Archive for March, 2010

Holy Week

The ABC network is currently airing a series called “Flash Forward.” The series kicks off portraying a global phenomenon that causes people to lose consciousness for 137 seconds, during which they see visions of what will take place six months into their futures.  Some people see visions of better lives while others see visions of tragedies, heartaches, and betrayals.  There are some who see nothing at all – and they fear that this means that they will die within six months.

Though it wasn’t a flash forward full of the kind of science fiction intrigue that marks the ABC series, Jesus has a “flash forward” of his own, rooted in his omniscience as the Son of God.  Over the course of his ministry, Jesus is fully aware that he has come to die.  Consider Jesus’ words to his disciples:  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.  On the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18:31-33).  Jesus knows precisely what will happen to him.  He even knows precisely where it will happen to him – at Jerusalem.

You can imagine how Jesus must have felt, then, at the beginning of this week – a week that the Church has traditionally called Holy Week.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday, they day on which Jesus is hailed as a king by an adoring throng.  But notice how the story of Palm Sunday begins: “Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” (Luke 19:28).  Jesus is arriving at the city where he will soon be condemned to die.  And he knows it!  Yet, he rides into Jerusalem anyway.  Indeed, Jesus is determined to make it to Jerusalem in spite of his impending doom.  As Luke says: “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).  This phrase “set his face” is idiomatic, describing strong willed determination, and echoes an Isaianic prophecy where God’s Messiah says, “I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

Why would Jesus be so willing and even determined to go to the place of his death?  According to his own admission, it is so that “everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled” (Luke 18:31).  In other words, Jesus is determined to orient his life around the Scriptures even when orienting his life around the Scriptures is difficult and even if it finally leads to his death.  Jesus will follow what the Scriptures say to and about him so that he can fulfill what the Scriptures have for him.

In what ways do you orient your life around the Scriptures, even when doing so is hard?  In what ways do you fall short?  As we begin Holy Week, it is important to orient our hearts, souls, and lives around God’s Word not simply so that we can obey what God’s Word instructs, but so that we can believe what God’s Word promises – that God has sent his Son to forgive our sins.  To that end, I would invite you this Holy Week to worship our Lord and to remember what he has done for you.  You can do so by joining us in any one of our Holy Week services at Concordia:

  • Maundy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  Services are at noon and 7 pm.
  • Good Friday reflects on the price Jesus paid for the forgiveness of our sins.  Services are at noon and 7 pm.
  • Easter celebrates Jesus’ joyful resurrection from the dead and anticipates that we too will rise from death on the Last Day.  Services are Saturday at 6 pm and Sunday at 6:30, 8, 9:30, and 11 am.

If you can’t make it to our services in person, you can also stream them live at www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com.

I would also encourage you, over the course of this week, to read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This will help you focus on God’s work of salvation in Christ.  The accounts are found in Matthew 26:1-28:10, Mark 14:1-16:8, Luke 22:1-24:12, and John 18:1-20:18.  You can also learn more about the history and theology of this week by downloading a free booklet on Holy Week, available here.

May Holy Week be a time of blessing for you as you fix your eyes on Christ and ponder again the wonder of how his death means your salvation!

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March 29, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – From Agony to Glory – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

It’s not easy being a Christian.  Sometimes, we too easily forget this important truth.  Indeed, Jesus himself warns while also inviting us:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  Following Jesus involves not only the cross of salvation, but a cross of suffering.

The early church fathers understood the cross of suffering well.  For example, consider Blandina of Lyon.  Blandina was a lowly slave, thrown into prison during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.  When she was finally brought forth from her cell to be tortured, her companions pleaded for leniency, worried that her fragile body would not be able to endure brute beatings.  The official presiding over Blandina, however, demanded that the executioners torture her in the most heinous manner possible.

Church lore has it that, even though the executioners brought their worst tortures against this frail lady, they could not kill her or even bring her down as she repeated over and over, “I am a Christian, and we commit no wrongdoing.”  Being unable to kill her, she was finally scourged, placed on a red-hot grate, enclosed in a net, thrown before a wild steer who tossed her into the air with his horns, and at last killed with a dagger.  Such was the gory martyrdom which this faithful woman endured.

This sad story prompted the famed church historian Eusebius to write:  “Though small and weak and despised, yet clothed with Christ the mighty and conquering Athlete, she…having overcome the adversary many times might receive, through her conflict, the crown incorruptible” (Eusebius, Church History, 5.1.42).  Blandina faced the most terrible of tortures, but because of her faith, even death could not thwart her final and eternal victory in Christ.  Christ is “the mighty and conquering Athlete,” writes Eusebius, and he has given to Blandina “the crown incorruptible.”

