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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jul 31, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father Almighty, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation this morning is from an unusual place, the Old Testament Lesson for today from Ecclesiastes 1 and 2. There we read these words.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. .... I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

We begin in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Dear Friends in Christ!

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity or a better translation, Meaningless, says the Preacher, utterly meaningless, all is meaningless.

Here, in the wisdom given him by God, King Solomon tackles the deep issues of life. He gets down to some of the base questions. Why am I here? What is my purpose here? Is there more to life than just to simply exist?

Recently, in an issue of Life Magazine, an elementary school teacher sent in some statements from a few of her students defining the meaning of life. A little 10 year girl said this, "the meaning of life is to make the world a better place: to plant flowers, to recycle, to help the poor and to help the animals from becoming extinct. The meaning of life is that we should pick up litter, make new friends and learn more and more and more!!!"

What thoughtful little girl! One has to applaud her concern for this world in which we live. At the same time, however, one has to bemoan the hollowness of it all.

A little 11 year old boy said, "I think that our purpose on earth is to see what it is like to live and be free. We can also explore the galaxy and see what that is like. But I think the truth is that almost no one really knows what the meaning of life is. All we know is that we're born, we live and we die. But we are not even sure of that. For all we know, when we die we come back as a dog. So we don't really know what the meaning of life is, and we probably won't ever know."

How sad that the human heart could produce a cynic at the tender age of 11 years. It is indeed a daunting task to assign meaning to life. It is so daunting that most people simply choose to ignore it, or if they do address it, they play games with it.

From the materialism of the 1980's, for instance, came the philosophy of "the one who dies with the most toys wins." A materialist, you see, believes that life consists of what one can accumulate.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

In the parable that Jesus told in Luke 12, the materialist is the one who says, "I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, `You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry." His is a philosophy of "the one who dies with the most toys wins."

In the 1960's it was peace. The meaning of life was to be at peace, even if it meant rebelling against all forms of authority in order to get there. In the 1990's it seems to have been an endless quest for happiness. The goal or the meaning of life for many people was simply to be happy.

Today, the goal of so many people is to be entertained, to do whatever feels good, to get whatever you want with someone else providing it. Yes, it is indeed a daunting task to assign meaning to life because those things that seemingly give life purpose are themselves meaningless.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon looks at the meaning of life. As he does he makes a clear distinction between life under the sun apart from God, and life lived under the hand of God. He acknowledges that there are really two ways of looking at life. One is hollow and meaningless, the other is full, taking on meaning from the One who created that life.

Looking at life, under the sun, that is to say, apart from God, Solomon bemoans his very existence. "Meaningless, he says, Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

What good does it do to work and accumulate (he reasons)? Everything you build, everything you earn, will ultimately be left to another person. Someone else will get to reap the benefit of your hard labor and how fair is that?

And to top it all off, the person who benefits from your hard labor may not be wise like you are, he might be a fool, and yet, he will prosper by the sweat of your brow. "What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too, says Solomon, is meaningless."

It's true!!! Under the sun, apart from God, life is meaningless. It is pointless! It is depressing! It is unfair! It is hollow! It is a dead end street! It is a big game! It is a chasing after the wind! It is meaningless!

In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes, "Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." Or as we are considering it in this message this morning, "the meaning of life is to know Christ and to be found in Him."

How much better it would be that the children in the elementary teacher's class, that the man in Jesus' parable, that people everywhere could come to understand that the meaning of life is to know Christ and to be found in Him.

St. Paul, God's spokesman to the church, wrote in Philippians 3, "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him...that I may know Him, and the power of His resur-rection and the fellowship of His sufferings."

Yes, life under the sun is meaningless, but life in Christ is not. To know Christ is the meaning of life. People live all their lives trying to make sense out of life. They strive for the secret meaning behind it all.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

And all the while Jesus Christ calls out saying, "Come!" "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."

"I am the bread of LIFE, I am the resurrection and the LIFE, I am the way, the truth and the LIFE, I have come that they might have LIFE and have it abundantly."

To know Christ is the meaning of life and to be found in Him is the blessed end for those who know Him. You see, the judgment day, that day that the rich man in the parable in Luke 12 had conceived would never come, will come. And on that day you will be found one of two ways.

As one who lived "under the sun," or as one who lived in Christ.

Added to the frustration of the one who lived "under the sun" will be those awful words of Christ from the Gospel for today, "You fool, man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions," but added to the joy of the one who knows Christ will be those blessed words of God, "come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you."

How sad that a 10 and 11 year old can have such a hollow and cynical view of life. How troubling it is that every age poses it's empty solutions to the meaning of life, solutions that the masses adopt only to find that the promises are fickle, and fleeting at best.

How true it is that life "under the sun" is meaningless. Utterly meaningless. How true it is that life under the sun is depressing! That It is unfair! Hollow! A dead end street! A big game! A chasing after the wind!

But here is the bread of LIFE. Here is Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the LIFE. Here is the One who came that you might have LIFE and that you might have it abundantly.

Here is the One who gives LIFE through water and the word. here is the One who gives you Life through His own body and blood in this very table of Holy Communion. here is the One who gives LIFE through the power of the cross and the word of forgiveness.

"From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!" To know Christ and to be found in Him! Life is not meaningless.

Christ is risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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