14th Sunday after Pentecost

14th Sunday after Pentecost; Sermon series #5

September 6, 2020

Ecclesiastes 3:11a, 12-14

“Summer Road Trip; We’re There!”

God’s grace, mercy and peace be to you all in the name of our Living Lord and Good Shepherd Jesus. Today we conclude our “summer road trip” in search of meaning in life. Today…we find that meaning, which Solomon articulated for us in Ecclesiastes chapter 3.

My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,

On our summer road trip in search for meaning in this life we stopped at 4 different locations. In Seattle we failed to find meaningful life in wealth. In Washington D.C. we failed to find life’s meaning even in power. In Las Vegas we could not find a meaningful life in instant gratification and pleasure. And last week we didn’t find life’s meaning in a location laden with wisdom – Silicon Valley, CA. We have not found meaning for life in wealth, power, pleasure, or wisdom…4 things that King Solomon had in abundance, but every week it’s been the same thing…meaningless! So where DO we find meaning in life? And maybe you’re wondering, “Oh…where are we going today, Pastor?” The answer is…in terms of finding meaning in life, we’re already there.

The rally cry of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes is “Vanity! Meaningless! Everything under the sun is meaningless; it is a chasing after wind.” King Solomon was wise; he would know these things. Wealth, pleasure, power, and wisdom are nice, but they are not lasting. They have no “staying” power in and of themselves. It’s like candy…good for the moment, but not intended for long-term use. Money, power, pleasure, and wisdom do not make an eternal difference. So what does? What does make a lasting difference?

Solomon points out for us what finally, truly, lasts; what isn’t vanity or meaningless. “(God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever (Ecclesiastes 3:11a, 12-14a ESV). And what is it that God does that endures forever? Love. He loves, for He IS love. That’s just what we need to hear these days.

Right now our world is FULL of hate. On top of a global pandemic, the Right hates the Left. The Left hates the Right. Just look into so many city streets and you can almost see the hatred emanating from both sides of every social issue. As the people of God we are not called to hate, but to love. I did a word search of the ESV Bible regarding the words “love” and “hate.” I found 169 hits for the word “hate.” There were more than 650 occurrences of the word “love.” In God’s Word, love outweighs hate 6-fold. The same is to be true in our lives, also.

In the New Testament, there are 3 Greek words for love: Eros, Philo, and Agape. Eros is the physical aspect of love – the lust part. “Erotic” comes from the same root word. There is no shortage of examples of Eros love in the pleasures of Las Vegas. The strip clubs and adult book stores in Vegas are evidence enough. Philo love involves the type of love that is shared between friends, what you might find among the wealthy folks of Seattle or the “techies” of Silicon Valley; maybe not so much in Washington D.C. There is closeness and a spirit of camaraderie that underlies Philo love. This is an enjoyable type of connection, but it isn’t necessarily long lasting. It is often a bond that can be easily broken by circumstances. And then there is Agape. Agape is the ultimate expression of love. It is a self-sacrificing love, a love that puts a higher priority on the welfare of the other person than on your own desires.

Agape love is the type of love that is used to describe God’s love for mankind. From John 3:16 we know that God so loved you – Agape – that He sent His one and only Son – our Savior Jesus Christ – to bring about the forgiveness of sins and give you the promised hope and fulfillment of that very same hope for eternal life. So also in 1 John 4 we learn, “let us love – Agape – one another, for love is from God…In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:7-10 ESV). Without God – without love – Solomon is spot-on right. All is meaningless! But love…well, God’s love changes everything.

We don’t have to go anywhere that personifies love. We practice and find love – find meaning for our lives – right where God has put you today. St. John wrote in his first letter, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11, ESV). No location, no conditions. Meaning for life is found in love: God’s love for us in Christ, which is above all, enables us to show love towards family, friends, in relationships, and is manifested in helping others. Our love for others is a reflection of God’s love for us. They say that love makes the world go around. If that’s true, then God’s love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

The meaning of life is realized as we love God as He has loved us, which in turn propels us to love our neighbor. When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, He declared that everyone is our neighbor and that we have a responsibility, a divine calling, to show love to all people just as God in Christ loves you.

Solomon had it all: wealth, power, pleasure, wisdom and so much more. But it doesn’t mean anything because none of those things make an eternal difference. But love does. Friends, your wealth, your status, your possessions, and the like truly are inconsequential in light of God’s bigger picture for you.

I know these are hard and trying times. I don’t know when if even if they’ll end. Still, be joyful for what God in Christ has done for you, and show that joy in your relationships of love with family, friends, and neighbors. As wise Solomon would say, do good as long as you live. Love what you do and love those who are in your life. In doing so, you will find the meaning you’ve been looking for.

You know what they say. It’s always fun to go on vacation, but it’s always good to get back home. Home is where we are…it is where we love. It is here that we find meaning in life. Welcome home.

Amen.