Wednesday, May 16, 2007

More than just Hot Air

This past week my Director of Student Ministries (who just happens to be related to me) were having a rather passionate discussion regarding the benefits and drawbacks of pre- and post-millennialism. (For a good overview see "Across the Spectrum") One of the key discussion points was the inherent pessimism which seems to be in premillennialism versus the more optimistic outlook which comes through postmillennialism.

In a very general nutshell, and I mean very general, the premillennial view says that things are going to get increasingly worse and then Jesus will return to set up His kingdom on earth, whereas the postmillennial view states that the church is here to help things on earth to get better and better in preparation for Christ's return. Thus, one can seem more pessimistic than the other.

Now, what does all this have to do with this coming Sunday's message? Well, we find ourselves in the book of Ecclesiastes, a book by most standards would find itself in the pessimistic camp. Solomon, the book's writer, lays out a world that is nothing more than hot air, vanity, meaninglessness. He, with all the riches and power available to a king of his stature sets himself out to discover the meaning and purpose of life. Sadly, he comes up with little but hot air, that which quickly rises and dissipates, leaving us with nothing of any worth.

How tragic it is for a man who is touted as the wisest man to have ever lived, if not one of the most powerful and rich, finds that all the riches and power and even wisdom brings nothing but pain and sorrow. Doesn't leave much hope for us, does it.

And yet, what a important message for us in the west today, even within the walls of the church. A message that declares that apart from a relationship with God life is nothing but hot air. If you should desire to read through this treatise on the meaning of life, be sure to ask yourself, "How does this message apply to my world today?" "How have I bought into its message of pessimism, even in subtle ways?" "Has the church communicated Solomon's message of meaninglessness?" And, "What is the message that we should be proclaiming?" A message that Solomon himself declares from time to time in this book.

There is hope in this book, as there is in life, for those who seek it rightly.

Oh, may we all so seek!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

My view regarding post versus pre is simply to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

I believe that a lot of people today in our affluent society can relate to the book of Ecclesiastes. If not while young, certainly as people get older, those of us who live in the United States live a life where we have access to material possessions that only a king or queen or person of royalty in Jesus’ day would. And after a while, we become bored with the latest thing that we just had to have and we eventually (hopefully) realize just like Solomon did – that the only thing that matters, the only thing that can bring us peace and a deep, lasting satisfaction is our relationship with God.

Whether we are chasing after a new car, new furniture, a certain social status, the satisfaction of some desirable accomplishment -- if we should get what we are after, sooner or later we have to find something else to motivate us until we get that too just like Solomon did and realize that what we were pursuing wasn’t “the answer” either. I believe that this message is especially appropriate for the church today and sadly the opposite of the “prosperity” message that is often preached where people are given the impression that God exists for the main purpose of making them financially prosperous.

In AA, we remind one another that if we are feeling “irritable, restless and discontent,” it usually has nothing to do with outward circumstances and everything to do with the fact that we have gotten lax about working the steps that bring us closer to our higher power.

I’m not saying everyone has to go around with a phony smile pasted on their face and never grieve tragedies or admit when they feel genuinely saddened or burdened. That’s the time to get real with God and pray it through. I’m not advocating denial, but referring to the unexplainable, no-real-reason-for-it feeling of just be unsatisfied, hungry, or irritable, restless and discontent because we want something, we need something, we have to have something but we can’t quite put our finger on what it is we need when in fact, what we need is, ALL we really need is just a closer walk with Jesus.

gentledove

Pastor Randy said...

gentledove,

Thanks for your comments.

I don't know what Solomon would say, but I would say, that is through the belief in God, and through walking closer with Jesus, that we find "meaning" in the midst of the crisis and tragedy of life.

I think Solomon's sadness came from seeing both joy and sorrow without God, and thus the meaninglessness of life. I believe he does come around to see that truth, and seems to state that a few times throughout the book. Thus, I do agree with you, it is only with that close, intimate walk with Jesus that life finds its purpose and meaning.

May we all so walk.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed the sermon. I'm sure it would've been a good one. I've always been fascinated by the writings of ol' Sol, Ecclesiastes especially. He kinda wraps the whole book up in the last chapter. Not a book to read in small chunks, but as a whole meal.

Catch you guys on the next blog post.

Dan-o