To Everything There is a Season

One of my favorite Oldies is “Turn, Turn Turn,” a song written by Pete Seeger and made popular by the Byrds. As you may know, the lyrics (but not the title) were taken directly from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes (3: 1-8). The key line is “To everything there is a season.”

At this time of the year, one can’t help but notice the big yellow buses everywhere and the kids going back to school. For me, the academic year has always seemed a very appropriate calendar to measure time, probably because I have been in school, in one way or another, for nearly all my life. Another type of annual calendar is liturgical, and I suspect that Lacey’s brain may be, at least partly, hard-wired that way. The liturgical calendar indicates when Christian celebrations and feast days are observed. I regard Welcoming Sunday at CUCC as our number one “feast day,” so for me that day marks the beginning of a new year.

I delight in the yearly cycle of seasons. My formative years were spent in New England, where the seasons of the year are as distinct from each other as probably anywhere on the globe. There were frigid and snowy winters, blooming and rainy springs, broiling hot summers (really), and of course spectacular colorful falls. (There was also a “mud season.”) After I left New England, for five years I lived in Los Angeles, where it was essentially room temperature all year round – seasonless! I was so glad to move to Raleigh and experience seasons again. Without doubt, fall was the highlight of the year in New England, as spring is the highlight here in Raleigh. To me, there is nothing that illustrates God’s handiwork more clearly than the rhythm of the changing seasons.

The cycle of the seasons plays out as the result of a beautiful celestial choreography. (And yes, Mark Robinson, I think elementary-school children should be helped to understand that.) There are lots of other cycles too; there’s even a rock cycle!

But there are two different ways to think about the passage of time, as Stephen Jay Gould describes in his book “Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle.” Time is cyclical, but it is also linear. If day, night, day, night, day, night illustrates the cycle of time, then yesterday, today, tomorrow, day after tomorrow illustrates the arrow of time. The arrow is the immutable passage of minutes, days, years; the pages being torn from a calendar in an old movie.

The Law of faunal succession says that fossils found in rocks of different ages follow each other in a sequence that illustrates evolution, and as you move toward younger rocks the sequence of organisms moves inexorably forward, never turning back on itself. This is like a human life – as much as we’d like, we can never truly re-live our youth. We won’t know what happens tomorrow until tomorrow comes, and we can’t travel back to the days of the dinosaurs (without a super excellent time machine).

But, for as long as we live, we have an opportunity to help create positive change in the world around us – in our family, church, community, and planet. Such change is also part of time’s arrow. As we age, and our personal mortality comes into focus, it is a comfort to remember the cycle of time. The seasons, and life itself, will continue upon this earth. And in the end, Jesus has promised us another season, an eternal one. We won’t have a clue about it ahead of time, but we can trust that he has “prepared a place for us” and will “bring us to himself” when it’s our time (John 14: 2-3). And that’s true faith!