SERMON: Become what you are!

SERMON: Become what you are!

Become what you are!

A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley

by Andrew McKearney on 4 August 2019

Our readings today draw a strong contrast between the emptiness and futility of life, and the richness and depth of life in Christ.

​‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity! Says the Teacher.’

The literal meaning of the word translated as ‘vanity’ is ‘vapour’ – it evaporates – there’s nothing to it!

​‘It is an unhappy business that God has given to

​human beings to be busy with……all is vanity and a

​chasing after the wind……so I turned and gave my

​heart up to despair.’

The Book of Ecclesiastes from which this comes is part of atype of writing in the Bible known as ‘Wisdom literature’.

Some passages can be very poetic the most famous probably the one that Pete Seeger turned into a song that was sung by both Joan Baez and The Byrds:

​‘For everything there is a season,

​and a time for every matter under heaven:

​a time to be born, and a time to die;

​a time to plant, and a time to pluck up

​what is planted;

​a time to kill, and a time to heal;

​a time to break down, and a time to build up…..’

But however poetic the language, the message is the same!

The author describes the complete futility of trying to discover the meaning of life by human observation and experimentation – the world of nature with its never-ending cycles is inscrutable – human achievements are temporary –nothing can be learned from them except that life is an unhappy business, endlessly frustrating.

And by doubling up the word ‘vanity’ and referring to ‘vanity of vanities’ the author expresses the utter futility of human endeavour.

‘Vanity of vanities! All is vanity! Says the Teacher.’

Today’s gospel also speaks of the emptiness and futility of life!

It starts with Jesus being asked to give a judgement in a dispute over an inheritance! As we know, disputes about inheritance are, and always have been, complicated! Complicated even more in biblical times by the fact thatwills were made and executed on principles that wereinferred from passages of scripture.

So you had to find someone who could interpret scripture – and, as we heard, that’s why a person comes to Jesus to seek his help with this.

Wisely, Jesus resists giving any advice! But instead he uses this as an opportunity to warn about the futility of building larger and larger barns to store your wealth.

In the face of the shortness of our lives, is this the best way to use our time and energy? It’s a parable that could just as easily have come from the pages of the Book of Ecclesiastes!

Because this also is vanity and a chasing after the wind!

I said at the beginning that our readings today draw a strong contrast between the emptiness and folly of life, and the richness and depth of life in Christ.

Saint Paul writes so effectively about this in his letter to the Colossians!

He contrasts the emptiness and folly of life using a conventional list of vices. And as in the Wisdom literature from the Old Testament, there’s nothing particularly distinctive about these ideas.

But what is utterly new is the rich and profound theological vision that Paul places these lists within.

His understanding of the way that we should live is completely opposed to the idea that we should strive to be something that we aren’t already! That’s the old way of thinking that Paul has tried to live by and found empty, a dead end.

Rather Paul’s gospel is that we should become what we already are in Christ!

We have been raised with Christ – so we are to seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

We have died – and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

We have stripped off the old self – and have clothed ourselves with the new self that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

There is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

These are deep intuitive insights about the way things now are because of what God has done in Christ!

Rooted and grounded in this through faith, we are to live out our life in Christ.

That’s Paul’s gospel and it’s tranformational!

Become what you are!