Eusebius derives his analogy of Christ as an Athlete and the prize of salvation as a crown from our text for this past weekend in worship and ABC:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

As I mentioned in ABC, the Greek word for “competes” is agonizomai, from which we get our English word “agony.”  Thus, competing in the game of life is not always easy.  Sometimes, it can involve agony, pain, and persecution.  This is why the apostle Paul writes of his ministry: “We proclaim Christ admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling” (Colossians 1:28-29).  The Greek word for “struggling” is agonizomai.  Paul freely admits that preaching the gospel and contending for the faith can sometimes be agonizing.  But Paul continues:  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:29).  Paul’s ministry may involve agonizomai, but he does not have to face agonizomai alone.  No, Christ’s strength powerfully works in him and endures it with him.  After all, Christ endured the worst agonizomai of all – the agonizomai of the cross.  Thus, he can surely help us as we face the agonizomais of life.

Are you suffering?  Are you being persecuted?  Are you hurting?  Christ gives his energy to help us face the agonizomais of this world and of our lives.  He gives us strength for today and a crown for eternity.  And as Blandina and all the martyrs would most certainly tell us, the agonizomais of this life cannot even begin to compare with the crowns of glory which await us (cf. Romans 8:18).  So stand strong!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

March 22, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Falling in Love – 1 Timothy 6:3-11

Melody and I are in the process of house hunting.  It’s no easy task.  We’ve looked at property after property and home after home.  We don’t like the style of some houses.  We didn’t care for the location of others.  Still other houses were over-priced.  But then there were those special houses – the houses that catch your eye and tickle your fancy.  Those houses that are so quaint, they make you fall in love with them.  Thankfully, however, as I began this process, I spoke with a dear congregational member who has a lot of history in the real estate business.  He gave me some sage advice.  “Pick an established neighborhood,” he told me.  “You don’t want to see a strip mall go up across the street from your house in two years.  And never, ever fall in love with a house.  If you fall in love with a house, you’re more likely to pay too much and get too little.  Remember, a house is just a commodity.  There are things more important than the house you live in.”

This member’s advice concerning home buying is truly seasoned and wise, not only from a financial standpoint, but from a spiritual one.  For the commodities of this world – be they homes or cars or gadgets or gizmos – have a way of trying to capture our hearts.  But we are not to fall for their allurements.  For these are things that “moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).  They’re not eternal.  They’re just commodities.

In our text for this weekend from 1 Timothy 6, Paul offers a stark warning against falling in love with the commodities of this world.  In one of the most famous verses of all the New Testament, Paul writes, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).  Loving commodities and the money which purchases them is the surest way to much grief.  It is a trap.  Don’t fall for it.

The Greek word for “trap” in verse 9 denotes a snare.  Like some wild game caught in a snare, soon to lose its life, money wants to seize us in its clutches, and it wants to “plunge us into ruin and destruction.”  It wants to make us lose not only our lives, but our eternities.  For it wants to entice us into “wandering from the faith.”  Interestingly, Paul speaks of this same trap earlier in this same epistle when he warns, “Do not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1 Timothy 3:7).  Here, Paul alerts us to the one who sets the trap of loving money – it is none other than the devil himself.

Loving money does not just cost us our bank accounts as we try to live beyond our means, it costs us our souls as we forget about that which is truly priceless and transcendent.  Perhaps the great preacher Chrysostom put it best when he said, “Riches are not forbidden, but the price of them is.”  In other words, it is okay to have riches, but it is not okay to sacrifice that which is truly important – things like “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (verse 11) – to get those riches.  That is a price for riches that is simply too high to pay.

Never, ever fall in love with money or the things which money can buy.  They’re just commodities.  And there are things more important than commodities.  There are things that money can’t buy.  Things like the forgiveness of God, bought not with a checkbook, but with the blood of his one and only Son.  And it is okay if he captures your heart.  For Jesus is eternal.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Zach’s
message or Pastor Nordlie’s ABC!

March 15, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Pondering Christ’s Passion

It is a traditional devotional practice during the season of Lent for Christians to take some time to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.  As we are in the midst of this special season, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you some selections from Martin Luther’s Meditation on Christ’s Passion from 1519.  This meditation was one of Luther’s favorites.  At one point he called it his “very best book.”  Indeed, it is a brilliant reflection as Luther focuses with laser like clarity on Christ’s sacrifice.

