The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God we are together this morning to worship You. To give thanks to you for all that you are to us. To praise You for salvation and life everlasting that you promise to us. And to celebrate the gift of your Son, our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ, who captivates our attention and imagination. By your Holy Spirit, may we receive Your message with confidence to strengthen and uphold us. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our risen Lord, Amen.
“Woe is me, gee ain’t it awful!” These days, in the news, on television, and over the internet, I sense this mournful cry more than most other attitudes. Not just in Australia, but in the world. Violence, hatred, distrust, blind ambition, striving after the illusion of pleasure. It’s almost as though the reading from King David’s son, Solomon, is being used as a script for the background of life today. “Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Solomon got to the point of his rule that he saw all his effort, all his wisdom, all his knowledge as dust blown in the wind.
Toward the end of his life, Solomon realised that all he had done was for his own benefit and amusement. And that it would have been a more fulfilling life to have lived simply: eating, drinking, and finding enjoyment in his toil. If that was the extent of life, I can understand how Solomon would have come to that conclusion.
But in his introspection, Solomon missed some of his important contributions to the life of Israel. As King, keeping his heart and mind on things of God, he further consolidated the kingdom, and strengthened it against the surrounding enemies. He built the Lord’s Temple that his father desperately wanted to leave as a legacy.
But after losing his focus on things of God, and his self-control, Solomon also welcomed many pagan wives into his family, and through these alliances many false gods into the culture of Israel. I suspect that this was much to the disappointment of God our Father: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The first love of Solomon’s father, David.
We can find this sad pattern of losing focus on things of God in every culture, every dynasty, every age.
In the United States, a life-long study was embarked in the 1930’s that followed more than 280 individuals over 72 years of their life. The study examined and documented significant factors of human well-being in the lives of those being studied. From health, physical condition, marital status, life-style decisions, psychological factors, and personal satisfaction. At the conclusion of this study, in 2008, Dr George Vaillant was asked about the results of the study. His reply was simple, but startling, “The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people.” … I would add an important other thing that really matters in life. Our relationship with God our Father, with Jesus Christ our Lord, and with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ set the proper priority, that Solomon lost sight of, and most people in society today are blinded to. “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Paul paraphrased this better than I ever could, in his letter to the Christians in Colossae. ‘Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthy things.’
At the conclusion of our time in this broken world, whatever we accomplish or fail to accomplish, will be ‘vanity of vanities’ for those things we do, think or say, where Christ Jesus is not at the centre.
Whatever in our life is not hidden with Christ in God, will eventually stand out like a flashing red and blue light in our rear view mirror. Paul tells us to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature. Now, I must confess that I have not yet found the magic formula that can totally severe me from my earthly nature. But what I have learned to do, is follow the intuition of the Holy Spirit. To stop, look and listen.
>To pause, when my body tells my soul that my human nature is sticking out again; with that edgy feeling that something isn’t right.
>To look at my attitudes and be alert to the harsh words I say to those whom I love, and to the silence I use to hurt others.
>To listen for the still small voice of conscience that can guide me back to love stream of my Saviour.
As Paul writes, to persistently ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in the image of its creator’.
Vice Admiral, Sir Frances Drake, was quoted: “Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, as our dreams come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.”
When any of us lose focus on Jesus Christ, and his provision for lives of meaning and purpose, truly everything is vanity. And everything becomes pretty scary – filled with uncertainty, and a source of constant worry.
So, Christ Jesus poses the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” It is God our Father who adds the hours to our days, and the days to our lives. Who gives us the key to his kingdom in the faith we have in his son our Lord Jesus Christ. Who gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us to the best decisions to fill our hours and days with love for one another. Who gives us the courage to confront our daunting earthly nature, and the freedom to allow our spiritual nature to prevail in our broken world.
As the Psalmist writes, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.’ (Psalm 27:4 NIV)
Even in these days, together as a worshipping community, we can give the Holy Spirit permission to work among us and in us to make a difference. To set our hearts and lives on fire for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. So that, after all is said and done, we can raise our faces to Christ Jesus and declare that all is not vanity, but Christ is all in all.
We can trust that our Lord Jesus will strengthen our faith in every time of uncertainty, as we gather around the Word and the Sacraments. That He will make his presence felt in our hearts and spirits as we remain united to him and seek his will in our lives. That He will give us the courage to be good stewards of the precious Gospel message we express in our caring, sharing, loving, and helping.
The grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in the calm assurance of salvation in our living Lord, Christ Jesus. Amen.
God cares about what you think! Did you know that? God cares about the things that interest you. He knows it’s very easy to think all day about what you’re gonna eat, what you’re gonna wear, what games you’re gonna play, what TV you’re gonna watch. He knows it’s easy to think about the new toy you want or the next holiday you’re gonna have.
The Bible says God wants you to be happy, and to care about other things too. To think about some of the things that are important to God. Like your mom and dad, your sister and brother, your nana and poppy. God wants you to think about Him once in a while too.
So, the next time when you’re thinking about things, find some time for Jesus too. And talk to him in prayer.
Let’s pray: Dear Jesus, my friend and my God: remind us all to think about you once in a while and to find time to think about the good things you bring into our life. We pray in your name. Amen.