Year A Easter 7 John 17 2011
The Meaning of Life
Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, Out, brief candle
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Writers and philosophers since recorded time have tried to answer the question. I don't think any of them have been successful in answering the question to everyone's satisfaction. Some one once said that "Trying to speak about the ultimate reality is like sending a kiss through a messenger." I understand their point: Something of its truth is lost in the translation.
What is the meaning of life? A philosophical question to be sure but this is not only the philosopher's question. It is a genuinely human question and therefore a question that we all ask. It might be a question that is asked in despair or hope, out of cynicism, or out of sincere curiosity and a deep desire to have goals and guidance in life. However we raise the question about the meaning of life, it is our most basic and fundamental question.
And so it comes as no surprise that Jesus deals with this question and answers it. Surprisingly, the answer is not given in the context of an argument with the Jewish leaders or in a discussion with his disciples, and it is not given in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus deals with so many fundamental issues. It is telling that Jesus deals with the meaning of life in the context of prayer.
In the context of what has been called, by many scholars, Jesus' High Priestly Prayer. [Pause] The Disciples are in the upper room, now. They have just finished the Passover meal and Jesus is thinking about his crucifixion which will occur within the next 24 hours. He knows he is about to leave his disciples alone in the world and he goes before God as a priest would, to intercede for them, to pray for them.
Listen again to his prayer. I am lifting out a few key verses: "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe, but I will remain in the world no longer…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life…and this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." It is in this third verse that Jesus delivers the meaning of eternal life and in essence the meaning of life itself. He says, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
In essence, Jesus says, "the meaning of life is this: that you have a relationship with God, and me his Son, Jesus Christ." And that's the long and short of it! But, Jesus himself, understood just how difficult it was going to be not only for his disciples but for all of us to come to this very simple realization in life and so he prays for two key things. First, in order that we might understand the meaning of life...
- He Prays for Our Protection from the World.
- He Prays That We Might Know God.
What Would Jesus Do? - or - How Would Jesus Do It?
The worst thing you can do to your children is to "be cool" as a teen. You say, what? "Being cool" means you will be immortalized in pictures sporting the "coolest" fashions of your teenager years. And one day your children and grandchildren will groan in embarrassment at how "cool" you look in those pictures which, of course, will be the opposite of "cool" by the time they look at them.
[Here is where you throw up on the screen pictures of members of your congregation looking ridiculous in what were the "fashions" of their teen-age years. Or just show pictures of people in these fashions. . . Or if you don't use screens, paint verbal word pictures that demonstrate how the fashions and fads of one generation become the embarrassments of the next . . .Or you could even do a fashion parade of some of these once-cool-now-uncool outfits.]
-Here is . . . . . sporting a beehive hair-do.
-Here is . . . . in an Afro.
-Here is . . . . in huge bell-bottoms.
-Here is . . . in a poodle skirt.
Anyone for grunge? Tie-dye? Shoulder pads? Converse? Platforms? Earth shoes?
I remember from my high-school basketball days being really proud of my maroon and white varsity jumpsuit and jacket. I can also remember looking at the big baggy shorts Michael Jackson wore in his college days and thinking how ridiculous he looked. Far superior were my tight-fitting basketball shorts. Now I don't want anyone to see shots of me playing basketball in those shorts that suddenly look now more like boxer underwear than basketball shorts.
The only guarantee if you are fashionably "in the moment" is that a few years later you will be laughed at by your kids until their sides hurt. Our only satisfaction is in knowing that a similar fate awaits the next "cool generation," and the next, and the next.
Yet some styles never go out of style. Some fads never fade.
-Cowboys are always cool.
-Jeans—whatever their width—can't be canned.
-A great fitting T-shirt never looks bad, whether it was 1950 or 2011.
But most of what is called "fashion" is flash in the pan. It is designed with the intention of becoming obsolete next season, so that you will need to buy a new outfit in order to "stay cool." Fashion is the very definition of "planned obsolescence."
Fashion trends change fast, but not as fast electronic trends. Everyone knows that when the economy crashes hemlines drop. But who could have foreseen that when the bottom dropped out of Wall Street, the avenue know as "Tweet Street" would have opened up for rush hour traffic. Smaller, more personal, less organized, individualized—tweating took off even as the stock market tanked.
The world has its own measurements of "success," of "cool," of "power." But those measures are not gospel gauges, but culture yardsticks. And they last just about as long as it takes the media to glom on to something else, some newer "latest trend" and "new and improved" update.
So here is the question of the morning: how are we who are committed to an old, 2000 year old truth to be forever "new" while never becoming "old-fogeys?"