As you read these words, I would encourage you to notice the way in which Luther draws a sharp distinction between God’s Law and God’s Gospel.  God’s Law is expressed in a way that is harsh and inescapable.  Luther’s expression and condemnation of our sinfulness might sound shocking, but it is certainly Scriptural.  But Luther does not leave us in despair.  With the heart of a pastor, he points us to the sacrifice of Christ and gloriously sets forth for us how it is all-sufficient for our sin.

And so I invite you to ponder now on Christ’s holy Passion.  May this reflection be a blessing to you.

They contemplate Christ’s passion aright who view it with a terror-stricken heart and a despairing conscience. This terror must be felt as you witness the stern wrath and the unchanging earnestness with which God looks upon sin and sinners, so much so that he was unwilling to release sinners even for his only and dearest Son without his payment of the severest penalty for them. Thus he says in Isaiah 53:8, “I have chastised him for the transgressions of my people.” If the dearest child is punished thus, what will be the fate of sinners? It must be an inexpressible and unbearable earnestness that forces such a great and infinite person to suffer and die to appease it. And if you seriously consider that it is God’s very own Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, who suffers, you will be terrified indeed. The more you think about it, the more intensely will you be frightened.

You must get this thought through your head and not doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this. In Acts 2:36–37, St. Peter frightened the Jews like a peal of thunder when he said to all of them, “You crucified him.” Consequently three thousand alarmed and terrified Jews asked the apostles on that one day, “O dear brethren, what shall we do now?” Therefore, when you see the nails piercing Christ’s hands, you can be certain that it is your work. When you behold his crown of thorns, you may rest assured that these are your evil thoughts, etc.

We must give ourselves wholly to this matter, for the main benefit of Christ’s passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ’s passion.

After man has thus become aware of his sin and is terrified in his heart, he must watch that sin does not remain in his conscience, for this would lead to sheer despair. Just as our knowledge of sin flowed from Christ and was acknowledged by us, so we must pour this sin back on him and free our conscience of it. Therefore beware, lest you do as those perverse people who torture their hearts with their sins and strive to do the impossible, namely, get rid of their sins by running from one good work or penance to another, or by working their way out of this by means of indulgences. Unfortunately such false confidence in penance and pilgrimages is widespread.

You cast your sins from yourself and onto Christ when you firmly believe that his wounds and sufferings are your sins, to be borne and paid for by him, as we read in Isaiah 53:6, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” St. Peter says, “in his body has he borne our sins on the wood of the cross” (1 Peter 2:24). St. Paul says, “God has made him a sinner for us, so that through him we would be made just” (2 Corinthians 5:21). You must stake everything on these and similar verses. The more your conscience torments you, the more tenaciously must you cling to them. If you do not do that, but presume to still your conscience with your contrition and penance, you will never obtain peace of mind, but will have to despair in the end. If we allow sin to remain in our conscience and try to deal with it there, or if we look at sin in our heart, it will be much too strong for us and will live on forever. But if we behold it resting on Christ and see it overcome by his resurrection, and then boldly believe this, even it is dead and nullified. Sin cannot remain on Christ, since it is swallowed up by his resurrection. Now you see no wounds, no pain in him, and no sign of sin. Thus St. Paul declares that “Christ died for our sin and rose for our justification” (Romans 4:25). That is to say, in his suffering Christ makes our sin known and thus destroys it, but through his resurrection he justifies us and delivers us from all sin, if we believe this.

Luther’s Works: American Edition, Volume 42, pages 8-12

March 11, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Being Subject to Judgment – Matthew 5:21-22

In Adult Bible Class this past weekend, we continued our “Fit for Life” series with a look at our relational health.  As with emotional health in last week’s ABC Extra, I thought some statistics might offer a telling aperture into the state of our relationships:

  • As of 2003, 43.7% of custodial mothers and 56.2% of custodial fathers were either separated or divorced, giving credence to the oft-quoted statistic that 50% of marriages will end in divorce.  Many marriages are broken.
  • According to The State of Our Unions 2005, only 63% of American children grow up with both biological parents – the lowest figure in the Western world.  Families are broken.
  • A 2006 study in the American Sociological Review found that Americans on average had only two close friends to confide in, down from an average of three in 1985. The percentage of people who noted having no such confidant rose from 10% to almost 25%.  Friendships are broken.

