The Miracle of Seasons

Heritage Presbyterian Church

October 27, 2019
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture readings – Joel 2: 23-32 & 2nd Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18

I love this time of the year, don’t you?  Summer in Texas is FINALLY at an end – even if we still have a few days of hot temperatures.  We know the cool air is here to stay for a while.  And it’s such a relief for those of us who sweat too much on a daily basis.

As I told the kids earlier, the seasons themselves are a miracle from the Lord.  Just a few degrees of tilt in our planet’s axis of rotation and we get four seasons.  Yes, four full seasons don’t exist in all places of our planet, but they do exist in many places where most of the earth’s population lives.

And if all that were not enough to get your attention and make you smile, right now we even have three major sports seasons: football, baseball, and even basketball.  The sports channels are practically giddy with all they have to tell us about games that are played virtually every day.

Today is the last day of our Stewardship Season here at Heritage.  After today, there won’t be an additional minute for stewardship in our order of worship.  The next step will be for our Session to write a budget for next year…I suppose that is a season of sorts: the season of planning.

And just in case you let your guard down, next year is also the next great political season as the 2020 Presidential election comes around.  Oh boy…

But have hope, Christians!  All is not lost!  Yes, these seasons will come and go, but in today’s Scripture readings, we heard about a number of seasons to be aware of.

Through the prophet Joel, the Lord tells us that there will be a season of prophets.  Throughout biblical history, there has been a virtual parade of prophets who came to the people of God to tell them what God wanted them to know.  Most of the time, these prophetic messages were pretty grim – such as the ones delivered by every prophet in the Old Testament; but sometimes they were messages of hope, such as when John the Baptist came and announced the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

The problem with the prophets was that the people who truly wanted to know God’s will and God’s thoughts had to wait for a prophet to appear.  Many times, when this didn’t happen in a timely way, the people of God became discouraged and wondered if God had abandoned them. 

However, Joel tells us that the season of prophets will mean that all God’s people will know God’s thoughts and God’s will: old people, young people, women and men alike…every one of God’s people will like the prophets.  What a season that will be!

The next season is the season of judgment or the season of wrath.  We might also call it the season of getting even.  No one likes to think about someone hurting us in any way and getting away with it.  Yet, we are told by Scripture, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”  Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 times and to even turn the other cheek when someone strikes us.  Not easy to do…much easier to think about in church or Sunday school – or in the movies – but definitely not easy to do. 

But that’s exactly why this season is so amazing.  The good will be rewarded.  The bad will be punished and there will be nowhere to hide and no escape…like a swarm of locusts attacking a field of crops.  This is about punishment and reward; it’s not about our personal sense of vengeance. 

The season of restoration and renewal is about what comes next.  During this season, everything that is wrong will be set right.  All the enemies of the Lord on the earth will be vanquished.  There will be no need for wars or even countries.  Old scores will be settled, but not by the people who suffered… the Lord will settle it all!  For every human being who has ever cried out to the Lord for justice – and didn’t get it – their season will be a joyful one indeed. 

I can’t help but think of two large groups of people when I think of the season of restoration or the season of renewal: the terrorists and the Kurds.  It almost seems to me that the terrorists all over the world have had their day for much too long.  All civilized countries around the world – and sometimes even enemies – have worked together to battle these despicable people who seem bent on nothing more than violence, death, bloodshed, and control.  And they seem to be everywhere.  My two children and my grandson have not known a time when terrorists were not in existence and wreaking havoc around the world. 

The Kurds, on the other hand, seem to be a people hated by everyone who lives near them everywhere in the Middle East.  Yet our returning soldiers talk at length about how righteous they are, how brave their fighters are, how steadfast they have been to our country and our soldiers, and what great friends they are to us.  But they have no country, and until just the 1950’s they didn’t even have an identity as a common group of people.  They have nowhere to live and they currently hold virtually no land at all.  If they heard this Scripture reading from Joel about “the great and terrible day of the Lord,” I wonder what those Kurds would think about restoration and renewal.

There are two more seasons that I am going to identify today, and both of them refer to Paul and his final letter to Timothy.  First, is the season of change.  It would have been wonderful if Paul had lived to be an old man who died peacefully in his bed, surrounded by his friends and followers.  But that is not what happened.  Instead, Paul did the work he was called and compelled to do; then, when that work was completely done in God’s eyes, Paul passed the torch of leadership to those he had trained to take his place.  While Timothy was not the only leader Paul trained, he is the one in today’s reading that is mentioned.  Paul must have realized his grim situation: he was imprisoned in Rome, charged with treason and sedition, and he was going to be executed.  There would be no more work for Paul on behalf of the Lord.  Instead, his work must continue in the hands of others.  For Paul to admit this to himself may have been hard, but when the season of change occurs, it usually involves changes that are hard to get used to – especially if they involve the loss of those whom we loved and with whom we worked.  When the change occurs, we can sit down in the mud and cry out to the Lord.  Or we can wipe our faces and get to work.  To give up is to waste all the good training each of us has received in some form or fashion from someone who cared.

Finally, perhaps the cruelest season of all: the season of memory.  When Paul was in prison at the end, he was alone… just like his Savior, Jesus Christ had been.  I doubt the parallels were missed by a wise man like Paul.  But I wonder if Paul’s memory held on to something he had heard many years before.  When the disciple, Stephen, was stoned to death, remember that Paul approved of that scene.  Scripture tells us that those who were stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at the feel of Saul of Tarsus…the earlier version of Paul. (Acts 7:58) 

Remember these points:

  • As he died, Stephen cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)
  • When the Lord was dying on the cross, the Gospel writer, Luke, wrote that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  • In his final letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me.  May it not be counted against them!” (2nd Timothy 4:16)

Perhaps the season of memory came to Paul when he was in that prison, living out his final condemned days.  Perhaps Paul realized that his situation had been done before – facing the end of life in an unfair manner and facing it alone.  Except that Paul also knew he was not really alone – the same Lord Paul had scorned initially was with him to support and sustain him.

Paul’s season of memory must have included the memory that his Lord and Savior was always with him, even in the darkest hours of the human soul.

So, my dear friends, as we all enjoy the changes in the seasons here in Houston, let us all hold to the idea that seasons really bring changes.  Changes are sometimes good for us…even if we don’t want them to occur.  But the season of memory should also serve to comfort us – because we must never forget the Lord is with us always through all the seasons of life we face.