My father passed away recently and quite suddenly. Two things were a heavy burden for me. First, to put it mildly, I never knew a real father-son relationship with my dad. And second, I had to carry the full weight of organizing and officiating his funeral. I want to share with you the sermonette I delivered during his funeral.
I would like to take you to the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. It is that book that paradoxically follows Proverbs—both of which are written by King Solomon.
While Proverbs provides divine wisdom for living life, Ecclesiastes screams the meaninglessness of life. Thus, it may seem that these two contradict each other. But the word of God does not contradict itself, all of it is flawless and perfect.
There is a heavenly wisdom, says James (3:13-18). But we also live in what is called a “fallen world.” We live in a world that was made for the glory of God, for perfection and abundance for all, but it is now a world that has fallen, due to our unbelief and sin, fallen from that wondrous height, down into pain, suffering, misery, and death.
Therefore, on the one hand, we need God’s wisdom in Christ; while, on the other hand, life in this world will never be easy. It is only when Jesus—who died for our sin and rose again to give us life, when he—returns that all things will be made new again.
Until then, we really need the message of Ecclesiastes!
I describe Ecclesiastes with a “yo-yo” analogy. You have all seen great yoyo-ists. They can do amazing things with a round piece of wood and some string! They can “walk the dog,” “rock the baby,” “skin the cat,” and so on and so forth, and it is pretty amazing.
The only things I have managed to do with a yoyo is “go up and down” a few times before losing it—I have broken some stuff and acquired a scar or two on my noggin (I had the same problem with nunchucks). It is from “my” failing attempts at yoyo-ing that I draw my connection.
Life is like a yoyo, the kind of yoyo-ing “I” do. Some things start out seemingly good but do not last. Life is up and down and all around, and we can not get life to do what we want it to do most of the time. Life is crazy.
The Preacher, who is Solomon, calls life the vanity of vanities (1:2)—a vapour, a mere breath, a mist, here for a moment. While there is a time for everything, good and bad, it seems everything ends up being totally meaningless. Good people suffer the same fate as bad people without distinction. A productive person passes before his prime and the irresponsible one lives to a rip old age. One’s great accomplishments get wasted by the next generation. And I could go on and on. Life will leave you wondering what is the purpose other than getting a little bit of temporary satisfaction and happiness.
And that is exactly the point. That is exactly where God, in his mercy and love, brings us. Why? So we can see our desperate need for him! God knows perfectly what is going on, for he is in full control, and he is doing what he has always said he would do. He wants us to see we are not in control but out of control. He wants us to see we are out of step with him and we need to get back in step with him … before it is too late.
Read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8.
Therefore, in light of the crazy, short-lived, and meaningless yo-yo nature of life: Remember your Creator (12:1). Get this figured out earlier rather than later! Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.
Now, God is abundantly gracious and long-suffering with us. So, if you missed the early sailing, provided you still have breathe in your lungs and some wits left, you can still make the later sailing: Remember your Creator … before the silver cord is snapped … even if you are old and grey … but before you “buy the farm,” “kick the bucket,” before you “pass way”!
How? The Preacher also speaks of “one Shepherd” (12:11), and that is Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:7-18). He laid his life down for his sheep, his lost sheep, to bring them home and to make them ready for glory—there is more than life in this crazy world.
Yet, the Preacher is clear (12:13-14)—you and I are accountable for our lives. Even though life was out of control, out of your control and mine, God, who is always in full control, is always near, is always accessible to us, and all we had to do was reach out and he would have taken our hand (Acts 17:26-28, 30-31). You can do this, and he will.
Dad’s life was yo-yo chaos! And, in the latter stretch of his life, the madness of it finally broke him and brought him to the feet of Jesus, to the foot of the cross, and he was reconciled to his Good Heavenly Father. He missed the first sailing but he made a later sailing. And I know he is with Jesus hoping for the rest of us to join him there.
Let life teach you that you need to remember your Creator and then do just that … before it is too late.
My father was so deeply dysfunctional and unsafe that he had to leave our home by the time I was 6 years old. And I did not see or hear from him for years after that. Yet, to make a long story short, my Heavenly Father stepped in, adopted me by his Spirit, made me his Son in Christ, promised me eternal glory with him, and then put in my heart compassion and love for my father, to honor him, and, when the time came, to care for my earthly father to his final day. Even though I wish things had been different for our relationship, I am grateful and overwhelmed for what God has done, and that some day, on the other side, I will see my dad as he was meant to be.