Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
The other day I was surfing Netflix, which is actually something I very rarely do, and I came across a documentary called “Black Hole Apocalypse”. It sounds a lot scarier than it was, as it just talked about the history and science of black holes and the advances astronomers have made in being able to study and learn from these fascinating celestial things.
If you aren’t bored already, here is a small bit of the trailer for the documentary I found on Youtube:
I dunno, I find space absolutely mind boggling. To think of how big and how far stars are, how wide and vast our solar system is and how it’s just a speck in our Milky Way galaxy. While I was watching the documentary, my son Ryan asked me how long a light year is. I started calculating it in my head how light travels at around 180,000 miles a second which is around 300,000 km/s, so multiply that by 60 to find out how far it goes in a minute, and then multiply that by 525,600 minutes that we have in a year to see how long a light year is. Anyway, as I was trying to crunch those numbers in my head I just Googled it instead and apparently a light year is like 5.9 trillion miles. That is 9.5 trillion kilometers for you Canadian folk.
9.5 trillion kilometers is one light year. I can’t even fathom that. And in the documentary they were talking about how far things are from earth measured in light years, to the tens and hundreds and even millions.
Millions of light years away. Millions of 9.5 trillion kilometers. It’s mind-blowing to think just how far we can go in space, or just how big the universe is, and how many things that happen out there that we have absolutely no control over or even knowledge of.
Puts things in perspective of just how little and small and insignificant we are. A tiny spec in the vastness of time/space. A mere fraction of a fraction of a fraction of all that is, was, and ever will be. Barely a drop in an ocean full of wonders that have yet to be explored and even seen by human eyes. We are unfathomably small when compared to just the known universe, let alone the unknown universe. When we think about how small we can be in our city or country, we’re infinitely smaller when compared to space.
And here I am worried about tree sap making my car look dirty? Or how well my hair is parted in the morning before I leave the house? Or even how much money by brother owes me? (which is nothing anyway, I probably owe him money)
In the great grand scheme of things, do these things even matter? Does anything?
Vanity, vanity, it’s all vanity, says the author of Ecclesiastes. As in, it’s futile, it’s meaningless, it’s fleeting. We work so hard to be who we can be and to get what we can get and keep our cars clean, but it is just vanity.
So what is the point? Why do we bother? Why should we even? Rather than going through the stress of life for nothing, we might as well just do whatever makes us happy now for now, while we have the chance. Nothing else matters anyway so we might as well do anything and everything we feel like without caring about consequence or repercussion, right?
Well, no. Because as vast as space is, our actions do matter. They do affect others. And they do have lasting consequences.
I mean, at least the guy telling Jesus to act as judge, jury, and executioner over his brother who isn’t sharing with him thinks so. “Jesus,” this guy shouts out, “tell my brother to share his money with me!” Actually dude? What business is your family business to do with Jesus? How about you share your money with him?
But, Jesus in all his Jesus fashion acts with patience and tells the crowd to beware of greed, for life doesn’t consist of possessions. So I’d think the man shouting at Jesus would still feel slighted, I mean I know I would. If my brother gets a bunch of money from my parents, you better believe that I’d be wanting my fair share. So “beware of greed” sounds like it’s more of a lesson for the brother with the money, rather than the one who is asking for it.
Even Jesus’ parable seems to suggest that. The rich man had a plot of land that produced abundantly, and in those days they were all about prosperity gospel. In that, if you were good, then you get good. Actually more like if you were good, then you get rich. If you were devout and dedicated to God, God will bless you with abundant crops and wealth. So on paper the rich man is probably the guy that everyone wanted to be. There is nothing in the story to say that he was greedy, corrupt, or even rude. It just says he was rich, which we all know isn’t a bad thing at all.
Until the rich man has too much. He tells himself that he’ll build bigger barns to store it all and retire early, which is pretty much my ultimate goal, and he gets there. But that is when the hammer drops and God says that he’ll be dead by morning and all his wealth and crops and stuff will be left without an owner.
Fleeting. Temporary. Vanity.
That rich guy worked so hard for nothing. He has nothing to show for it. He didn’t get to enjoy his retirement nor the literal fruits of his labour. Instead, he just worked until he died.
But that isn’t why God calls him a fool. Sort of, but that’s not all of it. I’m sure the guy who wants his brother’s money was hoping for that to be the case, but God calls the rich man a fool not because he’s rich or hard working or thinks about the future, but because he has made no friends, he has cared for no relationships, he lives in no community.
See, when the rich man decides on what he should do with his stuff, he talks to himself. He gave his own soul a name, which is Soul, not very creative but sad nonetheless. He does nothing but for himself, thinks of no one but himself, and stores up things for none other than himself. And that is why God calls him a fool. He spent so much time working for himself that he ends up not being able to enjoy it or anyone to enjoy it with. His time is up.
For life is fleeting, it is temporary, and it is all in vain… if you go at it alone. God gives us another way, teaches us how to make friends, have good strong relationships, and to live in community. God teaches us how we can collectively make life better, to be most productive with our limited time, and to love others just as God loves us.
See, this is the eternity that we are promised. When we love others with a good strong love, then that love lasts much longer than we do. And when that love is reflected on others and then to others and then to others, well you then have a love that lasts forever. That is what God is talking about. That is what Jesus is teaching. That is what the Spirit leads us to when we are called to be God’s hands and feet in the world, serving God and others, and living in God’s faithful kingdom and community.
Yes, space is vast and unfathomable. It is wondrous and amazing. It is awesome. But so is love. The tangible, attainable, and relatable love of God. That as big and beautiful as it can be, God freely gives it to us so that we can freely give it to others.
And that, to me, gives life meaning. It gives life purpose. And it makes life worth it.
There are 525,600 minutes in a year. In that time light can travel 9.5 trillion kilometers. And in that same time, we have 525,600 moments to cherish, to lift up, and to love God and each other through meaningful service and community.
In this season after Pentecost, may we continue to live in our relationships and community, looking for ways to serve in love and faith for the sake of God’s gospel in the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.