Casting Away Stones

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 5 – Ecclesiastes 3:5

Day One: Casting Away Stones
Day Two: We gather together
Day Three: Christians don't shake hands, Christians gotta hug!
Day Four: Boundaries and margins and the in-between
Day Five: Another kind of refraining

Heart verse:
I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
                                            2 Corinthians 6:16b

Day 1 – Casting Away Stones

Just over halfway through our study, we arrive at the title passage.

Casting away stones...

Why this title? Why out of all the things we have been studying in Ecclesiastes, did this particular metaphor stick out when I was digging deeper?

Well, first, it is interesting to me that the phrase “cast away” is used in both Ecclesiastes 3:5 and 3:6, check it out below:
a time to cast 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 cast away;”

Things that make you go hmmmmm...

And then second, the phrase simply spoke to my heart. It was what drew my eye time and again. I have had a sense for a while that God wanted me to address the seasonal aspects of life through a study. Goodness knows we have had our adventures with seasons in the last few years! And I bet many of you have also. Not to sound uber-spiritual and non-concrete, but have you ever had a time in the Word when God simply spoke by highlighting a passage or phrase? That was this moment for me.

Casting Away Stones”

Casting away brings to mind mental images of fishermen casting nets or the fly fishermen in the movie “A River Runs Through It” sending their line out and casting it back in. There is a rhythm to fishing. Standing in the water, casting back and forth, back and forth, until a catch is found.

In our verse at hand in Ecclesiastes, God tells us that there is a time for “casting away stones” and a time to “gather stones together.” This second phrase is actually essential in understanding the first part. If we are gathering stones together on one hand, then I think the casting away of stones is a bit different than I first imagined. Bear with me here, there is no way of actually knowing, nor does it completely matter if we understand the exact phrasing. This is not an issue of salvation, but worthy of contemplation, I think. By the end of this study, I hope you will too.

At first, when I read the words “casting away”, I thought the passage was speaking of throwing stones away, like you would throw away a banana peel, or take a shirt you are done with to the Goodwill. The Hebrew for casting away can mean that and, you will see, does mean that in next week's passage. However, here we have the immediate comparison to bringing stones together. In my mind, the word “together” transforms verse 5 to being about stuff and things, to being about relationship.

Gathering stones together...” Do you hear the relationship in that phrase of the stones to one another?

There is a time to gather and there is a time to cast what needs to be cast. This is different than a throwing away of a relationship or a person. I'm not sure God ever calls us, even while using extremely tight boundaries (we'll address boundaries in day 4) to throw people away. Our verses in Ecclesiastes, speaks more to the idea that there is a time to be together, to gather together, and there is a time to spread out, to be apart.

If you have ever moved in your life you understand the idea of spreading out. If you have moved more than once, you understand it even more. We went to the Seminary for 3 years, vicarage in Nebraska for 1 year, we have been in Ohio for almost 12 years, spent a brief fall in Haiti, and grew up in either Michigan or Missouri. That means that my heart is divided between many states. We have friends in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, New York, Africa, Haiti, etc., etc. I could keep going. I think you get my point.

Spreading out is not easy. There are people who are part of our very heart that we will never live next door to. It's just our reality. God tells me here in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for this. There are times and places and people in our lives that He is asking us to cast away from. Not to throw those relationships overboard, but to cast out from one another on the strange adventure of life. Sharing His message in each of our places. Like stones in a field, you find one here, one over there, and another along the creek.

If I were in charge I may just have all the people I love in one field, all huddled together in a big pile of love, but who would reach Texas then? And who would minister in Jacmel? Who would bring Him to the people of Minnesota?

This also holds true in the context of your local congregation. There are times when we can gather and come together and love on each other. Worship, Bible study, youth night, potlucks, VBS week, small group, community coffee. But there are also times when we are meant to be cast out into our community, out from our homes and our comfortable spaces. To meet someone new, to shine a little light in a different place.

The disciples knew a little more about stones than we do. They lived with the threat of real life stoning shadowing their life every day, and each time you read about them, they are being spread out. 

Look at this small passage in Acts13:48-52 -

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

Can you find the rhythm? Find for me the blessings and rejoicing in the beginning of the passage, followed by the persecution. And then the persecution, followed again by the blessings and joy. If you have your Bible open, underline the persecution in one color and the rejoicing in another color. This rhythm feels so Ecclesiastes-like to me. So very seasonal.

God works in the gathering, but he also works in the spreading, or the “casting away.” We are His living stones. May we ever let Him cast us near and far, in the comfortable places and the uncomfortable places.

Until we gather tomorrow, dear sisters, thank you for studying with me from your place in His kingdom field.

Discussion questions:
Have you ever had the experience of a Scripture passage that keeps drawing your attention? If so, what passage and how did it speak to you?
Where have you been cast in your life? What places or to what people?


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