Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life Under the SunEcclesiastes 1

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Ecclesiastes 1

For those who havent yet seen the movie, about Schmidt, I am about to render seeing that movie a useless and vain exercise.

For Jack Nicholson plays a man just retired. He has risen to be the vice president of his insurance company, and now watches the clock tick down to 5pm, and leaves his office soon after.

His office is all packed up with boxes of files.

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At his retirement speech, his replacement is chosen to give the speech.

He is a young upstart who thanks him for his work and help in getting him settled, but then the upstart quickly goes on to speak about himself and how he is settling in to the job at hand.

Schmidt then returns to the office to see if there are any questions the upstart has for him after serving the company for 40 years. The upstart says No, Schmidt had provided good information on the handover to the upstart. And then he says

Look, at the time, can you ride down the elevator with me.

Schmidt is now shunted to the side. And as he walks away from this multi storied building that had been his life, he looks over to the garbage area, and sees…..

He sees all the files that he had passed on to the upstart stacked haphazardly beside the garbage. All to be tossed out.

His lifes work. Now to be taken to the local landfill and dumped with all the other rubbish.

For what has Schmidt worked for? What was his purpose in life? This movie brilliantly asks this question.

As you think about life, what is life like? Or let me ask an even crueller question, what is life for?

As you look at life in this world, or if you want to use a phrase from our passage, life under the sun, what conclusions can you draw about what this life is for?

You can look at the wise ones of this world. Most people would take Kerry Packer as a wise man. But you may or may not know that after Kerry’s near death incident at Rosehill Racecourse, he had a near death experience, where his interpretation of that experience has led him to conclude that there in nothing on the other side of death. Here is the wise mans conclusion.

His reference point is himself. He is the centre of his world. His understanding of the world is generated from what he can see and research and understand.

There was another man like that in the ancient world. He wrote a book called Ecclesiastes. He looks at the world through his own eyes and records for us the result.

How can such a depressing book as this find its way into the bible.

Because it reflects for us the truth. It reflects to us a logical and not often faced truth. That life in this world is utterly meaningless.

These arent just the words of a nobody. These are the words of a notable person. Exactly how he is a son of David is not absolutely clear.

King Solomon is the most likely candidate, and well see this as the book moves on. But the author is strangely reserved in giving us his exact identity.

Is it all from the one author? Eccles. 1 (NIV)

Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.

Clearly not from the one author.

That he is a descendant of David, is there in the first verse. But its in the bible. And for the next several weeks were going to struggle with its message.

His conclusion is enough to make us ask a question. What is life about?

Eccles. 1 (NIV)

Meaningless! Meaningless!

says the Teacher.

Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.

Personally, I like the RSV way of putting it. Vanity of vanities. Everything is vanity.

Life is a vain or meaningless circle under the sun.

And the teachers evidence is what he can work out.

Eccles. 1- (NIV)

What does man gain from all his labor

at which he toils under the sun?

4 Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever.

5 The sun rises and the sun sets,

and hurries back to where it rises.

6 The wind blows to the south

and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

ever returning on its course.

7 All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

there they return again.

8 All things are wearisome,

more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

Theres really no point in going on with this sermon really. Not quite sure why, suppose Id better.

I dont know if Pink Floyd had read Ecclesiastes. But there song, Time fits in very well.

And you run and you run to catch up to the sun but its sinking. And racing around to come up behind you again.

The sun is the same in a relative way, but yourre older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Many in our society live with no point in mind, and dont experience the examined lifestyle.

Yet here is one who has examined his own lifestyle and come up with an answer.

Eccles. 11-14 (NIV)

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. [1] I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! [14] I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

His answer is that there is no answer under the sun. Its come from the hand of God. He isnt an atheist. He acknowledges that God exists.

Yet by his own resources � there is no answer. Other than recognizing that God has given us the ability to have insight. And in that insight, comes the knowledge that we cant work it out.

We cant even straighten something that is crooked.

Eccles. 115 (NIV)

What is twisted cannot be straightened;

what is lacking cannot be counted.

Not quite sure what the second part of the verse means. But talk to a panel beater about cars that have been in smashes.

They can do a pretty good repair. But they are never quite the same as the straight article.

There is something twisted about our world. And we cant quite make it out.

Eccles. 116-18 (NIV)

I thought to myself, Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge. [17] Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

[18] For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;

the more knowledge, the more grief.

As smart as we humans are, and as smart as this teacher was, and as much as he studied and pondered and tried to work things out.

But he came to the point of learning that even the understanding of understanding, plus the understanding of madness and folly were both a chasing after the wind.

Have you ever asked yourself, whats the point? Why am I doing what Im doing?

Is there some new invention that I can come up with? Is there some way that I can make my mark in this world, and not be one of the crowd?

This really smart teacher came to this wonderful conclusio. The more he understood, the greater the pain. When he thought about his life, there was no point.

Reminds me a bit of Kerry Packer, arguably the richest Australian. Here he has children, one of whom has been involved in the OneTell Fiasco. With its multi million dollar losses.

Whats going to happen to Kerrys millions when he dies? Who knows? But hes worked out what lifes about?

Hes worked out that there is no life after death.

After his near death experience, he knows from his own insight, and by looking at the world from his point of view, what its all about.

There aint nothing there.

Thats what you and I have to look forward to.

Every year is getting shorter. Never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught, or a half of page of scribbled lines.

The time is gone, the song is over. Thought Id something more to say.

Do you believe this? Many in our world, the rich, the middle class and the poor live life under the sun.

Yet, there is another perspective. There is a life with the son. Under the sun, that, is under the big red ball that hangs in the sky, we are left powerless to break the endless cycle of life and death, life and death, life and death, life and death.

Under the Son, there is only life.

Who can tell what the future holds.

But its your choice and my choice.

We can choose under the sun, or under the Son.

Under the sun, it doesnt matter whether you love or hate, live or die, are wise or foolish.

Under the Son, we have a hope for the future, and a purpose for living as the sons and daughters of the living God.

For the Son has broken the cycle, and provided us with purpose in him.

These series of sermons though are going to challenge some of us more than what we want to be challenged.

They are going to push us to think through what do we in fact rely on.

May God help us face the question, so that we may fully rely on his answer.

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