Lectionary Sermon for August 4 2019

What Do You Want?

Do you realize that the world of business and economics really wants to know what you want? Businesses and corporations will spend millions of dollars to get data, information, about what you might want to buy.

If you go to a computer and you log on to a social media application, you will see ads. If you have been considering a new car, there will be car ads. If you have been thinking about a vacation, there are vacation ads. If you have been thinking about buying a certain type of shoe, there will likely be an ad for that shoe. Is this coincidence? No, you have been watched, studied, ran through an algorithm, a mathematical formula, that has given the social media site information about what you are likely interested in. These people work hard to try and discover what you want.

Are they doing this because they care about you? Are they doing this from a motive of compassion or service? No, they are doing this for themselves, to make money. If you are not sure about what you want, they know enough about you to try to direct you, manipulate you, and seek to convince you to buy what they are selling.

And do you really want to know the scary part? The fact is that what many of us think we want, is not what we want at all. Most human desires are based on what we think will make us happy, not what will really make us happy.

Can you just imagine how frustrating this is for God? Would you not be frustrated if someone you loved wanted something you knew would not make them happy or in fact was destructive? In a discussion with the prophet Hosea, God tells Hosea how time and time again God reached out to his people, but they wanted other gods, false gods, fake gods. They wanted pleasure and prosperity, but this was an illusion of happiness, a deception that only lead them into deeper and deeper isolation and alienation. God’s heart was broken. It was broken not because they did not do what God wanted, but because they were destroying themselves by what they wanted.

I believe many, many people are discontent with the church and with organized religion today in general because they believe the church does not give them what they think they want. People are to focus on their present situations. People want God to wow us if God is really God. We want God to do what we want. We want a church with fun, friends, fellowship and a focus on meeting our perceived needs. Our philosophy is I know what I want and have the right to have it.

We don’t want a God who suffers, yet this is the God we need. We don’t want a God who sacrifices, but this is the God we need. We don’t want to be told we have sick souls, we don’t want to be told it is the narrow path that leads to the best. And if we cannot get it from the church we are attending, we will find one down the street who will take our money until it too fails to deliver what we think we want.

Picture this scene. The wisest man that has ever lived, is sitting on a throne of gold. He has more wealth than he could ever spend. He has the power of life and death over everyone in his kingdom. He has over 6oo wives to choose from for his pleasure. He has the best of food, the highest quality of entertainment. He should be the happiest man alive.

But do you what he his doing as he is sitting on his throne high and lifted up? He is depressed. He is deeply troubled. He says, “I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind. I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after 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 master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity (Eccl. 1:1-2,12-14, 2:18-23 NRS)

Do you want the things he had? Is this what you are seeking in your life? If so, boy are you a sucker for disappointment. What makes you think this is the way to happiness? What makes you think having what he had will make your life so much better?

Let me give you another option. There was a man name Paul. Paul hated Christians and tried to kill them or have them thrown in jail. But then he met Jesus and he realized just how wrong he had been. Did his life get amazingly better? If you consider being hated, hunted, hurt and humiliated better then no. If you consider a peace that surpasses all understanding, a reason to have constant joy, and a heart of love that cannot be described only experienced, they yes.

A few years back I wanted to give someone I care a great deal about a present. I asked the person who I felt was closest to this person what the person wanted. So I bought the gift and give it to the one I loved. She was so disappointed. This was not what she wanted at all. I swore never to make that mistake again. Now I go directly to her and ask her what she wants.

Paul thought he knew what God wanted. Paul thought he knew what he wanted. He found out, as did I, that what others perceive as what is wanted in not necessarily accurate. Paul discovered people, deep down, wanted to know God was real. They wanted to know they were accepted. They wanted a way out of the lives they were living in a meaningless repetition. Paul tells people, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” (Col. 3:2 NRS).

I want to tell you something I know to be a fact. If you have not figured this out yet, someday you will. This world is filled with stuff we cannot handle. It is ripe with things we cannot control. And I can assure you the last thing this world is interested in is your happiness.

But here is the irony, God really is. You were made for a purpose, a purpose that may be clouded right now by your situations, problems, ideals, doubts or the other multitude of mental and spiritual challenges we humans face. But through the spiritual gifts that are given to us in the church to help one another. Through the gift of grace that is the Lord’s table where God joins with us in the bread and the wine. Through the water, the holy bath we call baptism we are joined in a community of faith that can overcome anything this world sends our way. Would you not like to find out your real purpose for existing? Do you think this might change what you really want?

Imagine being in the room with a loved on who is dying and their standing beside you is a Christian brother or sister who feels your pain is there because they care. Imagine you are in a crisis in which your life falls apart and there are Christian brothers and sisters there to make sure you understand the mess is not permanent. Is this not something you would want?

Or, you can go it alone. You can be like the rich man in the parable Jesus tells. “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Lk. 12:16-20 NRS) You do realize that someday you will be that man.

So, what do you want?

I’ll tell you what I want. I want to be the man whose goods and possessions do not matter. I want to be the man when death comes calling can say, Lord, here am I, and the Lord says, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

That is what I want most of all.

How do I gain what I want? First, listen to what God says about his wants. God says to his profit, “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hos. 11:4 NRS) Am I willing to let God do this for me? Then this is what I want.
The Psalmist says of God, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps. 107:1 NRS) If I am willing to accept this, I believe God love me this way. This is what I want.
Paul tells us, “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4 NRS) What better life could be offered than this. This is what I want.
Finally, Jesus tells us, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Lk. 12:21 NRS) What I want is a life that understands this and makes decisions that provide the life, the treasure God offers. This is what I really want. What about you?