11th Sunday after Pentecost; Sermon Series #2
August 16, 2020
Ecclesiastes 4:1, 13-16
“Summer Road Trip for the Meaning of Life; Washington DC/Power”
God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Living Lord and Good Shepherd Jesus. Today we continue our “summer road trip” in search of the meaning of life. Today’s journey takes us to Washington DC by way of Ecclesiastes chapter 4.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
So far in our quest for the meaning of life this summer we didn’t find life’s meaning in the collective wealth of a place like Seattle, so today we’ll look someplace new. Today our journey rolls us into our nation’s capital – Washington D.C.
Washington is in the District of Columbia and is the home of our nation’s capital. It was founded in 1790, but transfer of governmental power from Philadelphia to Washington didn’t happen until 1800. D.C. is a large area; not only is it the home of a great number of our national landmarks and center of our government, it also boasts a metro population in excess of 6.2 million people, 6th largest in the US.
Just as Seattle personified wealth, Washington D.C. is the epitome of collective power. It is a town of hidden agendas, political moves meant to manipulate future events and people, and probably enough corruption going on that it would tempt many of us to move north to Canada if we knew the full truth. With that much power in one place, bad things can and do happen
That doesn’t mean we don’t want some. As sinners we all want a “taste” of power. Maybe not in political office, but we still desire to have things be our way, we want to be in charge, we want people to listen to us. And once we get a taste of that manipulative power over our spouse/children or at home or at work or in church, we can never get enough. Maybe a place like Washington DC offers meaning in life through manipulation and power…getting our own way all the time. Or maybe not.
They say that power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. While that may be the case, that is not what Ecclesiastes teaches. The real enemy to power isn’t corruption. The real enemy to power is time.
King Solomon was perhaps the most powerful king of his day. Historians report that kings and leaders from other countries traveled to Jerusalem – the Washington D.C. of the ancient Near East – to learn from Solomon. Yet Solomon knew the futility of having power: “There was no end of all the people…whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is (meaningless) and a striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:16 ESV). Solomon points out, and rightly so, that there is no lasting meaning in power. It is better to be wise, young, and unknown than those “on top” whom will disappear from the halls of power to be soon forgotten. For example, can you name any of the 5 Presidents before Abraham Lincoln (Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan)? Who was the President after Lincoln (Andrew Johnson)? See what I mean?
Earthly power doesn’t last; it just doesn’t. What holds true in the world of rulers and politicians in Washington DC also applies to the fields of business, sports and entertainment. Though it is not always famous people; this is an issue “across the board.” Many people rise only to later fall…and fall hard. Today’s hero easily becomes tomorrow’s has-been. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want power, because we do. Lots of people dream of being famous actors and actresses or being the best in their favorite sport. “This too is meaningless,” Solomon would say, “a chasing after the wind.” Those on top don’t stay in top. Just ask Roy Farris.
Well, you may not know him as Roy Farris. You might know him better as the “Honky Tonk Man.” The greasy-haired Elvis impersonating professional wrestler was the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in WWF history, when he held the title for 14 months in the 1980s. His days as a champion, however, came to a sudden end at a pay-per-view TV wrestling event called SummerSlam ’88, when a jam-packed Madison Square Garden crowd saw him lose to the Ultimate Warrior. The last time I saw Honky Tank Man wrestle was not on TV or a crowded arena, but at a county fair in east central Minnesota in 2012. From TV to Madison Square Garden to the Isanti County Fair in front of maybe 100 people…maybe. The former WWF champion, at 60 years old, was making a living wrestling in the hot sun of the county fair circuit. Oh, how the mighty and powerful have fallen.
Meaning in life is not holding power over others at home, at work, in school, or on a committee. Power in this world is only meaningful as it allows us to be helpful in the lives of other people. We are called to serve, not be served. God gave us two hands – one to help ourselves and one to help others. In Matthew 20, Jesus said, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority for us in this world and in the life of the glory of heaven yet to come. He has been given all power (authority) on earth (Matthew 28:19), but when He came, He came TO SERVE. Rulers and kings and wrestlers and politicians and presidents have come and gone, but God in Christ has come to serve us forever.
Washington D.C. is full of monuments, but as the people of God there is only one monument we truly need. At Calvary’s cross Jesus dies to secure your forgiveness (even to forgive the sin of coveting power over others), life, and salvation. At the cross and empty tomb He disarms the power of sin and Satan, and gives His people light and life and hope! In reality, we don’t need to hold power over others; God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Meaning in life isn’t found in a place like Washington D.C. because its power doesn’t last. Serve God through the faithful use of your time, your talents, and your treasures. Keep the 4th Commandment – honoring those in authority over us – for that is also a form of service. Power in this world doesn’t mean anything; only loving service rendered to God and for God lasts. Solomon taught that. Jesus personified that. Now, go live that.
Well, we didn’t find the meaning of life in Seattle (money) or Washington DC. (power). Next stop…Las Vegas to see if we can find the meaning of life there, and you know what they say about Vegas.