Summary: This talk aims to help answer one of big questions that people ask. namely, why am I here? What is my life all about? Why are we here on the earth? I don’t claim to have or give the full answer, but I hope it is a good start.
(First of all, a note to the reader. This talk started out life as a thematic talk - what is my life all about. Therefore, please don’t be too surprised or disappointed that this sermon is therefore not an exposition of the Philippians chapter 1 Bible passage. I refer to it during the talk, and I believe it helps to set the scene, but this is not an expository sermon):
If you type into Google the answer to life, the universe and everything it will tell you the answer is 42, as announced by Douglas Adams in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Adams meant it as a joke; but to mark the 10th anniversary of his death Peter Gill released a book trying to prove that 42 is the answer! For example, Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert died aged 42; they had 42 grandchildren and their great-grandson, Edward VIII, abdicated at the age of 42. Lord Lucan’s last known location was outside 42 Norman Road, Newhaven, East Sussex. Titanic was travelling at a speed equivalent to 42km/hour when it collided with an iceberg; and of course Elvis Presley died aged 42; but the point is that there is a desire within the hearts of men, women and children to have an answer to these questions: Why are we here? What are we doing on earth? What is the purpose of my life? Why does Richard Dawkins have such an unqualified faith in the non-existence of God?
A few years ago the philosopher Julian Baggini wrote a book called what’s it all about? In the book he wrote this: ‘A taxi driver once had Bertrand Russell in the back of his cab. Since Russell was the most famous philosopher of his day, the cabby asked him "What’s it all about?" Russell, however, could not answer. No surprise there, you might think. For, isn’t the meaning of life the most profound and elusive mystery of them all - unknown to even the greatest minds? Surely anyone who tells you they have the answer is joking, mad or simply mistaken. I hope not, because I think I could answer the cabby’s question. It would need to be a reasonably long journey to give the full explanation, but I could give the outline in the time it takes to get from Charing Cross to King’s Cross. In fact, tell you what, I will give you the quick answer now. I can do this, not because I am especially wise. If only! I can do it because it has all been done already.’ Sadly, Baggini then goes on to say not very much of substance in my opinion.
So if great philosophers struggle with the question; and if scientists also are not able to explain what purpose lies behind life, can I do it? Well, let’s start with a short video which may remind us how awkward we can feel when asked, “Why are we here?”
In his book ‘Thank God it’s Monday’ Mark Greene reminds us that in the beginning God started work. For six days he worked and then he rested. God’s work of creation reflects who He is, because he made humanity in His image. He instilled creativity in us and gave us work to do. Literally, in the beginning, before sin affected men and women, humanity was designed for work; and that work was given as a blessing. So, in Genesis we read this: ‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground”’ (Genesis 1:28).
And just a short while later we read this: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (Genesis 2: 15).
The sin of Adam and Eve, and the continuing inclination of hearts to rebel against God led to a change in the character of work. Work would become harder, but the command to work and the essential value of work remained – and we mustn’t limit our idea of work to something we get paid for because Adam was not told to work for a salary; and the work he was given can be done by almost everyone – filling the earth and taking care of it. That was the purpose given to humanity when God made us; and in the Ten Commandments this is reiterated. We are to work at something for six days and to rest for one day. However, despite what the media may suggest, our significance and our identity is not found in the work we do. Our identity does not come from a Job Title, a role, or a moment of fame.