Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church Under The Sun #10 (Ecclesiastes): Everybody Hurts (Hang on) To hear this message and others download our free app at The App Store by searching Gathering Connect.
Everybody Hurts (REM)
Most of the song Everybody Hurts (released on the band’s 1992 album Automatic for the People) was written by R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry who quit the band in 1997 to become a hay farmer in Georgia. He had had a very public aneurysm in 1995 (literally onstage) and that inspired him to do some heavy thinking; in the end he just decided that he was sick and tired of the business: the tours, the interviews, the press releases and the television appearances. The thought of going out on tour to support an album filled him with such dread that walking away from an 80 million dollar contract to grow hay just seemed more appealing to him than touring about the world in a bus or a private jet. Berry and the band wrote this song for young people who might be contemplating suicide. Ironically, Berry wrote most of the song but he did not actually play the song for the recording. A Univox drum machine took care of that for him.
On many R.E.M. songs, Michael Stipe purposefully sings indecipherably. He sang very clearly on this one though, because he didn’t want the message getting lost. “I still kind of can’t believe my voice is on this recording. It’s very pure”, he said. “This song instantly belonged to everyone except us, and that honestly means the world to me”, said Stipe. The band was proud to have created a song that actually saved lives. Stipe said, “It saved a few, people have told me. And I love hearing that. That’s my Oscar, that’s my gold on a shelf right there… that something we did impacted someone’s life in such a profound way. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Hang On John 14:27
I selected Everybody Hurts as the illustration for today’s lesson in the book of Ecclesiastes because chapter 9 can seem to be such a dismal passage. In fact, one who dwells on such thoughts could easily contemplate suicide if they were prone to depression. To that person I would echo REM and say “Hang on!” There is hope in my message today! There is also a lesson in Bill Berry’s turn from a life of anxiety into living a more simple sort of life. “Simplify”, most of what we obsess and stress over is not necessary.
With hindsight of this weeks news on the Coronavirus I might have better chosen REM’s song It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (and I feel fine). Yes, there is a virus spreading out there so we take healthy precautions, but we should not freak out! Anxiety only weakens our immune systems and depletes the planets supply of toilet paper and hand sanitizer! This is the time that we exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remember that we are God’s children. This can actually be a time for us to “share the hope within us” (1 Peter 3:15) with those who might otherwise not listen at all. It is also a time for us to listen to God and know His peace through the Bible and prayer (John 14:27). Read Psalm 91 and believe it!
Reflections Ecclesiastes 9:1-6, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 10:14, 1 Peter 2:9-10
Negative reflections on life, like Solomon’s, can leave us flinching at whether love or hate awaits us in this life of chance (“everybody hurts”). Seeing everyone’s destiny (the righteous and the wicked) as death without the promise of eternal life is a crushing blow. Sometimes the world and living in it can seem wearisome and even pointless —for a person without the hope of salvation and purpose found in Christ it surely is.
At this point in our scripture reading I must say once again that the book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s rhetorical writings on the road to find out. The end of the book (its conclusion) justifies the means to getting there. His musings are intended to make us ask questions that we might otherwise neglect in our life “under the sun”. Asking these questions without the direction of the gospel (lit. Greek: “Good News”) is detrimental. Asking them in the light of Christ brings salvation, hope, purpose, faith and direction.
A good example of this is found in verse four where Solomon makes an interesting comparison between a “live dog” and a “dead lion”. A dog was considered an unclean animal in both the old and new testaments and references are most often negative and used as slurs to sinful men (Revelation 22:15, Philippians 3:2, Proverbs 26:11). A lion on the other hand always refers to power, strength and might—Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5, Hosea 11:10) who is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Is a live dog (a sinner) better than a dead lion? According to the gospel a living sinner is a dead man walking and that “dead Lion” (Jesus) rose from the grave and gives any “dog” new life and purpose (Ephesians 2:1-10) when we call on His name. We are no longer dead and our name is forever remembered by our “good Shepherd” (John 10:14). We have purpose both on this earth and in the life to come (1 Peter 2:9-10)!
Chance & Grace Ecclesiastes 9:7-12, Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Peter 1:3-9
Solomon reminds his reader to live life with a joyful heart to God—He has approved (officially agreed) of your being alive so be right with Him (be clothed in white) and set yourself apart for His service (anoint your head with oil). Love what God has given you (enjoy your wife). Do the work that is yours as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). Solomon’s chiding remark in verse ten about no work to do in the realm of the dead is for those who scoff at living for God. The fool says in his heart there is no God (Psalms 14:1).
Life is flinching chance for those who live apart from God. “Time and chance happen to all…and people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them… like Coronavirus! But the grace and mercy of God is not to the swift, the strong, the wise or the wealthy or learned either. It is for any who call on His name (Romans 10:13). In God’s “great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope” through Christ and an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-9). Rejoice, even though now you may suffer— “Everybody hurts…Hang on” Joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5)!
Quiet Words of the Wise Ecclesiastes 9:13-18, John 3:16-18
Solomon closes this chapter with a picture of a poor, quiet wise man who saves a city but is forgotten. We live in a world where a poor, quiet wise man named Jesus laid down His life to save a world lost in sin. Let us not forget: His words are “more to be headed than the shouts of a ruler of fools”. “Hang on”—Be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10).