“Could you have picked a more depressing verse?”

Sunday, I began my post Easter series in eleven:eleven celebration, Catching Fire: Living an Exuberant Life. We read the beginning of Ecclesiastes together and considered what it means to live a life of passion when life can seem mundane, routine, or pointless. It’s not a particularly encouraging passage at face value (to paraphrase, “Life is all just smoke, vanity and smoke and repetition, endless cycles of life and death. What’s the point?”).

Someone emailed me Monday and jokingly said, “Could you have picked a more depressing verse to start off a series!?”

Well, actually, yes. But I get it. For a lot of people the opening text does seem to resonate with a deeper sense of loneliness and isolation that is increasingly prominent in our culture — a loneliness so pervasive and divisive that the British Prime Minister, Teresa May, appointed a Minister of Loneliness to her government last month. It does seem for some that what begins as the passions and enthusiasm of our youth and young adulthood, as we get older and experience the unexpected plot twists of life, can find itself for many people settling for passive optimism at best or pessimism, anger and despair at worse. Catching Fire, rekindling passion, experiencing exuberance, can be a challenging notion indeed.

But there’s something so profoundly hopeful and helpful about Ecclesiastes that compelled American Novelist Tom Wolfe to write, “Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”

This path of self-reflection and curiosity is exactly where the author wants us to go. Because, in the end, Ecclesiastes is about finding a passionate path through the perennial, universal questions of meaning, the ups and downs and twist plots of life. The questions come, the doubts may arise, the self-criticism might fester, the despair can even threaten, but our professor in Ecclesiastes tells us there is a way forward through the seemingly pointless routine and angst. A way that is at the very heart of who we are created to be. And that way is the wisdom of connection and gratitude.

It is also the way of exuberance.

I hope you can join us in person or online in the coming weeks as we explore Catching Fire!

This Sunday, Brad Thompson is out so I’ll be leading the band in my old roll as director and Charme will bring us the second part of the series . . . She’ll have some inspiring thoughts and we’ve got some great music!

Sunday, April 15
“Stronger than We Think”
Charme Robarts

 

with Tom McDermott, the revolution band and the music of
Journey, Gnarles Barkley, and Ed Sheeren
(Crazy, What Do I Know, Don’t Stop Believin’)

See you Sunday!


Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven celebration

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