Divine Physics: A Poetic Reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:14 by Lori Stewart


Ecclesiastes 3:14 – I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all that should stand in awe before him. 

Nothing can be added or
taken away…
… then why does it feel like everything is lost?

You haul away the bodies while
we watch
— linking arms
— standing fast
against the tide of
grief that churns until
we can find
a distraction that makes us believe
life will return to

Nothing can be added or
taken away, you say…
You take away innocence at
the marketplace
— the prices vary by age
— virgins to the highest bidder
Surely, El-roi, you see
— the pain
— the suffering

Even you took a virgin child
— forced yourself on her
— decided she would carry your child
and didn’t have the nerve
to tell her yourself

What were you thinking?
You took away
— innocence
You added
— suffering
And we should be in awe?

We should be
— terrified
— and incensed
How is that co-creation?
We should hold you
to account

Maybe Hagar is right
you are The One Who Sees
but maybe
that’s all you do
— see the pain
— see the suffering
I want to know
What is your responsibility
in this?

Nothing can be added and nothing taken…
Do we just shift the brokenness around
to other places?
— find a new landfill when
the old one is full?
— riot in the streets desperately wanting
to take away the garbage,
determined to add hope?

Maybe you can’t add or take away
— but we will
— you just watch us
and see

©Lori Stewart, 2016

Lori Stewart is Associate Faculty at St Stephen’s College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where she teaches Questing Faith: Thinking About God, and Pop Culture and Theology. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Theological Studies. Her MTS research focussed on identity and power as they relate to married women’s surnames. Lori is also a Spiritual Director, a poet, and a social activist. She belongs to a choir for people who think they can’t sing and have discovered they can, indeed, make beautiful music.

8 thoughts on “Divine Physics: A Poetic Reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:14 by Lori Stewart”

    1. Thank you. The short story is that I wrote this poem at a writing workshop at the end of a tough news week. The longer story involves thinking about what/who we as humans create in our own image and then declare sacred, allowing us to abdicate responsibility for our shadow sides. It’s also about a deep seated belief that we humans have the ability to create a better world. Has the god replied? I’m waiting…


  1. Thanks Lori. I’ve been thinking of this all day, mostly because I don’t relate to this image of the Sacred Mystery. I started with reading Ecclesiastes, since you referred to that book, the one that starts:
    “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
    “Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
    By chapter three “the teacher” has me in giggles since all I can think of is Eeyore on steroids in Winnie the Pooh. I kept reading because I wanted to see if the author gave some conclusion I could agree with. No such luck, which is probably why I haven’t read this book for a while!
    So I’m glad you did:
    “Maybe you can’t add or take away
    — but we will
    — you just watch us
    and see”

    In Sunday’s reading from Isaiah, the prophet describes a person filled with the Spirit of God. God calls each of us to be that kind of person.

    Quitting before I launch into “sermon mode”!! ;-)


  2. Wow, that is powerful! I’ll sit with that while I prepare to lead my Bible study group, which of course is focusing on Mary’s Magnificat. I sometimes think of Mary as a young peasant girl who would be shocked and maybe amused that Christians claim that she was immaculately conceived and therefore was a virgin who gave birth to Jesus. In today’s lingo I think she’d be saying WTF?! :) The whole story of Jesus’ divine birth was the gospel writers’ way of countering the stories of the divine births of the Caesars, I have read.


    1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence of Roman occupation on the stories of Jesus. I think they were strongly influenced by the Roman Pantheon and the Jerusalem Temple. All that male theologizing got rather off track I think, especially with Constantine’s “conversion”, and the teaching got lost in a maze of dogma.


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