Monday, May 20, 2013

Ecclesiastes: The Double Bounce

I'm told that by the time I was 2 years old I had caught up to my older brother in height and weight.
Growing up as boys we used to love jumping on the trampoline at the together. He was smarter than I was, but I was heavier than he was, which meant that I could double bounce him. If I timed my bounce to be just after his I could make his legs buckle beneath him. If I timed it just before his I could get him to fly up in the air. I'm sure he could explain the physics to you, but I just remember a whole lot of joy and laughter.

Reading Ecclesiastes is a bit like getting double bounced by a heavier brother. At first read it is incredibly bleak. The melancholic lament of a cynic. Solomon, the writer of the book, uses the word vanity 38 times in 12 chapters. That's a lot of vanity right there. This is a man who was achieved what we all love and sacrifice for most: wealth, power, pleasure, relationships, progress, possessions, and yet at the end of his life he is reflecting on it saying, "Take my word for it. The view's not worth the climb." We feel our legs buckle beneath us.

But this is a book of profound joy if we dig a little deeper. The word profound comes from the latin word profundis which means deep. The wisdom in Ecclesiastes is deep wisdom. It is asking more questions than giving answers. The Teacher is more like a philosophy professor who challenges the happiness of the shallow fool who seeks meaning in what is temporary. Solomon explains his method at the end of the book. "The words of the wise are like goads, like firmly embedded nails given by one shepherd." He purposefully goads us, like a shepherd would goad stray sheep away from thorns or poison ivy. "That pursuit will make you sick. It will ensnare you."

The verse is not just explanatory. It is prophetic. It points us to the One Shepherd who laid down his life for His stray sheep, being nailed to a cross with firmly embedded nails. Jesus answers the great questions of life which Ecclesiastes poses."In Him was life and that life was the light of men."If there is nothing more than life under the sun everything is meaningless. But if we find our life through the God's own Son, then everything means everything! We can enjoy the parade of vanity that this world provides, knowing that our life does not depend upon it.

This is where the double bounce of Ecclesiastes begins to exert it's joyful upwards force upon us. As one someone said to me after Sunday's first message from the book, "My knees buckled but my heart soared."

Join us at Southlands Church this summer as we explore the wise joy of Ecclesiastes.

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