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The wasteland of spiritual barrenness
This sermon is part of the sermon series "A Man for All Seasons". See series.


Confession: I've lived nearly 50 years and, for most of them, have never heeded the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. For everything there is a season. For everything. In the natural world, that's obvious. The earth moves in a rhythm of seasons: cold, hot, work, play, light, dark, sow, reap, fruit, barrenness. Nothing could be more self-evident.

But Ecclesiastes is talking about another kind of seasonality—life's seasons, life's inevitable tilting to and fro. Existence is seasonal, and our hearts know it. Our hearts taste the rapture and leisure of summer, the industry and urgency of fall, the bleakness and loneliness of winter, the busyness and expectancy of spring.

I've never before developed a spirituality that corresponds with the seasons of the earth. I have ways of adapting my yard and home and habits to the variations of climate and daylight that prevail with each season: I cut my lawn in summer, clean my chimney in fall, stack my wood in spring, and wear my boots in winter. But I had no equivalent ways of adapting my spiritual life—my prayer, worship, and listening to God—to the seasons of my soul. I especially didn't know what to do with winter. Winter is bleak, cold, dark, and fruitless. It is a time of forced inactivity, unwelcome brooding, more night than day. It's harsh, unrelenting, grim, seemingly endless. Most things are dead in winter, or appear so.

I've wanted to run from winter with all my might—to disavow its reality, to conduct myself in blatant defiance or outright denial of its existence, to frolic like it was high summer despite the darkness and shivering cold. When my father died in 1996, I hardly paused. I came back and preached what I'd scheduled to preach. The elders ...

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Mark Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Ambrose Seminary in Calgary, Alberta, and the author of numerous books including Your Church is too Safe.

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Sermon Outline:


I. For everything there is a season.

II. The bankruptcy of winter

III. The waiting in winter

IV. The loneliness of winter

V. The sting of death in winter