A Funeral Sermon: What Time is It?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9What gain have the workers from their toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. 15That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

 

What Time Is It?

 

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what time it is.

 

Of course I have a watch…well, a cell phone to be exact.  Very few people my age carry watches anymore.  But that’s not what I’m talking about, anyway.

 

I’m talking about the season of life I’m in.  What time is it?  Is it a time to keep silent or a time to speak?  Is it a time to keep or a time to throw away?  Is it a time for war or a time for peace?

 

What time is it?

 

I never knew Olga.  By the time I took the call at Luther Memorial, Olga had already entered deep into dementia, living out this way with Gerry and Doris.

 

But I knew her name; the Lehman name still lived…still lives…on at Luther Memorial.  It’s clear that she planted at Luther Memorial through her family, her work, her affable nature.

 

But she also knew when to pluck up, too.

 

Like when she decided, after losing her first husband in the war, to move her family from Germany to Michigan.  A time to plant, and a time to pluck up.  A time to sew, and a time to reap.

 

And a time to labor.  And Olga did labor.  In houses, both her own and others.  As a housekeeper she practiced the art of knowing when to keep and when to throw away very literally.  But more than that, she also knew something that so many people take for granted: sometimes you have to give things up to “keep house.”

 

Like giving up her homeland for a far-off land.

 

Like giving up her Michigan soil for her new family.

 

And like giving up her freedom to allow herself to be taken care of.

 

I imagine that, at 92, you get pretty well acquainted with figuring out what time it is…even when you’re suffering from dementia.

 

But one of the things I am sure of, one of the things I cling to, is that, whether or not we know what time it is in our lives, whether or not we know left from right, up from down; whether or not we can remember the names of loved ones or even who we are some days, God remembers.  And the God who has put the past and future into our minds, even though we cannot remember our beginnings nor see our endings, has kept the promise made to Olga in the waters of baptism.  Indeed, on that morning of her baptism it was a time to plant; plant a new young girl with a tough spirit that would help her, her whole life, to make tough choices and still remain outgoing.

 

And as Olga, beloved mother, daughter, wife, and friend slipped away last Sunday morning to stand in awe before the God who keeps promise throughout time, the God who is always prepared to meet death with life met Olga in that time beyond time.  As she was welcomed in the words of her baptism, “Greetings, child of God” she’d never have to discern what time it was any more because God had it all taken care of.

 

May light perpetual shine upon her for endless time.

 

Amen.

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About Timothy Brown

A pastor. A writer. A dreamer. Occasionally a beer brewer. Pastor of Luther Memorial Church of Chicago. Come check us out!

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