A Meaning-Filled Life

Traditional Sermon Pentecost 8

The Teichmann’s are going on vacation soon! I’ve been counting the days. BUT…first we have to pack.

Oh the packing. We started putting together a list of the stuff we’ll need.
The list keeps on getting longer. At this rate, we’ll need to tow a U-haul trailer behind us for all our stuff.

I know that it’s going to be an hour before we have to hit the road and we’ll be jamming stuff into our car and one of us will say,
“Do we really need all this stuff?”

You know why I know this phrase will be uttered?
Because every vacation we’ve taken in the last 5 years has begun with the words, “Do we really need all this stuff?!”

Stuff.

We’ve all got it.
We’ve got basements and garages full of stuff.
And sometimes we rent storage places for our stuff.
Ooh…did you see there’s a new climate controlled storage space going in? Now my stuff can be cool and comfortable while it’s hanging out without me. What if my stuff has better air conditioning than I do?
Should I be jealous of my stuff?
It’s not fair…that my stuff should have it better than me!

Ahh…welcome to the 21st century American neurosis. Perhaps I have some company?!

And we come to church, praying that God opens our eyes, opens our ears, and opens our hearts for God’s message to us.
And what do we hear?

Vanity of vanities…all is vanity!

Ecclesiastes 1:2

Gets your attention, right? Maybe makes you feel bad about checking yourself out in the car mirror this morning?

Well, the screws get turned on us a bit more when we look at the original language of the book of Ecclesiastes. Remember that this book is from the Wisdom tradition and its original language is Hebrew.
Rather than “vanity,” the Hebrew word used is he-bel which really translates into “vapor…mist.”
The writer is saying that everything around you is here for a moment, and gone but a moment later.
Welcome to the existential crisis called meaninglessness!

The wisdom writer known as the teacher rubs salt into our wounds by reminding us that when he chased after knowledge all he found was sorrow, when he chased after indulgences and the life of ease it only slipped through his hands. And in the end, the foolish and the wise are in the same boat.
We’re all going to die.

Wow… happy Sunday, folks!
We’ve got too much stuff, it’s actually meaningless, and who cares anyway because we’re all going to die.
Thus ends the sermon. Amen.
Let’s all just go home and hide under the covers or waste our days with nothingness. It lacks meaning anyway, right?!

Wrong.

Remember this….never forget this.
God made you for a purpose.
God has placed you here and now for a reason.
You are not a mistake. You are not an accident.
You have meaning, because of the one who gives you meaning.

So let’s rewind a bit.

Our Holy Word brings a message to us this day, something that God really wants you to hear and live into.
To steal a line from Pastor Rick Warren–A purposeful life is not actually about you.
Life is about God’s purpose for you.

Let’s take a step further back, and listen to what Jesus has to say.
That’s usually a good place to start.

In our Gospel reading from Luke 12, two guys are arguing about what is theirs…they’re fighting over inheritance. Inheritance was a big thing to fight over back in the 1st century…and if you talk to any estate lawyer, I’m sure there’s still a few squabbles going on today.
It’s the question of what’s mine.

And Jesus offers the parable of the rich fool.
What makes this guy a fool?
Is he a crook? Is he a scoundrel? A hoodlum?
The parable doesn’t mention any sort of ill practice.
In fact, the way the featured rich man is acting would lead me to want to hire him as my financial adviser.
So what makes him foolish?

One area of foolishness is that the rich man has planned for everything for his stuff EXCEPT the reality that he won’t be around to enjoy his stuff.

What also makes him foolish is what makes many of us foolish.
It’s the number of times that he uses “I” and “me” and “my”.
Only he is in the picture.
He thinks he was the one who acquired all that stuff.
And it’s only about his own actions.
What makes him foolish is the myth…the lie…of self-sufficiency.

This lie is so pervasive. It permeates every part of my personal life.

I so easily fall into the sin of believing that I am the one who owns the stuff in my life. I fall into the lie that is I and I alone who provide a house over my head, the car that I drive, the food that I eat, the ways I communicate…that I and I alone have made this happen.
And when I am successful it’s all because of what I did.
And when I’m not successful or I don’t have the stuff I want…it’s because of them…not me.

And to be merry…to be happy…to be secure…to be safe…then I have to make sure that I have enough…to be honest to have more than enough. And if they have something that I think I need/want/desire/lack/fret over then I have to go and make sure that I have it.

The myth of self sufficiency robs us of trust in God,
it robs us of trust in our neighbors,
and it robs us of ever feeling like we have enough.

It causes us to gather rather than give.
It causes us to horde rather than share.
And it even turns us into the lords of our personal kingdoms, and forgetting that God is God and we certainly are not.
It speaks lies to us.
And has us chasing mist and getting lost in the fog of stuff.
And in the end can leave us feeling meaningless.

And I say again, God made you for a purpose.
God has placed you here and now for a reason.
You are not a mistake. You are not an accident.
You have meaning, because of the one who gives you meaning.

We are not self-sufficient.

You are held up by a cloud of witnesses who have walked through the hallways of your past, blessing you and you in turn blessing them.
And ultimately you are held in the hand of our almighty God…who will never let you go.

Yes, we are in the same boat.
Fool and wise, alike.
We are in the boat called life–and it can feel incredibly short some days, but God is inviting you to make the most of it.

Today is a gift.
When you look at the people around you–they are a gift as you are a gift to them.

This time we have on this earth is a gift.
It’s a perishable gift.

And God promises to trade with us a perishable commodity of everything around us with an imperishable one.
Life eternal. Love eternal.
This is God’s ultimate promise made through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And there’s nothing that you can do to earn it, acquire it, or buy it.
It is God’s to give.

And let me be clear friends.
God values you. But he also values the person next to you, the person in the rural parts and city parts of this nation, the person seeking refuge from harm, and the person working hard every single day.

As God values, we shall value too.
No one should ever be robbed of their dignity, no one should ever be robbed of their humanity. No one made in the image of our God is an infestation or a lesser creation.
We’re all in the same boat held together in the arms of our merciful Lord.

A Lord who drenches you in the gifts of today.
We can’t horde it. We can’t own it. It’s not ours. It’s God’s.
Given for a purpose.

God has made you for a purpose, has placed you here for a reason, and given you tools to use to bless this world.

This time is a commodity that is not ours…it’s been given to us to steward. The resources that you enjoy–a house, love in your life, companionship, toys and enjoyment to play with–these are all gifts given to us by our loving God.

So want to make this short time we have meaningful?
Make it meaningful by giving it away.
Give love away–freely, abundantly. Say I love you a lot more. Because love doesn’t run out…the more we give the more we get.

Want to invest?
Invest in relationships and building up the kingdom of God. Whether that’s through dollars, talent, or the treasure you hold close to the heart.

Want to know God more closely?
Give God to others–share God’s love, forgive as abundantly as God forgives you.. Because when we give God, we somehow get God.

Life is short.
You have a gift. It’s called the present.
Use it, because it’s not yours to keep. It’s yours to give.
Amen

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Rev. Sarah Teichmann

Pastor of Christian Formation

I love working in a staff where we are able to use each other’s strengths for the glory of God. I am energized by the lay leaders of the church and the creative ways they can extend the mission of Jesus to congregational members and our community.

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