Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study
First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 4, 2013)
This week in our second Old Testament track, we will hear the only fragment of the Ecclesiastes to sneak its way into the Revised Common Lectionary. Why are we seemingly allergic to this aphoristic text that the reformer Martin Luther called a “noble little book” and go so far as to recommend that Ecclesiastes should be read daily? Try sitting with the text this week and you may find the cynicism compelling, or you may decide with the framers of the lectionary that a little Ecclesiastes goes a long way.
Our reading begins, “Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” The key word in the text, translated in the NRSV as “vanity”, is the Hebrew word Hevel. A closer translation of the Hebrew word hevel would be something like, “A puff of wind of a puff of wind, everything is fleeting” as the plain sense meaning of hevel is “a puff of wind, vapor, a breath.” The New Living Translation moves further away from that plain meaning to capture the essence of the book in translating Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless.”
So the Good News this week is that everything we do amounts to nothing. All of our work, everything we become is nothing but a puff of wind, a fleeting breath, something so ephemeral that it is gone before it is fully formed. If you are reading this wondering what the Gospel has to offer, Jesus sounds like someone who has been reading Ecclesiastes each day with his parable of the rich man whose greatest felt need is for bigger barns to store the abundant fruit of his harvest.
The desire for more and better things seems hardwired into western culture and yet it is part of the “sinful desires that draw you from the love of God” which we renounce in our baptisms. To put our whole trust in God’s grace and love means not pinning our hopes on accomplishments any more than on things, for all of it is fleeting.
With this in view, I will be turning over Jesus words of warning this week that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” which he aims at “those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” As I work my way toward Sunday, the question I will be pondering is “How can we be rich toward God?” I hope these thoughts and that question assist you in your own sermon preparation.
Frank Logue is a member of the APLM Council having served previously as its secretary. He worked as a church planter in the Diocese of Georgia, starting King of Peace in Kingsland, before joining the diocesan staff in 2010 as the Canon to the Ordinary.