Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
This Week at Plymouth, January 5, 2024
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven . . . I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor anything taken from it; God has done this so that all should stand in awe . . .”
—Ecclesiastes 3:1, 14
I gave up the practice of making New Year’s resolutions long ago. Resolutions have not been helpful to me in keeping up with something I wanted or sought to accomplish. More often, I discovered that what I had resolved to do was so rigidly drawn that I could not quickly shift or reset in response to some new challenge or opportunity. And yet, I am always drawn to the start of the new year as an opportunity for beginning anew. In whatever season of our lives we happen to be, the new year appears to be a natural, annual inflection point in the flow of life. Despite the failure and disappointment we may have experienced in the year just ended, the new year feels like an invitation to start over, try again, and move forward. There is the promise of possibilities spread out before us.
The wisdom literature in the Bible can help us think differently about the start of the new year as an inflection point in time. In “the words of the Teacher,” Qoholet of the book Ecclesiastes, humanity can find wisdom and joy amid toil and disappointment by remembering God’s generosity and faithfulness. In the familiar catalog of times (“a time to love, a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace,” etc.), which many know first from the famous 1965 song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds, Qohelet illustrates the positive and negative possibilities found in the mysterious, unpredictable flow of time and fortune that humanity faces. Yet, the teacher remains confident that “it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil” (Eccl 3:13). God’s promises of love, light, and liberation hold, whether we are mourning or dancing, weeping or laughing. With God, the time is always now.
In the Byrds’ song, songwriter Pete Seeger adds a line not found in the original biblical text: “I swear it’s not too late.” This sentiment offers a hopeful resolution to the uncertainty expressed by the wisdom teacher about humanity’s ability to understand God’s plans. It serves as a reminder that no matter what time it is, it’s never too late to seize the opportunities God provides to love, serve, and do justice. No matter where we are, it’s never too late to change, start anew, or seek forgiveness. Even in times of fear, uncertainty, or doubt about the future, we can take comfort in God’s enduring love and presence and the possibilities God makes available to us. Amen.