Summary: We need to examine our lives to see how they match up to God’s expectations of us.
I assume you’ve all heard of Socrates, the great Greek philosopher. He was sentenced to death in 399BC because he dared to criticise the immorality of Greek Society. His only defence at his trial was that he was doing Athens a great service by questioning the way they thought. When his friends begged him to appeal against his sentence he said that he preferred to die than to live in a society that refused to consider the way it was living. His conclusion was that the unexamined life was not worth living.
Well today I want us to think about our lives, to get out the magnifying glass and the spotlight and examine what the basis of our lives might be. In particular I want us to think about our lives as part of God’s Church here at St Thomas’.
I want us to think about why we come to Church? About how we’re living our lives? Why we do the things we do? Why do we run the various events we hold year after year? Are they all worth doing? Why do we have 4 different services on a Sunday morning?
Is it just for our own comfort or pleasure? Is it just because that’s how it’s always been? I’m not going to give you answers to these questions. The point of what I’m saying this morning is that you need to find those answers for yourself. Then you need to talk about them to others in the congregation to make sure that we all have a common mind about what we’re doing as a Church.
When was the last time you sat down and examined your life? I find that I often do this while on holidays. That’s a great time for reflection on your life isn’t it? When the normal pressures of life are removed for a short time and you have a bit of space to think beyond the moment.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to be following a series on Ecclesiastes. It’s a fascinating book. It could almost have been written in the last 10 or 20 years. One of the things we’ll discover next week is that so many people think of the world as a closed system, where we expect everything to be predictable and controllable. But that just means life becomes confusing and troubling. Because the reality, we discover on closer examination, is neither predictable nor controllable. People are surprised when things go wrong. Look at the reaction to Heath Ledger’s death last week. There was utter shock that someone in their late twenties, at the peak of their career, with everything going for him, could suddenly die. The week before we saw the stock market having a hiccup and people going into panic mode.
Life can be unpredictable can’t it? I wonder what’s the worst thing that could go wrong for you? Death of a loved one, finding you’ve got a terminal illness? Bankruptcy, marriage break up? Drought, floods, tsunamis?
Last week at CMS Summer under the Son we heard from Andrew Reid about a terrible disaster that had struck the nation of Israel - in fact this was a disaster that was repeated a number of times over the years. The time he told us about was this: from 1 Sam 3:1: "Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread." Do you remember how Israel had been brought out of Egypt? God had gone with them. He’d spoken to them through Moses, then Joshua, then the judges. But now they were settled in the land and a great disaster had overtaken them. Not the invasion by the Philistines, not a famine or a plague. No, the disaster that had overtaken them was that they no longer heard God’s word directing their life.
A few centuries later the prophet Amos came to them with a dire warning from the Lord, a warning of judgement because of their lack of obedience: "The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD." (Amos 8:11) Why had this happened? Because they’d lived their lives as though nothing were wrong. They’d carried out their religious duties without ever examining whether God was pleased with what they were doing, without ever examining the rest of their lives to see if the religious and secular parts of their lives were in sync. What they’d done was to turn their worship of the living God into nothing more than superstition.
Superstitions are an attempt to organise the randomness of our world, to provide an explanation for the unexplainable. Our world is full of superstitions: Black cats, Friday the thirteenth, not touching the plate when you’re cutting your birthday cake. My favourite is the cricketers’ superstition about being more likely to get out on 87 (because it’s 100 minus 13). But do you know the stats show that many more people get out on 85 or 88 than ever get out on 87. (only 12 times in 1846 test matches!)