feel the need to be Forgiven, but I do not. The perspective and judgment of at least two individuals are necessary for Forgiveness to be expected or offered. Emotional and Complicated this Forgiveness is.

While Forgiveness may be a component of how we are best able to function as a community, the reality is that our ability to forgive and be forgiven seems to be a deeply Personal, Unknowable thing. We are even a little Uncomfortable when we think about talking intimately about Forgiveness in the community that so desperately needs us to be Forgiven and Forgiving.

In this week's readings we find Jesus and Peter speaking openly about Forgiveness. Peter wants to know how many times he should Forgive someone, and Jesus answers with a story about how the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. Jesus tells this parable of a man who was Forgiven a HUGE debt and then later this same man would not Forgive another person a much smaller debt. The parable ends with the king torturing this fellow until he paid his entire HUGE debt. Now there is certainly a lot to say about class and wealth and power within this example of how and why and when one should forgive, but let's just think for a moment about what we learn it takes to forgive from this parable. In many ways, the initial huge debt is like the grace are granted Daily (ney, hourly) by God, evidenced by the sacrifice of Jesus at the Crucifixion. Certainly in our petty moments, we fail to forgive those around us, forgetting that we are not perfect and therefore in need of forgiveness ourselves. There is some of Jesus' "twinkling eye" story-telling here. How Ironic that in the name of Forgiveness, anyone would be Tortured? It raised a question, too - is torture literal? Or could we be self-tortured when we fail to forgive authentically? Is it critical to our ability to forgive to remember that we are forgiven? Or that we are debtors as well? Or both?

Paul speaks about Forgiveness from a different angle. He asks how and why we form opinions of one another and pass judgment on one another in the first place. He appears to be speaking to some of the more pious....at least "observant" followers of Christ in this community. Remember, Paul was writing as a quite recently VERY observant, VERY committed follower of the Torah.....knowing the law and passing judgments and knowing when someone could / should be reconciled or Forgiven...that was all his business.

The Psalmist rights a hymn of praise that reflects upon a God who pushed back the Sea of Reeds and the mighty Jordan River to let the Israelites pass after the Hebrews left the wilderness to enter the promise land. Those two events framed the time spent wandering and murmuring. While in the wilderness, Yahweh time and time again showed patience and Forgiveness for the people of Israel.

And then there is the story we find in Exodus. We left this one until the end because it fits with some of the same "difficult passages" we mentioned last week. It is the story of the Israelites running from the Egyptians and Moses ( +Yahweh of course) holding back the waters of the Sea of Reeds long enough for the Israelites to pass through, but not long enough for the Egyptians. It is hard to think about where Forgiveness fits in to this story. We have spent some time wondering if there was any possibility for Forgiveness in this story. Was there any other way this could have worked out? Is this what the Egyptians "deserve" because they would not let the children of Israel go (and likely ruin their economy)? Could the children of Israel have interceded between Yahweh and the Egyptians and forgiven the Egyptians and somehow made it okay for them to stay enslaved in Egypt? Did it have to work out where untold hundreds of Egyptian soldiers were drowned?

And thinking about something like the idea of Forgiveness and Egyptians and the Israelites brings our minds to the 7th anniversary of the events of We do not dare attempt to draw any direct parallels between the biblical scene (Egypt, Israel, and Yahweh) and the players in our scene (the US, Taliban terrorists, and the Gods of Fundamentalism and Freedom), but one could certainly find some common themes in these two situations we think. But our question for this discussion is whether or not we as victims (at least we often see ourselves as victims here) have the ability or responsibility to Forgive the people and systems that wronged us. Is there any way that the people and systems that we feel wronged us could have looked at us in a different way and offered us Forgiveness? In a situation like this (or like between Israel and Egypt) where the two sides are so desperately opposed, what does Forgiveness look like?

Forgiveness is a tough topic. It is fairly easy to grasp as a theoretical concept, but it is often quite difficult to implement.

  • Does real forgiveness require real sacrifice?
  • Do we love ourselves as forgiven people so that we can love and forgive others? What is difficult about that for you? How could your community help you in that endeavor?
  • How do you / we reconcile the Exodus story with the passages from Romans and Matthew? Should we try to hold these together? Is it possible? Is it necessary?

"Without Forgiveness, there is no future." -Archbishop Desmond Tutu

9.03.2008

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

We don't know about you, but the circles we tend to hang out in are not folks that are really comfortable with the hard line Christians that want to follow all the rules in scripture as they are written. And we also do not often hang out with folks that credit God with killing our enemies and such. We tend to spend time with folks that talk a lot about reading these instances of scripture through the lens of culture and context. Certainly we are not attempting to explain away all rules or all of the ugly parts of scripture, but we are attempting (we think) to be faithful to the time, place, culture, and context in which the people lived that wrote the stories / laws / poetry / history / etc that we hold so dear.

