Summary: The question writers and movie producers have asked over and over again is, "What is the meaning of life?" Jesus tells us "this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
7 Easter A John 17:1-11 12 May 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
In Act 5 scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character Macbeth has heard that the queen is dead and he knows his own death is imminent. At this time he delivers his famous soliloquy:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, Out, brief candle
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury
Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is? Is that all there is? Then lets start dancing.” Movies have been created around the theme of the meaning to life since they were first made. We have watched Thelma and Louise who decided that life to be lived in female drudgery has no purpose, so drive your convertible off a cliff. Star Wars seeks to go where no one has gone before, to find the basis of good, to do battle with evil. Recently “Life as a House” pursues the question of meaning and purpose to life and comes down on the side of love and relationship being most important. This is our question once we are forced to face our own mortality, whenever that occurs.
What is the meaning to life? What will make my life have some significance once it is over? My life is only a brief blip on the map of time, will it have made any difference? What is eternal life anyway? What is heaven? What is Hell? How will I know the difference?
In today’s gospel from John, these questions are addressed as Jesus’ parting words to his disciples are spoken. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is about love and relationship. Relationship with God, relationship with Jesus Christ, relationship with one another lived out in love. Eternal life is not “by and by when I die” but it begins now and continues forever. It is experienced when we experience God and God’s unbelievable love first hand.
I know eternal life at the Lord’s Supper and look down into the face of a child with uplifted hands waiting to receive the Body and Blood with wide-eyed awe and expectation. As someone once said, “Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged with Mankind.” Rabindranath Tagore
I know eternal life when I sit with a person on their death bed and watch a person whose body has failed them, whom the medical world can no longer help, whose life is coming to a quick end, and they are at peace. They have lived in relationship with God and knew Jesus as their Lord, and the step across the threshold from this world to the next holds no fear.
I know eternal life when I am with a group of men who trust each other enough to talk about the failures and disappointments of life and are able support and pray for one another. When these men are able to see God at work in their lives and feel blessed.
I know eternal life when I can help the poor or hungry not to feel poor or hungry at least for a little while. It feels right and know Jesus words are spoken to me that “as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”
I know eternal life when doing Fifth Steps with those addicted to alcohol and they understand they are accepted by God, that they are not worthless and they are worthy of being loved. To see the weight of guilt and shame lift in the presence of God is to be at a holy place.
I know eternal life when I am using the gifts that God has given me, and I feel as though what they allow me to do is worthwhile, partly because these are the gifts placed in me to be about God’s work in my world.
I know eternal life when I know that those closest to me love me, even though I give them lots of reasons to feel otherwise. I know that at least for that moment, life doesn’t get any richer because that love is a gift from God.
Many of you have dealt with difficult times in your lives, whether illness, loss or disappointment. Your ability to take life as it comes with peace comes from a relationship with God. People without faith watch people of faith handle the ups and downs of life, and do not understand. I see it all the times at funerals. Because we know God and the love that is shared with us through Jesus, we are able to look beyond the present difficulty with hope. Jesus provides us with meaning that is not terminated by death.