A lady noticed an old happy man sitting on his porch. “Excuse me” she said “I just couldn’t help noticing how happy you look. Tell me, what is the secret to your long happy life.” “Well, the man responded, “I eat fatty foods, never exercise. I also smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, and drink about a case of whiskey a week” “Wow” the women said “and how old are you?” “Twenty-eight,” he said!
You’re not here to be made happy. Sounds crazy or mean, doesn’t it? I mean here and HERE, on earth. I’m not up here to make you happy. I’m here to help you find meaning in your life. Although we might think happiness, or the pursuit of it, will make us feel better about ourselves and our lives, the truth is finding greater meaning in our lives is at the end of the day, and our lives, much more fulfilling. It’s also what God calls us to be about.
Sometimes we know what gives our lives meaning. Sometimes we don’t. I always knew I wanted to be a dad. Well, by always I mean ever since I was 12 or so years old. I don’t know if it’s normal, but I can remember hanging out with a friend or friends in the study in my home and thinking about how wonderful it will be to be a dad. I mean while my friend was talking I would be day dreaming about having children or planning on it. This didn’t just happen once or twice either, I believe. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be a dad.
I accomplished that, didn’t I, with a huge assist, of course. Five kids are nothing to sneeze at. There have been incredible moments, the births, the first birthdays, the sleepless nights and diapers, and watching them grow, and having five to love me/us so much. The whole journey has been amazing. I’ve had the amazing fortune of having healthy children, three girls and two boys and two different families, so that I got to be a dad twice you could say, and learn from mistakes from the first time with Courtney and Cameron—poor kids—because there are always things we wish we could do again and better, right?
I remember the hardest night so far. I have been divorced now for almost twenty years. My first marriage was, to put it mildly, not good. It took a lot however for me to finally see a divorce was necessary. I didn’t want to break up the children’s lives. I was so involved with them. I couldn’t imagine only seeing them half the time. I felt guilty and responsible.
But I remember when I decided I couldn’t go on like this, and perhaps they would be better off having another home they could go to if for even half time that would be calmer and better. I remember getting up in the middle of the night, going into first one’s bedroom and then the other, and kneeling at the side of their beds on the floor, and crying, whispering I was so sorry. It broke my heart for them that I couldn’t continue being their dad in their home and I had to divorce their mom. I prayed for them and us. I had wanted to be a dad for all my life. It brought so much meaning and passion. I had to give it up, to a certain degree, although of course divorcing a parent isn’t the same as not being a parent any longer.
Do you have something or someone that drives your life, that gives you meaning, for which you’re incredibly passionate? We all need it. Not that such a thing is always going to be what we dreamed of since 12 years old. Sometimes we outgrow ours. Someday, I will be an empty nester, but I plan on making sure I have something incredibly meaningful for me to be about.
We have to be willing to give something a try. What I mean is that we aren’t always going to have this big inner moment or moments that tell us that this is what you were born for. It would be nice but waiting to find your purpose only after all the stars align and your gut tells you this is what you’ve been waiting for your whole life, well, that’s asking too much. Some important stuff may fall in your lap. Be ready. We can turn the corner and walk into the future. Be alert. We may show up in a church and sense how much you could mean to God’s work there. Listen to God’s call.
How many times has coffee and juice and cookies been laid out here at church? Several thousand times often by the same exact people, women, mostly. Huge! Small tasks, huge impact.
Why do you do that? Really. To feed people sugar and flour? No. How’s this for an answer: To gather people so they can find one another in this world before or after worship, so that this church and our kindness and God’s Spirit can find them and rest on them and they can have hope that they belong and share in the work and joy of being the church of God here. Yeah that’s why. Because you care to do it, others know they are cared for.
Today’s Gospel presents us with Jesus’ first act of public ministry in Luke’s Gospel. Following his river baptism and his long wilderness fast and temptation, Jesus returns to his home in Galilee. Reports about him have been spreading through the population, probably the result of his healing miracles and his synagogue teaching. So, when he comes back home, it’s
quite a big day in the synagogue. Everybody’s there, eager to hear the local boy who’s making a name for himself.
In his first sermon, Jesus rejected the idea of being a king like King David with lots of power. He refused to become a military leader like Joshua. Rather, he chose Isaiah 61 and said, “I am going to be a servant. I am going to take care of and heal the poor, the blind, the lame and the maimed.” In Luke 7, John the Baptist sent his messengers to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah? “Tell John,” he said, “The blind see; the lame walk; lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear. And the poor have good news preached to them.” That’s what Jesus told John was at the heart of his heart, what gave him meaning, what God asked him to be about, where he was going to bring glory to his father in heaven.
Christ’s ministry wasn’t about himself but about the glory of God. This glory manifested itself when certain things happened, when the poor received good news, when captives were released, when blind people saw, when the oppressed were liberated, and when the Lord’s favor was proclaimed.
When people were saved, Jesus gave glory to God. When unredeemed lives were redeemed, Christ showed God’s glory. When lost people were found, when overwhelmed people felt their strength, God’s glory shone.
So, what brings glory to God? Caring enough to save others from being broken or blind or oppressed or not knowing God’s favor and love. What brings glory to God about you? When you’re saved from brokenness and sin, and then somehow help others do the same.
If we’re still dealing with stuff that makes us think wrong and bad things about ourselves and others, and then act on them on top of it, then we’re still broken. We can’t find meaning in that brokenness. Unredeemed actions and thoughts, unclaimed lives struggle with making meaning of their lives. God gets no glory when we’re still hamstring from the past, when we’re still acting out our hurts and rage and jealousies and greed and sexual issues and abuse. Our brokenness damages our calling, lessens our meaning in life, dampens our spirit, denies God glory that should be ours to make happen.
What I’m talking about I would compare to ripples on a pond. Our brokenness sends out ripples, or it can be waves. There’s something bumpy and stony tossed out on the water of our lives—we keep tossing these rocks into the pond of our lives—and it sends out waves, disturbing the glory of
God that would shine in our lives off the water of our thoughts, words and actions, like the sunlight shining off a smooth lake.
You give glory to God when you grab grace and turn your life into its healed, healthy, whole direction. The Lord shines when we drop sin and pick up salvation. Christ’s work brings glory to God when we do Christ’s works in our lives. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We need to have a passion for getting healed and overcoming spiritual pain. This is where we will find the greatest meaning in our lives. Be on Christ’s team. Overcome what’s hurting. Rejoice in how much you’re contributing. But see what more you can be about so that God shines in your life and for others.
Consider the story of two stonemasons working on a cathedral. You walk up to the first stonemason and ask, “Do you like your job?” He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But it’s a job. It pays the bills.” You thank him for his time and walk on.
About thirty feet away you walk up to a second stonemason. You ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?” He looks up and replies, “I love my job. I’m building a cathedral. Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous. I work in the scorching hot sun all day. The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But I’m building a cathedral.”
They’re doing the exact same thing, but one finds great meaning. He feels he belongs, that’s he’s needed, that he gets to contribute. He is part of the difference. He matters, even if the job is bigger than he is, and even if there are others there doing the same work or perhaps even more glorified work, like a stained-glass fabricator or even the architect of the gothic cathedral. But he knows he’s building a cathedral.
Build your cathedral. Don’t just build walls. Bring glory to God. Find your path to Christ’s healing. Know the Lord’s favor for you.
Can the church say Amen?