God is in it all

Rev. Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor, Director of Children’s and Family Ministries

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every
matter under heaven:

a time to be born,
and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time
to pluck up what is planted; 

a time to kill,
and a time to heal; 

a time to break down,
and a time to build up; 

a time to weep,
and a time to laugh; 

a time to mourn,
and a time to dance; 

a time to throw away stones,
and a time to gather
stones together; 

a time to embrace, and a time
to refrain from embracing; 

a time to seek,
and a time to lose; 

a time to keep,
and a time to throw away; 

a time to tear,
and a time to sew; 

a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak; 

a time to love,
and a time to hate; 

a time for war,
and a time for peace.


– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


I have turned to this scripture again and again over the past few years.

It speaks to me in so many seasons, perhaps because it names so many seasons.

I love the breadth and depth of human experience and emotions named.

God is in it all.

Even though I have correctly quoted and cited these verses, I have mistakenly misinterpreted them in my mind and heart.

The conjunction used is “AND.”

In my mind and practice, I have, unawares, substituted the conjunction “OR.”

One joins together.

The other separates.

These scriptures, with their repeated “and,” link them all together. 

Birth AND death.

Breaking down AND building up.

Weeping AND laughing.

They are all happening together.

One does not cease to let the other have space.

One does not stand still while the other stands front and center.

Life is messy, complicated, and layered.

Some days the movements are small and holding them together feels normal, the everyday challenges and gratitudes.

Other days the mountains are high, the valleys are low, and my mind and heart are stretched and ache to contain it all. 

Today, then, I give thanks that I do not have to contain it all.

God is in these seasons, too, and I can offer those highs and lows to God.

All the joy, all the celebrations, the proud moments, the full hearts, the soaring spirits, and the contented breaths.

All the headaches, heartaches, tears, heaviness, tired weariness.

I do not have to carry it all.

We do not have to carry it all. 

We offer these to God.

In prayer, in song, in journaling, conversations with those who love and care for us, reading the scriptures, gathering at the Lord’s table, sharing a restoring meal with those who love us.

God works in us and through us, the Holy Spirit moves and breathes in us, AND Jesus shows us the way.

Thanks be to God.

Grief and joy

Rev. Caroline Noll, Associate Pastor, Director of Children’s and Family Ministries

I was all ready to sit down and write this reflection, and then Patrick came in and asked if I had seen the news today.

I was going to sit down and invite us to reflect on what bring us joy.

And then we learned of war across the globe in Ukraine.

And it didn’t seem right to ignore it. I could not with peace turn away.

I wondered if there was a prayer, a poem, or a hymn that would be appropriate instead.

As I thought throughout the day, my spirit did not want to let go of thoughts of joy, even though there is great trouble in our world.

Then I realized, there is a prayer, song, and a poem. I heard it at the Pure Joy! Youth Choir Dessert Show last Sunday.

After intermission, Pure Joy! presented an artistic expression of the story of the people of God through their exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, through the generations, and their eventual return.

The story included songs of peace, wandering, grief, storms, joy, and the steadfastness of God.

It spoke of home, war, separation, identity, return, and love.

The story of the people of God as they were driven into exile by the Babylonians and their eventual return, in part, to Jerusalem with the prophets covers the breadth and depth of human experience and emotions.

The people of God experienced great loss and new comfort, destruction and rebuilding, separation and homebuilding.

And in it all, God was there. In it all, God is here.

So today we lift our prayers of both, of grief and of joy, of despair and of hope, of darkness and of light.

Lord in your goodness, Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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