Between the breakdown in marriages, families, and friendships, it is clear that our relational health is on life support.

Jesus knew all about the disaster that results from relational sickness.  Divorces, grudges, and loneliness are devastating.  Indeed, from the very beginning, God spoke of the importance of relationships and relational health.  God says of Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  And so God makes Eve for Adam.  God desires that we be in relationship with each other and with him.

It is with this in mind that Jesus offers us a stark and sobering warning about the damage a fractured or fissured relationship can bring: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’” (Matthew 5:21).  Notice that Jesus says those who murder are “subject to judgment.”  What judgment was rendered for murder?  Moses explains:

If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.  The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.  If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. (Numbers 35:16-21)

No matter what the means of murder, the judgment against it is the same:  murder invokes capital punishment.   But now, in Matthew 5, Jesus takes this dire judgment one step farther: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22).  In other words, those who are angry are subject to same judgment as those who murder.  Both anger and murder result in death.

As I mentioned in ABC, the Hebrew word for “murder” in the fifth commandment is rasach, a word that denotes murder in particular over and against killing in general.  Thus, this word describes not only the act of killing someone, but the intention behind that act. In other words, if you slay someone on a field of battle in self-defense, it is not rasach.  If you kill someone with malevolent intent, however, it is rasach.  Thus, when Jesus speaks against being angry with your brother, he is picking up on the intention behind the action in this commandment.  And so Jesus says, “Be it the action of rasach or the intention behind the action, the result is the same:  you will be ‘subject to judgment.’”

But can Jesus really be serious here?  After all, the judgment rendered against the act of murder is death.  Certainly the judgment rendered against the anger that accompanies the action can’t also be death!  Indeed, in first century Jewish communities, save the reclusive Essenes, there were no standardized punishments for anger.  How can Jesus now levy a punishment as harsh as death on a mere emotion?

Anger leads to death.  Sure, it may not lead to the kind of death that happens with capital punishment – a lethal injection or an electric chair or a noose – but it can certainly lead to its own kind of death.  Anger can lead to the death of a friendship, the death of community, the death of a marriage, the death of joy, and finally, if unchecked and unrighteous, the death of your soul.  This is why Jesus is so concerned about letting go of anger – because he knows the consequences for unrighteous and unrepentant anger can be devastating.

In truth, God has every right to be angry with us because of our sin.  And yet, because of Christ’s of propitiatory work on the cross, we can rejoice that “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  God’s wrath at our sin was placed on Christ at the cross.  God let go of his anger on Christ.  And now, even as God’s wrath has been turned back at us, we are called to turn back our anger at others.  As Paul says:  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).  May it be so with us.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

March 8, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment

ABC Preview – Righteous Anger – Matthew 5:21-22

This weekend in Adult Bible Class, we continue our “Fit for Life” series with a look at relational health.  Jesus addresses the perils of relational sickness in our text for this weekend: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).  Jesus says anger is antithetical to healthy relationships.  And yet, again and again, we read in the pages of Scripture of a God who gets angry.  Indeed, the Psalmist says: “God rebukes [the peoples] in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath” (Psalm 2:5).  God gets angry.  But Jesus cautions against anger.  So how can one who gets angry teach against anger?

The syntax of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 is instructive.  Jesus warns against being a person “who is angry.”  In Greek, this is a present tense participle, denoting not an incidental reaction to sin or injustice, but an ongoing temperament.  In other words, the person “who is angry” is continually angry, perhaps with no good reason at all.  Anger forms the core of this person’s character.

Our God does indeed get angry.  But his anger is always with good reason and as an incidental reaction to our sin.  Indeed, it would be an egregious miscarriage of his character if our holy God did not get angry at our ugly sin.  God’s anger is a righteous anger.

Perhaps the best description that I have read concerning God’s righteous anger comes from J.I. Packer:

What manner of thing is the wrath of God?…It is not the capricious, arbitrary, bad-tempered, and conceited anger that pagans attribute to their gods.  It is not the sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans.  It is a function of that holiness which is expressed in the demands of God’s moral law (“be holy, because I am holy” [1 Peter 1:16]), and of that righteousness which is expressed in God’s acts of judgment and reward…God’s wrath is “the holy revulsions of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness”; it issues in “a positive outgoing of the divine displeasure.”  And this is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature.  So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way.  God is not just – that is, he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves. (J.I. Packer, In My Place Condemned He Stood, 35)

Blessedly, as Packer goes on to note, God makes provision for his holy anger in the cross of his Son, Jesus Christ.  As Paul writes:  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).  God’s righteous anger at our sin is put on his righteous Son on the cross.  In theological parlance, we call this propitiation.

