By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from Ecclesiastes 9:11-18
11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.
13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed important to me. 14 There was a little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege-works against it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded.”
17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.
There’s good news and there’s bad news; which do you want to hear first? It’s a common question, though in today’s world, it may seem like a false choice. It seems we are always hearing the bad news first. Day and night with lightning speed, bad news fills our screens, overwhelming us with evidence that the world is an unjust, evil place. In headline after headline, the mournful words from Ecclesiastes echo: “Like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity.” The cruel injustice of the world reigns supreme, and as our defenses crumble under the seige, we may feel close to surrender. The bad news is king, and there is no good news coming. There never was.
Yes, the bad news seems to always come first, but the little city of God’s people must not submit to its reign. Though we may feel like a lone man standing against a mighty army, so we must be like David trusting in his few pebbles. The words of wisdom — that God has redeemed this broken world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — may seem too small and ineffectual against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, yet we must put all our faith in that tiny piece of good news and sling it back at the darkness.
It seems an impossible task, beloved, holding the ground of hope with the walls crumbling and so few left to defend the beseiged city. We may begin to doubt the power of the good news — or even its very existence — when the bad news closes in. Yet we must not falter in what we preach. We must stare down the towering evil in the world and in a still, small voice, declare that there is, in fact, good news as well bad news, and despite all evidence to the contrary, the good news will prevail.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have seven children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Machakos – The Anglican Church of Kenya
Church of St. Mark, Brooklyn, N.Y.