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What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
He was baptized Felice Leonardo Buscaglia, but many knew him as Leo Buscaglia, or Dr. Hug. While teaching at the University of Southern California the suicide of one of his prize students led him to more deeply seek the meaning of life and how best to live. The fruits of this quest made Buscaglia a much sought after lecturer and one of Public Broadcasting’s most popular speakers. Strangers would see Dr. Hug on the street and run up to him for a welcoming embrace.
One of Buscaglia’s favorite stories was about his immigrant mother, lovingly called “Mama” by everyone. Buscaglia would tearfully recall how his father came home early from work one day and announced that his partner had embezzled funds. It meant that the Buscaglia family had lost all of its money!
Upon hearing the devastating news Mama did something very strange. She went out that afternoon and sold one of her most expensive pieces of jewelry to get the money to buy all of the ingredients for an extravagant feast. When she returned home laden with all of the delicious goodies, her family scolded her for such a wasteful expenditure. But Mama explained: “The time for joy is now when we need it and not next week!” Buscaglia told how Mama’s action rallied everyone’s spirits for difficult days ahead. Yes! The time for joy is now!
That is what I see wise Solomon saying in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. There is not another book in the Bible like Ecclesiastes to take on the enigmas and riddles of human existence. Solomon looks squarely at the problems of our years lived under the sun. But a sober and clear-eyed Solomon comes to the Spirit-inspired conclusion that now is the time for joy. I think you might be encouraged by spending some time reflecting on what Solomon says about the time for joy and rejoicing is now: see 2:24-26; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-8.
In today’s scripture Solomon wonders about life’s many ups and downs, all the trials and tribulations, asking, “What do workers gain from their toil?” With the word “gain” Solomon uses a word straight out of the world of ancient business and finance. He is asking about the bottom line of life, “What does all of our effort mean?” “What does it all get us?” “Do we come out of life ahead or behind?”
Solomon doesn’t try to unscrew the inscrutable, but comes to the bottom line conclusion that “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” One day we will see the big picture and see the wonder of each moment! So, in the meantime Solomon urges that now is the time for joy: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil.” Then Solomon happily adds, “…this is the gift of God.”
Centuries later the apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome, chained to a Roman soldier awaiting his possible execution. He knows well that the time for joy is now when he needs it. He never tires of rejoicing in the Lord or telling Christians everywhere to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
I don’t need to sell our most expensive jewelry to celebrate, nor even spend any money! I can forgo life’s slings and arrows, the bad news on the television, the coarseness of our culture, and still celebrate the Lord and His goodness now. That is, Solomon says, God’s gift to us today! Enjoy!
Grace and peace,
P. S. Our Advent devotional for 2018, We Have Seen His Glory! is now available on Kindle!
You will bring water from rock for the community.
We take our name from the Bible’s story of the archetypal Exodus journey during which the people of God came to a place in the desert wilderness where there was no water. Yet, it was there in a hostile wilderness that they experienced God’s provision of water for them and leadership into a new future. We trust in a God who still provides, renews and leads His people.
Rooted in the Word
We are a ministry of Christian renewal rooted in the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as He reveals Himself through His Written Word, the Bible. Through the Written Word we encounter the Living Word in the incomprehensible wonder of His love. We are mindful that knowledge, even of the Bible, “puffs up” while love “builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). We engage the Scriptures seeking to love more and know more of love. We purpose to search out God’s Word with both our minds and our hearts.
Ecumenical in Outlook
We honor all followers of Christ who have gone before us, and all who are among us now. We have much to learn and receive from all who have a lived experience of God’s transforming love. By reaching out to embrace the universal Body of Christ we strive to balance orthodoxy (right belief) and right living (orthopraxy).
In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
(Rupertus Meldenius, 1582 – 1651)
Experiencing the Living God
We thirst to know God and not just to know about Him. We long for a living experience of God. We believe that God breaks into our world on the holy ground of His Word, and seek through His Spirit a living encounter with Him there. We daily aim to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30).
The arms of God be around my shoulders,
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbor in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being. Amen.
—Fursey of Yarmouth, 6th century Irish monk