Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | August 13, 2011

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (Christian Memorial for Debbie Chambless)

Solomon confuses us terribly, doesn’t he?  I say that because most people agree that he authored Ecclesiastes.  And many also agree that it’s one of the more puzzling books of the Bible.

If you know it for anything, you probably know it from the great Byrd’s tune, “Turn, turn, turn,” which uses Ecclesiastes 3, There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and so on and so forth.

Or, perhaps you know it as the book with this stunning beginning:  Meaningless!  Meaningless!  Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless!   So, either Solomon’s a super-hippie, or Solomon rules as King Cynic.  Either way, it’s still tough to understand.

Until you face death.  That’s what you told me earlier this week, Ray.  Sitting in my office, discussing the death of your wife, you said that you finally understood Ecclesiastes.  Especially this portion of Ecclesiastes you chose for today.  You said you finally understood Solomon’s point.  He spent half of Ecclesiastes saying that things under the sun are meaningless because tainted and destroyed by sin.

Solomon learned that after marrying hundreds of women, having hundreds of concubines, and worshiping every false god under the sun.  He learned it by living the high life and finding out the high life wasn’t all that high.  That the highest of the high still face death and lose everything, just as much as the lowest of the low.

Chastened and humbled by this insight from God, Solomon sat down to write Ecclesiastes.  A book it takes a death to understand, because in death we face our own mortality.  We remember, as the Romans reminded those riding in triumph, “Thou art mortal.”  From the moment Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit the clock began ticking down on each of us.  From the moment of conception, the clock ticks down on all of us.  From dust you are, to dust you will return, the Lord told Adam and Eve.  And we see it.  We live it.  We breathe it in and out until our last breath.  Death.  Now that’s meaningless.  That’s sin.

And so Solomon says:  The day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth.  Are you kidding me?  Talk about confusing and meaningless.  Yes, this is confusing and meaningless.  Apart from Christ.  The Christ that Debbie knew, the Savior from sins who died on a cross and conquered death on Easter, is the God who makes this true.  For the Christian knows that birth in this world is a death sentence.  Surrounded by sin, filled with sin, sinning all the time, birth is the beginning of death.  But because of Christ who conquered death by living again, the Christian knows that for them, death is rebirth into life.  He who believes in me will live, even though He dies, Jesus told Mary and Martha.  That’s the promise Debbie clung too and now realizes.

And so, It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.  Are you kidding me?  Give me the choice between a party at Buffalo Wild Wings and a funeral, I’m picking Buffalo Wild Wings every time, and twice on Sunday (after church, of course!).  Apart from Christ.  But with Christ, I know that entering the house of death with Jairus means entering a bedroom.  Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep.  In that hospital room Debbie’s body lay, finally still.  But only asleep.  And she awoke in Paradise.

And so, The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.  Whistling past the graveyard, they call it.  Some people decide to eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die.  Solomon calls that meaningless!  He says the house of mourning is the place to be, because the house of mourning keeps you focused on Christ.  Remember your Creator!  Solomon ends Ecclesiastes.  Remember Him because the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.  By faith in Christ it’s a happy return.  It’s the return of Lazarus, who went from begging at the gates of the rich man to the bosom of Abraham.  It’s the return of Job who said, “After my skin has been destroyed, still, I will see Christ with my own eyes in heaven!”  It’s the return of Debbie, whose faith in Christ made her wiser than her enemies.  Whose faith in Christ pointed her away from herself and everything under the sun to the Son of God who took away her sins.  Whose faith in Christ means that her soul no longer faints with longing for her salvation.  She lives it.  Amen.


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