|Confession of a Workaholic|
(Years ago, I was asked to give a bible study on one of the Wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible. I chose the book of Ecclesiastes, or Qoheleth in Hebrew. The word means "Teacher" or "Preacher." The book sums up the thoughts of a King (retired?), probably delivered to a group of young men, with the thought of passing on life wisdom to them. He basically tells them that so much of their life will be striving after power, wealth, and control and that all of this is vanity. I borrowed the title for the study and this sermon from an article in a scripture journal.) John+
While Terri and I were in Costa Rica for a few days this week, we managed to watch all the prime-time speeches of the Democratic Convention. When Barack Obama gave his speech, I found myself thinking of the words of "The Preacher," Ecclesiastes, when he says:
I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind. I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me-- and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be the master of all which I have toiled and use my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.
Now, President Obama, would never say this openly, but I think the thought probably crossed his mind:
I'm leaving all my work and worry to Hillary or Donald, and what if Donald is elected? Everything I've accomplished will have been in vane!
This is what the holy writer is getting at:
a person works so hard, for so long, accumulating power and money and control, and in the end has to leave it in the hands of others! All this striving is vanity and a puff of wind.
St. Paul is on the same wavelength and puts it another way:
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
What is this all about? Life is full of things to do, places to see, people to interact with. God knows this. But God also calls us, as we talked about recently, to dialogue or prayer while we live our lives and not just talk to ourselves. This is the problem of the rich man in the Gospel today. He is in dialogue only with himself, "Looking out for Number One," as the book title says. He even addresses himself as pysche or Soul. God, the source of all blessing, is not present to the man's psychological awareness.
I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry."
The rich man has pulled down some very serviceable barns and built bigger ones to store all his goods. But just when he thinks he has it all made in the shade, the God he doesn't really know, or care to know, calls out to him:
You Fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?
Unfortunately, only death will snap this fellow out of his complacency and self-delusion. The rich man has many treasures, but they will all pass away and be given to others. He is not rich toward God which is the only treasure that lasts and Who is ultimately in control.
Today's scripture message builds on the teaching of last week on prayer:
Prayer is nothing more than frequent solitary converse with One who we know loves us. (St. Teresa of Avila) The rich man talked only to himself (which is unfortunately the case for most people) and shunned dialogue with the Creator who brought him into being and blessed him with the abundance he enjoyed. What good if he had everything only to leave it all in death? He wanted to create his own Paradise, but Paradise is experiencing an inner dialogue with God now that lasts forever. This is our life "hidden with God" as Paul puts it, content with our daily bread.
So it comes down to this:
Life in dialogue with self or Life in dialogue with God?
Working and worrying our tails off to have an abundance or gratefully enjoying the abundance God has already given us and sharing with others? Do we want to live in a state of almost constant vexation or experience Paradise here and now, accepting the Good News of Jesus Christ? (emphasis added/lr)
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
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