ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH MARCH 10, 2019
Rev. Sabrina Ingram
WHAT ON EARTH AM I HERE FOR?
Ephesians 1:3-6; Luke 7: 24- 30
When God created the dog, he said, “Your purpose will be to sit by a door and bark at people. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog replied, “That’s a long time to be barking. How about you give me ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?” God agreed. Then God created the monkey and said, “Your purpose is to do tricks, and make people laugh. I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.” The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a long time. How about I return ten like the dog did?” God agreed. God went on to create the cow and said, “You must go into the field and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.” The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll return the other forty?” God agreed. A few days later, God created humans and said, “Your purpose is to eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. I’ll give you twenty years.” But the human said, “Only twenty years? What if you give me my twenty, the forty the cow returned, the ten the monkey returned, and the ten the dog returned; that makes eighty, okay?” “Okay,” said God. So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years, we work away to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
Likely, every person who ever lived has asked the questions: What on earth am I here for? Why am I alive? What is the purpose of life? Does my life matter? We search for an answer to that question. Douglas Adams claimed the meaning of life is “42” – not too helpful. Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a Philosophy professor, wrote to some well-known, keen thinkers and asked what they thought was the purpose of life. Some had no idea while others took a stab at an answer. Psychiatrist Carl Jung responded, “I don’t know the meaning of life, but it looks as if something were meant by it.” Others came up with answers like: The purpose of life is – to be happy; to spread love or hope; to become what we’re able to become; to make the world a better place. Some would say the purpose of life is to live as long as you can because this is the only crack you get at it. Rap artist Ice T wrote, “The only reason we’re here is to reproduce. Just chill out and reproduce. Keep the species alive.” But then what? Living to keep things going hardly makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Although having kids does get you up early as I recall. Hedonists say, “Life’s a BBQ, let’s party! Which may be okay for the moment but not so good the next day – we’ve all suffered “hedonists remorse”; an oxymoron if ever there was. A popular reason for being alive these days is to shop; life is about the acquisition of things. Your life is measured by what you own. But after a while, all you have is a lot of meaningless stuff. Or maybe life is about attaining our dreams, going after a goal. And then? Some people look inside for a sense of purpose and some may find a reason to be. For others the subjective approach to life feels like diving into a kiddies’ wading pool. The writer, Isaac Asimov, said, “As far as I can see, life has no purpose.” Pretty bleak. I’m reminded of the way Jeremiah put it when he looked inside: “Why did I have to be born? Was it just to suffer and die in shame?” (20:18). Perhaps, you can relate to Jeremiah. You look inside and sigh. Not much there or at least not enough to get through times of heart ache and stress. If we’re honest, I think we’ve all had those times.
While some of those answers get at important life tasks and noble endeavours we need to ask: Do they get at the reason we’re here? Do they actually explain life’s purpose? They tell me what I might do but do they tell me why I should do those things? Without some underlying reason, my purpose could just as easily be – to be miserable; to spread hate and despair; to squander my gifts; to contribute nothing to the world. We see people embrace those options all the time. The great English philosopher and atheist Bertrand Russell said, “Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of life’s meaning, and purpose is irrelevant.” Now, Russell and many others who don’t believe in God, manage to live their lives in happy, productive ways. I admire that. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t. If the world is nothing but a fluke of nature, and we’re nothing more than evolved bundle of molecules that emerged from a primordial ooze, then meaning is rather meaningless. And ultimately, life’s purpose doesn’t matter too much. Take God out of the equation and I would have to say that Ice T and the hedonists have it right – live to live – or as the author of Isaiah (22:13) puts it, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” It’s a pretty empty, uninspiring way to look at life.
