For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
11God has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, God has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Happy New Year! We’ve safely crossed over into a new year full of possibility and promise. Hang on to your eyebrows ‘cause it’s gonna
be a blast! Several things come to mind, but one that always surfaces at this time for me is ballroom dancing. Yep! Go figure! It always happens without fail. No, I don’t know how to ballroom dance, do any dance for that matter. Contrary to popular opinion, all black people don’t have rhythm. I’ve always wanted to learn ballroom dancing, but, so far I’ve been only able to enjoy it from the sidelines. Maybe one day.
Even though I don’t do ballroom dancing, I do know its cardinal rule: don’t bump into anyone, ever. If you do, you will earn a penalty. Don’t bump into anybody, ‘eh? That’s hard to do with at least upwards of ten couples sharing the same dance floor at the same time. You can’t help but bump, or lightly brush up against someone. The key to all of it is that you know where you and your partner’s bodies are on the dance floor at all times. You two are counting at the same time, all the time. You know every step you are going to make as well as every step that you partner will make. You are anticipating each other. Moving in the same rhythm. Some of these couples are a sight to behold, even when they bump into another couple or miss a step; get out of sync with each other.
That’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes we miss a step. The breaks rub, belts snap, and the gears get hung-up. But, when it’s going good, it’s good! Indeed! We do our happy dance when it’s sweet. And when it’s less so, we find a way to pivot and slide our way through it somehow – because that’s the only thing we can do. And we survive another day, another year. Hey, we thrive as we improvise!
Our text this morning is about improvisation. That familiar beginning: For everything there is a season. You’re probably familiar with it because of The Byrds’1965 release of “Turn, Turn, Turn.” What follows in this passage is a long list of seven contrary pairs, each with two pairs of opposites. Joy and tragedy. Rest and labor. Life and death. This chapter, indeed the entire book, is about living life as it always comes - in cycles with opposites. The good and the bad always abutting each other. It’s as inconvenient and nonsensical as it is rich and fulfilling. There’s no stopping or changing it. Absolutely none! So is discerning God, speaking to God, listening for God. Sometimes we get something, other times, not. Trouble comes when we try to make our lives and our life in God all about logic, orthodoxy, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’, and rewards. This is then when we get out of sync with God, with life, and we become stuck.
To be in sync with God is to give in to the ways in which our life is to a great extent out of our control. But, God is there, always. God is always seeing us, speaking to us, hearing us, moving with us. The second rule of ballroom dancing is applicable here: there is only one leader, and it’s not us! Listen and watch for, anticipate the leader.
To be in sync with God is to acknowledge that we are still emerging; we are always coming-into being. And, at the same time, God will be who God will be – with us, for us, for others; creating and recreating for God’s good pleasure. Our job is to keep dancing with God until some measure of clarity of God’s purposes shines through; until we come into a greater sense of our own possibility in God – ours and other’s.
To be in sync with God is to acknowledge that some “answers” to life are not be forthcoming. And, it means that every wrong will not be
righted; every good deed will not be rewarded; evilness will remain a factor. But, together – people with thoughts like and unlike our own – can struggle to find and enact new ways to confront head-on those things that eat away at human flourishing.
To be in sync with God is to keep moving in moments when the dance of life is painful and less than desirable; even when it seems that we are dancing on the margins of a situation. Plato said it well: all of life is a lesson in learning how to die well. Knowing when it’s time to surrender up some of our assumptions. Life/living is a scandal, and outrage. But, everyday we have a chance to let go of all the assumptions and conclusions that we know in our hearts are not true and sustainable, that don’t work. We learn how to live, how to do the dance of life when we let go, when we let God, when we let ourselves rest in God’s Spirit moment by moment up to the very end. Remember this, from the author of Romans 14.8:
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.
So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Our Unitarian Universalist sisters and brothers sing a song that I
feel is quite fitting for this first Sunday of this new year. It’s entitled, Let It Be a Dance. It’s not Theo- and Christo-centric, but it is true and reasonable. Neil and I will sing the first verse, and if you are willing and able, join us on the rest. Or, if you prefer, take a partner and dance.