Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Turn. Turn, Turn

Words-adapted from The Bible, book of Ecclesiastes
Music-Pete Seeger

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep  Refrain

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together  Refrain

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing  Refrain

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late  Refrain

I always liked this song (the version by the  Byrds).   I guess I did not think so much about the words when I was grooving to the tune in 1965.  It was a monumental moment for a song whose words were pretty much taken directly from Ecclesiastes to make an international hit.  Those of you younger than the old men of my generation probably remember the tune more from Forest Gump.

When a veteran in our parish died and this was one text requested for the readings, I had immediately the image of this guy in the Army with radio blaring out the Byrds.  It was then how it struck me that this tune captured the words well enough but out of their context and divorced from the God whose never changing character watches over us turning under the seasons of life and change.  It is fatalistic and downright depressing when ripped from the context of faith in which this time and its moments, days, months and years turning away forget the God who changes not and who abides with us in our changes and gives to us the gift of life without the seasons of change and the turning of time.

At once I had the image of this guy as a youth standing in his scout uniform... of this young man heading off to the US Army... of this seasoned soldier who would spend nearly a third of his life in uniform... of a young husband holding the hand of his wife... of the father raising two sons... of the grandfather with his grandchildren... looking in the mirror at the gray hair, the wrinkles, the stacks of medicine bottles, all the while wondering about time and its passing...   No one can listen to these words or live within the changes and chances of this mortal life and get through whole except you also know Thou who changest not, and pray "abide with me..."

Truly vanity and move vanity apart from and absent the One whose love endures forever, whose Word stands forever, and whose grasp in baptism will never let us go and leads us from this life to the life Jesus won for us by His death and resurrection...

It is like Pete Seeger needed to write another stanza to put the whole thing under the banner of the changeless God and changeless Gospel whose anchor holds us ever changing people firmly amid the rolling streams and ripped off calendar pages of this mortal life.... Ahhhh... I just did not get this perspective in 1965!

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