Thus, there is a place for anger.  But it must be the right kind of anger.  It must be righteous anger.  So confess the times that you have fallen prey to the “sinful, resentful, malicious, infantile anger that we find among humans,” as Packer says.  And thank God for his righteous anger.  For sin deserves and even demands wrath from a righteous God.  But praise be to God that he poured out his wrath not on us, but on his Son.  Why does God do a thing so terrible as pouring out his wrath on his Son?  Because God’s anger never stands alone.  It is always coupled with his love for you and me.

March 4, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Meaning in Meaninglessness – Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Depression 1“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD” (Psalm 130:1).  We all know what it feels like to be in “the depths.”  A tragedy strikes, depression hits, or despair wreaks havoc on our hearts and our emotional states can quickly take a turn for the worse.  Just this past week, I have heard stories of great trouble, tragedy, and trial from many of our own congregation members.  Tears come to my eyes as I think of the depths they are having to endure.  As they are in “the depths,” I cry to the Lord in prayer for them.

In worship this past weekend, we continued our series “Fit for Life” by talking about our emotional health.  In my studies for this weekend’s theme, I found that for all the health problems we have physically as a nation – cancer and diabetes and swine flu and coughs and colds – our emotional health problems are even direr.  Consider these statistics:

  • According to PBS, 15 million adults, a full 8% of the US population, suffers from what is described as “major depression,” that is, depression that has become unmanageable.  And this number does not even include people 18 and younger.  There are millions more high school students who suffer from major depression.
  • Every sixteen minutes, someone commits suicide in our country.  Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death overall and the second leading cause of death among college students.  Every year, more people die from suicide than homicide.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, anti-depressants are the most prescribed drugs in America.  Of the 2.4 billion prescriptions written in 2005, 118 million of those were for anti-depressants.  Interestingly, the number of anti-depressants prescribed between 1999 and 2000 tripled.

These statistics sadly attest to how we, as a nation, are not emotionally healthy.  Emotional sickness, however, is not unique to our day and age.  Depression struck the ancients even as it strikes us.

Consider Solomon in Ecclesiastes.  He opens his book:  “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  The Hebrew word for “meaningless” is hebel, meaning, “emptiness,” or “vanity.”  Notably, the Hebrew construction reads literally, “Hebel of Hebels,” or “Vanity of Vanities.”  This is to express the superlative force of the meaninglessness of which Solomon speaks.  In other words, Solomon is not just addressing that which is meaningless, he is addressing that which is most meaningless.  And what is most meaningless?  Solomon answers, “Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).  Everything?  Yes, everything! Money, fame, power, prestige, accomplishment, wisdom, connectedness – it’s all meaningless!  Talk about a depressed outlook on life!

Blessedly, Solomon further clarifies his assertion that everything is ultimately meaningless by noting the location at which everything is meaningless: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (verse 9).  This phrase, “under the sun,” is key to Ecclesiastes and appears some twenty nine times.  It serves as a circumlocution to speak of that which is on this earth.  In other words, as long as we are on this earth and are living by the values of this earth, our lives will be ultimately devoid of meaning.  We will find ourselves trapped by “the depths” of sinfulness.  Thus, if we are to receive true, lasting meaning for our lives, we must receive it from somewhere – indeed, from someone – not under the sun.  And so Solomon finally points us to God as our source for true meaning:

What does the worker gain from his toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)

Even though this world is full of trouble, toil, and tribulation “under the sun,” we trust in a God who delivers his gifts from above the sun – he delivers his gifts from heaven, even as James says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).  God sends his gifts from above the heavenly lights into our world.  Indeed, he even sent the good and perfect gift of his Son, the ultimate heavenly Light, to redeem our world from its misery and meaninglessness.  It is in Christ that we find transcendent meaning for our lives.

How is your emotional health?  Are you happy or sad?  Fulfilled or empty?  Elated or in despair?  Whether times are good or bad, remember that life is not hopeless “under the sun.”  For God has sent his Son from above the sun to give us meaning and purpose as we live under the sun.  And so never despair concerning your life’s meaning.  For God has given your life – and every life – meaning.  And that meaning’s name is Jesus.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Dr. Player’s ABC!

March 1, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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