Last weekend the Braves played the Red Sox. It was a three game series. In Boston.
Having great faith in my boys from Atlanta, I had a gentleman’s agreement with one of my church members. If the Braves won the series, he had to wear my pink Braves hat in church. If the Sox won, I had to preach in a Red Sox jersey.
We later amended the agreement to a post-church photo shoot. Worship is extremely sacred to me, especially when the sacraments are involved. Seeing that we were celebrating a baptism and communion on Sunday, in the event that my southern boys did let me down, I needed to wear my robe.
And … well …
I don’t want to talk about it.
We’ll get ’em next year! Here is Sunday’s sermon …
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-2:9, 23-34
Taking Our Fill Of Life
As hectic as it can be from a logistical standpoint when I am planning worship, I actually really like when we celebrate both the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of communion on the same Sunday. Much of what we do in the church comes from speculation and our own interpretation of the bible; but in all four gospels, Jesus calls us – through demonstration in his own life and ministry – to be unified through the waters of baptism and by breaking bread together. We are so blessed to be witnesses to both of those things this morning.
That being said, those things take time, and since I did promise that summer worship would only last 45 minutes, I will make this quick.
This morning’s scripture is from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is found in the apocrypha. The apocrypha is not in your pew bibles; it is a collection of biblical books not found in the Hebrew Bible. The books were received by the early Christian Church into the Greek version of the Old Testament. The Wisdom of Solomon was composed over several years. The authorship of the Wisdom of Solomon is unknown. But the author is speculated to be a teacher to Jewish students who identified with King Solomon, who was famous for his pursuit of wisdom.
This passage describes to us what it means to be intrinsically human; what it means to struggle with life and death and how to truly live our lives to the fullest. Even though the author was illustrating a way of life that existed over twenty centuries ago, when we read it today we might as well be reading a description of our own lives.
Were we created to live or were we created to die? This is the question that the author is asking. “Because God did not make death … for he created all things so that they might exist,” the scripture says. “But the ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death … they pined away and made a covenant with him.”
Life is not always easy. As human beings we are continuously being pulled between the balance of good and evil, right and wrong and life and death. We constantly have to make choices – some more difficult than others – that dictate the types of lives we are going to lead, the paths we are going to journey down. Rules about life and about death do not come handed to us in a neat and organized instruction manual. Come to think of it, rules about faith and about church and about parenting and about relationships and about community do not come handed to us in a neat and organized instruction manual. We are all charting our own courses; we are all just figuring it out as we go along; and we are all trying to do the best that we can.
The author of this book creates a character to personify some of these tensions that we feel. “The ungodly,” the author calls it, “summoned death” and reasoned that life is short and sorrowful, that human beings were born by mere chance and that eventually we will all be forgotten. We are no more than a passing glimpse in time, the ungodly wants us to believe. None of this really matters. Eventually we will all just scatter like dust.
That is kind of a depressing outlook on life, isn’t it? It kind of makes you wonder what the point of all of this – this life – really is. It also kind of makes you wonder where God is in all of it as well. God created life, but did God create death? Do we live for life or do we live for death? Do we push ourselves to find good or do we succumb to evil?
This text gives us a really good opportunity to think about some of the more difficult aspects of life. It helps us not to dwell on the bad things, but to be realistic about them.
But this text also gives us the opportunity to look at a more hopeful outlook on life. The author takes his description of the ungodly and uses it as a way to fuel how he thinks we should live our lives. “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,” the author says, “and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.” “Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass us by. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let none of us fail to share in our revelry; everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this is our lot.”
This is one of those texts that just sort of speaks for itself. Live your life, I think the author is trying to say. Love the people around you; celebrate your differences. Do not be afraid to make mistakes; do not be held back by the decisions that you have made in your past, but allow them to fuel the decisions you make in the future. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful, that you are smart and that you are worthy of anything you want in this world that we are living in. Life has so much to offer us – do not let it pass you by. Embrace any and all opportunities that come your way.
We have all made mistakes in our lives. We have all had moments where we have not lived up to the grace that God has given us. But God’s grace is eternal. And part of this journey of faith that we are all taking is standing in community together, accepting one another for both who we are and for who we are trying to become.
I read a commentary about this text written by the Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed, an ordained Presbyterian minister. She said: “In contrast to the view of the ungodly, Wisdom insists that life did not happen by chance and death is not the final word.”
Death/evil/bad/hate: They are the final word. God created this world so that we could live in it. And God calls us every day to live our lives, to embrace our lives and to love our lives.
It will look different for each and every one of us, but we are all called to take our fill of life.
And do you know what? I think it is a life worth living.
Thanks be to God!