The story is told of a young boy who was sent out to catch the school bus one fall day. A few moments after he left, there was a knock on the door. Mom went to the door, opened it, and there stood her son looking up with his back pack and lunch box dragging the ground. Mom demanded, “What are you doing here?” He bravely said, “I’ve quit school.” Mom said, “Quit school?” She looked at her child in disbelief and then she asked, “Why have you quit school?” Without hesitation her son said, “It’s too long, it’s too hard, and it’s too boring.” Mom replied, “You have just described life. Go on, get on the bus!”
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 signifying nothing.
Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Is the mom right? Life is too long, too hard, and too boring just like school.
Jesus said in the beginning of our gospel reading today, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jesus says that the Father has given him the authority to give eternal life and that the essence of eternal life is the knowing of God—the knowing of Jesus. This eternal life is what I would like us to consider today. Eternal life is a phrase that is used throughout the gospel of John. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the writers used the phrase the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven to convey the same idea. Why they are interchangeable is because of the first century Jewish concept that since God is the source of life if you are living with God in his kingdom you are sharing His life—eternal life. And one of the results of living with God and sharing his life is that your life is blessed and has meaning. So first off, this eternal life Jesus is describing is not a shadow having no substance or meaning like Macbeth described nor is it too long, too hard, and too boring like the life mom described.
Southwest Florida Diocese’s The Southern Cross about six years ago published an interesting article on happiness by The Rev. James Reho, who was formerly a professor and research chemist. He asks, “What do we know about happiness? According to one study the average American is no happier than an average Calcutta slum dweller who is suffering from poverty and malnutrition. Which then begs the question, if our affluent society doesn’t make us happy, what can?”
Research indicates that about 50 percent of our happiness quotient is genetic; we carry in our DNA some indication of how happy we will be, expressed through biochemical functioning such as our ability to metabolize serotonin. Interestingly, only about 10 percent of our happiness quotient correlates to the very things our society tells us brings happiness: wealth, body image, health, and popularity, only 10 percent. This then leaves about 40 percent of our happiness quotient left. Documented research tells us that this remaining 40 percent is maximized through our inter-personal relationships, service work for others, and the ability to get out of ourselves and be able to focus on others and other things larger than own lives.
As Christians we have been brought into God’s kingdom and we have a promise of life after death through our faith in Jesus. So does this mean that automatically we are happy now? Does that mean automatically that we are living a fulfilling life? Answer this honestly to yourself; are you satisfied with your life; do you feel fulfilled? It is an interesting question isn’t it? According to Jesus, the essence of eternal life; the essence of a satisfied and fulfilled life is to know God and we can only know God through knowing Jesus. So if we go at the question in reverse we would say that the more we know Jesus, the better we know Jesus, the more we will experience eternal life; the more we will experience a fulfilling life. Christianity was never meant to be simply a religion that resided only in one’s head. It was never intended to be a religion that only happened for an hour or so on a weekend. No, Christianity has always been intended to consume our entire life.
This puts a different slant on our pursuit of happiness, on our pursuit for a meaningful life doesn’t it? Because suddenly what is really important is not what we have, whether we are talking about possessions, or health, or our relationships here on earth. What is important is how well we know God. How often do you consider what Jesus taught us about himself, about the Father, about the Spirit or about us as humans? What do you really know about God? What do you really know about Jesus? Do you wait until you come to church to think about God? Because if that is the case, then you are not learning enough about who God is. I only speak about 12 minutes, sometimes even less in my sermon time. Hopefully during that time you do learn something about the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or yourself. But you and I need a lot more than 12 minutes a week in order to know God. Even those that come to the Adult Bible study or the Adult formation need more than that. You see, we are told, promised in fact, that God rewards those who diligently seek him. Now it is a very good thing to come to church. You need church; I need church—everyone needs to be attending church. We need to attend so we can be the church. We need to pray as a church. We need to worship as a church. We need to have Holy Communion as a church. We need to be able to give to the church and to serve as a church, remember that 40% happiness quotient. We need to serve a cause bigger than ourselves; we need to give to a bigger something than ourselves and we need each other. We need church, not my idea—that is what God tells us.
But, there is more. We also need to come to know God personally and any personal relationship takes time. But to spend the time to develop this personal relationship in particular is time worth taking. Because as we grow in our knowing Jesus and knowing God we will experience eternal life—not just life after we die—although certainly that too, but our eternal life begins now. Our having a satisfied and fulfilling life can begin right now.
So are you satisfied with your life? Are you happy? If your answer is a “not really” or even “no” you need to pursue God. You need to think about how to develop a relationship with God Almighty because having a relationship with God will change how you live your life.
This weekend we commemorate Ascension Sunday. This is the time we remember that Jesus left earth and ascended into heaven. But before he left he made some promises. He promised to return and He promised to send His Holy Spirit. He has not yet returned but He did send His Holy Spirit. It is through His Holy Spirit that we are able to have this relationship with God and feel His presence within us. Spend time this week getting to know Jesus. Read and think about who God is. Consider who Jesus is and remember that God is like Jesus. Talk to God and then stop and listen for His response. He may not speak in audible words to us but He communicates to us. Pursue a life of meaning and fulfillment; pursue eternal life! Amen