November Pastoral Letter
I have always found the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes to be quite fascinating. Even the title of the book raises questions to the mind of any enquirer. The title means “The Teacher” or “The Preacher” or can even be interpreted to mean “The Philosopher.” Chapter three of the book is perhaps the one we are most familiar with. It contains the words, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” A successful pop song. I think from the 1960’s, by the “The Byrds” was based on its message.
Our sudden return to Greenwich Mean Time is a reminder that autumn has drawn to a close and the time for the winter season is upon us. We see these changes as simply part of a natural cycle. Someone said to me the other day that they were glad they lived in a country where there is such a marked difference and climatic diversity found within in the seasons. I agree, the winter can be both beautiful and harsh, but it is only one part of a bigger picture. spring, summer and autumn are also integral to it.
Of course, we cannot forget that for some people the seasons may bring about little change to their personal circumstances. For many people the winter period only adds to their difficulties. I think of many homeless people who will spend another winter on our streets. The endless routine of life must for them seem sometimes so empty, so lacking in significance. They find themselves on a treadmill that is almost impossible to get off. It’s not surprising that the opening words of the writer of Ecclesiastes ring true, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless.”
It would be easy to get drawn into the cynicism and despair of the writer, especially when we look at the world around us and the plight of many people. But when I look to Jesus, who began his earthy life as a refugee, someone who said on one occasion, “that the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Who
Himself was rejected and treated harshly by those who should have known better, then I see someone who identifies fully with our human situation.
His call and challenge to us all is, let us not simply stand back and wring our hands at the wrongs of the world around us. Rather, let us continue to be pro-active in working for positive change. We are not a people of despair - we are a people of hope. Can there be anything more rewarding in life than being able to help turn someone’s life around. I’ve needed it and perhaps you have, too. Even small and seemingly insignificant acts can make a difference, and when joined with those of others they become part of something far greater.