How many of you have felt the tension that life in 2020 is leaving you pulled in opposing directions? For example, we have the most advanced medical technology in history, and yet a global pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands. Or we could be considered the most relationally-connected society in history, especially considering internet and global communications, and yet many people feel isolated and alone because of quarantine? We have a plethora of options for entertainment and yet how many feel bored?
How should we live in a world of extremes?
To try to answer that, I have a trivia question for you. What song holds the distinction of the being the number one hit with the oldest lyrics in all the history of the US Billboard charts? I asked this question when I preached this sermon live, and someone answered Amazing Grace, which is a strong answer. I don’t know that a rendition of Amazing Grace ever made it on the Billboard charts, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Amazing Grace is a very old song, but the lyrics of song that holds the record is far, far older. Someone else answered, “Mozart or Beethoven,” both of whom are quite older than the Billboard charts, but I doubt either of them have a version of one of their works on the charts. And still, the record-holder’s lyrics are thousands of years older than the classical masters.
What do you think is Billboard #1 with the oldest lyrics?
The song itself was first written in the 1950s, but the lyrics are much, much older. Do you know the song? Its lyrics are around 2500 years old!
In fact the lyrics are from a poem in the passage we are studying this week on the blog. Turn to Ecclesiastes 3, and look at verses 1-8. Instead of me reading this passage to you, let’s listen to the song Turn, Turn, Turn by Pete Seeger. Over the years, others have made 80+ renditions of Seeger’s song. Perhaps the most famous version, a cover by The Byrds, hit number one on the US charts in December 1965. Follow along as The Birds sing verses 1-8 for us, describing our world of extremes.
Isn’t it fascinating that a poem which is at least 2500 years old is still so relevant? Other than the line about stones in verse 5, it seems to me that every one of the 13 other couplets in this poem is very relatable, very much a part of our lives even in 2020.
The poem brings up many central themes of life such as the cycle of life, relationships, work, emotions, the stuff that we give most of our time to, and about which we care deeply. The poem becomes another reflection on the cyclical, fleeting nature of life that the Teacher has been talking about from the very beginning of Ecclesiastes. Specifically the teacher illustrates the cyclical, fleeting nature of life with 14 sets of opposites.
Four years ago our family experienced this pattern of opposites quite vividly. Check back in tomorrow, and I’ll tell you the story.