No surprise, I’m with Bertrand – without God, none of it makes sense. So then, why does God want us here? Why did he make us as living, thinking, feeling creatures? Has God made us for a purpose? Scripture affirms
that he has. In the Bible, we learn that God made human beings and told us to fill the earth (maybe Ice T read Genesis) and to look after it. God provides from creation all we need to live. But before this, we’re told, “God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature” (Genesis 1: 26) God didn’t create us simply to fulfill certain tasks, he made us, in his image, to have a special relationship with him and he made us to reflect his nature in the world he created. Those are two pretty amazing reasons for being here. They’re foundational purposes which give us cause to live our lives in certain ways – in happiness, service and love, using our gifts to create God’s world, God’s way. And there’s more! Ephesians 1:4 tells us, “Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world — He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.” God has chosen us to be his children; members of his family; co-heirs with Christ of God’s eternal inheritance. Why would God want to do that? Was he lonely? No. God is three in one, never alone; plus, God is surrounded by angels. Did he need us? I don’t think so. God could have cared for creation himself or found another being to do it. God didn’t need us, God gave the earth into our care, made us his stewards, as an honour and a gift to us. So, why are we here? What’s the bottom line. God created us to love us. And he made us capable of loving Him. So, why are you here? You were created to be loved by God. Not some of you, but every one of you. God didn’t need us, but he wanted us. So, first and foremost we are here to be loved by God and to seek to love him in return.
That God loves us, created us to be loved and desires us to love him back can be hard to accept. People who have been shamed into believing they’re unworthy of love, tend to push away God’s love. They reason, “My purpose cannot be to receive the love of God because I am un-loveable”. Well, if being loved by God is God’s action and God’s truth, if it is such a powerful force in God’s being that he came as Jesus to die for us, if God says we are loveable and worth the effort, then when we insist otherwise, we’re calling God a liar. If one of us is wrong, it is likely not the God of all Creation. Our purpose lies in being God’s beloved children. Luke records that many people, even the un-popular tax collectors, received God’s love. But when the Pharisees refused God’s gift of adoption through baptism, that is God’s love, they “Rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Luke 7: 30). We can only imagine how rejected God feels when we refuse his love for whatever reason. You are here to be loved by God and to reciprocate that love. Does your life matter? Yes! It matters. God loves you and has made you to be his. We read, “I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born” (Isa. 44:2). In the eyes of the Creator we do count. We matter so much that as the adopted children of God, we are going to live eternally, “Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes … are in heaven and will last forever” (2 Cor. 5:1-2). You matter so much to God that God wants to be with you forever. What we do now – how we put that foundational purpose into action, is preparation for eternity.
Just as God’s love for you is personal, so God’s purpose for you has a personal dimension. Yes, we’re all meant to love God. We’re all meant to add something to his kingdom on earth. We’re all meant to be adopted in Christ as God’s children. And God made each of us as unique beings. He loves each of us as unique beings. He has a purpose for each of us as unique beings. A plan for each us. That doesn’t mean God has planned out every moment of every day. This past week, one of our people got a flat tire. Did God put the nail in the road to cause that? I don’t think so. As it happened, she was not far from a garage. Was that God’s doing? Maybe. It was certainly something to be grateful for. While that person was in the garage, another of our people was waiting in the cold for a ride. Did God intend that? Of course not. However, it did create an opening for love and forgiveness to flow – after it created a lot of stress and confusion! They both missed book club. Did God want that? Who knows? I can’t see a reason for that, but maybe there was. God doesn’t micromanage our lives, but the things that happen to us are chances to carry out our personal mission.
So, how do we discover our mission? Recently, I was putting together a murphy bed with a friend. It seemed straight forward until it wasn’t. How did I resolve the problem and figure out which way it goes? I read the instructions, called the manufacturer and looked at the basic material. We discover our personal mission when we look at the basic material – the gifts and abilities God gave us as well as our personality and temperament and our passions and interests. We do so as we walk in the way our life continues to unfold; as we heed God’s Word and Spirit through scripture and prayer; and as we discern the opportunities on our paths, to discover which are from God and which aren’t. God made you for a purpose and has a purpose for you now. The meaningful part of life is to discover and live your purpose – or God’s purpose for you. But first we need to know God’s love for us and seek to love him back, because “Absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible; everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him” (Col 1:16).