Talking Point – February 2023


TO EVERYTHING (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)… You almost certainly know the tune, and now have the words running through your mind like an unstoppable freight train. Sorry about that!
This wonderful earworm by The Byrds has some significantly more pointed words in it of course, but I am fairly certain we would not be allowed to print more. And yet I am fairly sure the lines you have read are enough to trigger the song’s very pointed invitation to reflect on life. The words are based on the words of someone described only as ‘The Teacher’ in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, and ‘The Teacher’ is very interested in reflecting on the rhythms of life. If a little miserably so.
This piece of scripture, Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verses 1-8, is one that is often read at times of significant beginnings and endings in people’s lives. I have had it requested at funerals too many times to remember, at a Baptism or two, and even at a wedding. It seems to bring to mind vividly the possibilities of ‘what could be’ or the gift of ‘what was’ in a way which helps people prepare for what comes next, with or without someone important to them.
As my time in Caversham draws to an end in a few months, I find myself reflecting on this notation and especially the chorus of The Byrds’ version. While I am only moving a little way, it does involve the arduous journey across one of our bridges into the centre of Reading. And we don’t want to get started thinking about ‘time’ and driving over one of our bridges. That is entirely too traumatic. So instead let us consider, is there really a time for everything under heaven?
Quite some years ago now, I found myself speaking to the son of a gentleman who had just died. In preparing the funeral, his son had a single request. “Can we have the passage about it being good for us to eat, drink, and be merry?” So, knowing exactly what he meant, I read the passage. There was stunned silence at all the time to build and scatter, time to love and hate, etc. (verses 1-8), followed by a dawning realisation and almost a grin when we arrive at ‘eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil’ (verse 13). The stunned silence briskly turned into a sheepish smile and, “aah, the rest of it is good too”.
Sometimes life is easy, and sometimes it is tough. I am very aware that, barring a miracle, by the time this goes to print we will be very nearly one year into the terrible war in Ukraine. That for many this winter will have been long and cold in their homes. That the cost of living will continue to be a worry for many people. And that, sadly, Liverpool FC will still not have bought a decent midfielder and will be languishing in seventh place or worse in the League. There is always too much going on for us to think and worry about.
In the meantime, the world will turn, turn, turn. And the seasons will change. And the days grow longer. And daffodils begin to sprout. And, if we listen carefully, all the new things God has dreamed up for us will become clear and begin to take shape too. There is a season for everything, are you brave enough to step into the season that comes next? Are you willing to take a step of faith into what could be, or are you more comfortable worrying about what ‘is now‘?
Revd Martin Beukes is a member of the Methodist Team Ministry in Caversham