Saturday, August 6, 2022

DAY 10

Image by Grayeme

I will bless the Lord at all times; praise shall continually be in my mouth.
(Psalm 34:1)

What do people gain from the efforts they make? I contemplate the task that God gives humanity to labor at. All that God does is apt for its time; but although God has given us an awareness of the passage of time, we can grasp neither the beginning nor the end of what God does. I know there is no happiness for a human being except in pleasure and enjoyment through life. And when we eat and drink and find happiness in all our achievements, this is a gift from God. I know that whatever God does will be forever. To this there is nothing to add, from this there is nothing to subtract, and the way God acts inspires awe. What is, has been already, what will be, is already;
God seeks out anyone who is persecuted.
(Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 NJB)


Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
(Psalm 30:5b)

Thoughts occur that this night might
Stay yesterday;
Thoughts that we as humans small,
Could slow worlds and end it all,
Lie around me where they fall,
Before the new day.
One more day when time is running out
For everyone.
Like a breath I knew would come
I reach for the new day.
- from the lyrics to "You are the new day", by John David, sung above in today's music.

In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all night long with a fiery light.
(Psalm 78:14)

"La Soupe" by Picasso (1903)
Today’s reading comes directly after yesterday’s list of elements, both positive and negative, that make up the bulk of our lived experience ("a time to weep and a time to laugh", for example). The writer wants us to understand that even though these opposites might suggest that the cycles of life do not lead us anywhere; that they are merely the loop we find ourselves in, God is present in every part of them, and especially in the ways that what we do serves God. Ecclesiastes suggests that everything we do has the capacity to express the joy God desires for us, even when we are simply gathered together for a meal. When we see our whole lives as part of service to God, we are more likely to experience a deeper contentment.

The immutability of time is one of the most important themes of Ecclesiastes. The past, present and future are embedded in every moment of our lives, and in the view of the book’s writer, there is not much we can do to control that flow. The writer is not recommending passivity, however. It is still our job to build up the realm of God however we can. “God seeks out whoever is persecuted.” The strong encouragement is that so should we.

In today’s painting by Picasso, made during his “blue period”, a woman is figured with a little girl, a bowl of soup passing between them. The composition was discovered in recent years to have gone through many versions, including differing postures for the figures as well as other colour palettes. While any of the other versions might still have offered a beautiful painting, Picasso knew that something had not yet been achieved that he was trying to express. In our own lives, our repeated striving to serve God in the world may sometimes seem frustrating or futile, but in all aspects of our hard work, God knows the true value and importance of our labour. As the song lyric suggests, even when we lie awake at night, fraught with the weight of all that worries or challenges us, God is stirring in us our own capacity to make change. Ecclesiastes is asking us to see that almost anything can be reframed, not in a superficial way of ‘silver linings’, but by seeking out the grace embedded in every moment. In the painting, who is receiving the bowl of soup and who is giving it? Both are possible.

When we are working with God to bring life to others, or to Creation and its creatures, grace meets us there. Where is the grace in your life right now, even amid all that challenges you? How does God encourage you to keep going?

Image by Grayeme

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