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Reflection Ecclesiastes 2 10-17
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labour.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
12 ¶ Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly. What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realise that the same fate overtakes them both.
15 Then I thought in my heart, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said in my heart, “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!
17 ¶ So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Solomon was famed for his wisdom. The story of how he dealt with two women claiming to be the mother of the same baby is often quoted. He simply asked which one really loved the child, and which one just wanted it.
One of the most important gifts we can ask God to grant us is wisdom. People talk of common sense and that many people don’t seem to have it. Common sense is like wisdom. But wisdom is more. It implies thinking of others more than yourself. It also is about whether we are asking God when we make decisions, rather than simply looking at the world’s values.
Solomon sometimes put God first and sometimes he didn’t. He married many wives. It was the custom to have more than one wife, but he had hundreds! And he chose wives who were not Jewish. There was peace during his reign, but that was accomplished by political marriages. Solomon is famous for building the magnificent temple. So he could see the result of his great work.
But in Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes of how this has become meaningless. The peace of the kingdom must has contrasted at times with the conflicts of interest of his many wives. What do you do next after you have built such a magnificent temple? The reading is like someone having a midlife crisis. The point in our lives when we wonder what life is all for. What is the reason why we are here on earth? Going out every day to work to pay the bills. Having a loving family is wonderful, but why am I here? The catch phrase in the film, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”
Well… actually it’s all about God! That’s when it all makes sense. When I was forty, the Vicar in Clay Cross said to me, “You are talking about God, what are you going to do about it?” Two weeks later I was sitting in church, in tears, singing “Great is thy faithfulness”, and realising what Jesus has done for me by dying on the cross and being raised to life again. My life changed for ever.
We are here to be partners in God’s plan. I am not just here to live. I am not here to be a spectator. I am called to be a participator in what God is doing. Life is not all meaningless. We have a purpose! And, like Solomon marrying lots of foreign wives, it is not just to do what we think is right to bring peace, God may have a very different way that he wants to bring that about. It’s not about simply building, or maintaining, a wonderful temple, it’s what God wants us to do with that temple / church. Like Solomon, it is whether we continue to follow God’s leading, or not.
COLLECT 3rd Easter
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.