And no matter how much we might want to ignore or explain away difficult moments in the scriptural story or the hard to follow rules and guidelines, that does not stop them from being there. We still need to look at them and struggle with them and find out what it is they say to us and how they move and motivate our lives. This week's lectionary readings are full of these "uncomfortable" pieces of scripture.

We start with the story of the first Passover. Today we (especially we Christians that celebrate this day) have adapted it and made it in to a fairly distant remembrance. The initiating event was actually the 10th plague visited on the Egyptians in an attempt to get the Israelites released from the land of Egypt. After polluted rivers, frogs, mosquitoes, flies, dying cattle, festering boils, damaging hail, locusts, and dense darkness, the Egyptians still needed some "persuading" and so God (Yahweh) said that the first born of every family (that was not on the side of the Israelites) would be killed. In the section we read for this week, we find some fairly explicit directions for what Moses and his people were to do to avoid being effected by this plague. There is so much detail and importance here they are almost like directions for building a bomb. These are directions / rules / guidelines these folks followed to the letter. And this was necessary so God would not kill the first born in each of their families. Again, it was not simply by virtue of these folks being children of Israel that they were spared the damage of this final plague, it was dependant on them following the guidelines and rules God set out for them.

Next we find the Psalm of praise (149) that begins with some of the normal praising of God and reveling in the relationship of God to the people and the protection by God of the people. Then there is a dramatic turn in verse 6. "Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, to execute on them the judgement decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones." Do you know anyone who sings this type of song in their Sunday morning worship today? What did this mean to those who first sang these songs? One of the purposes of the written Psalms was to create unifying worship for Jews scattered after the Babylonian exile. These words may have been a great comfort to people beleaguered and oppressed and scattered through the lands given their recent history and experience.

Then in Paul's letter to the church in Rome, we find more and more instruction that may or may not be comfortable for any of us to follow. In the first part of chapter 13 Paul explains what each follower's responsibility is to the State or Civil authorities. This is certainly something for us as followers of Christ to grapple with as we head toward election season this November. But that is not this week's reading. This week he focuses on how each of us can completely fulfill all of the law by following the command to "Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." This is another specific injunction that we find in the scripture and it seems to be a message that runs counter to the one we find in Exodus. How do we reconcile a situation like this? Is it our responsibility to love our neighbor and God will punish or exile or kill those God finds deserving?

One might think that is true, but we see in the Matthew passage that we (at least it was true for the disciples....does that mean it is true for us?) are to tell someone when they have done wrong and confront them and "bind" or "loose" (also translated as "forbid" and "permit") certain things here on this earth. This passage is in a series of sayings on humility and forgiveness that Jesus was offering to the disciples. Right after this particular passage about binding and loosing we find Peter asking Jesus how often we should forgive someone. There is a difference between forbidding something (creating a "law") and then forgiving a transgression once the law has been broken and based on this passage, both are recommended by Jesus to the disciples.

We got just a little haunted as we read these passages. In each instance, why were the rules written down, and by whom? If the Bible is the inerrant word of God (and we are not arguing for or against this), why were there so many variations in the rules? It is possible that each of these writings was really one person's (perhaps inspired) description of the history that brought them to the point at which they began recording. It was possibly their way of interpreting what had happened or what was happening around them, certainly with an eye toward survival or growth or justification. But that doesn't mean that we get to throw them out as "a point in time." We have to grapple with what they mean to us today and how we live within our own set of "rules" or guidelines for behavior and survival and growth and success. As followers of Christ that sometimes refer to ourselves as "people of the Book", how do we orient ourselves to these laws?

As humans, we need boundaries and we want to see lots of black and white. But surely God isn't that limited? And yet, we can't be a ruleless society. We can't succumb to the idea of relativism or lack of truth, can we? But if we were to follow all the laws found in scripture most of us would have been stoned to death by now. It brings us to a tough spot about our humanness and God's divinity that is difficult to grasp. And yet, we can pray for guidance and inspiration and truth. And then be available to discern God's direction for the next step in our lives and live into that.

+Where do rules come from in our current context?
+What rules are timeless? Why? How are they communicated in our community? in our families?

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.
For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.
I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered.
What now is has already been; what is to be, already is; and God restores what would otherwise be displaced.
And still under the sun in the judgment place I saw wickedness, and in the seat of justice, iniquity.
And I said to myself, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since there is a time for every affair and on every work a judgment.
I said to myself: As for the children of men, it is God's way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts.
For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity.
Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.
Who knows if the life-breath of the children of men goes upward and the life-breath of beasts goes earthward?
And I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot. Who will let him see what is to come after him?


-Ecclesiastes 3