Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Satisfied // Disruption & Gift

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 01/12/2014
video available at www.sundaystreams.com/go/MilanVineyard
podcast here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/VineyardChurchOfMilan
or via iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/vineyard-church-of-milan/id562567379



A new series for January and perhaps February

On the subject of what it means to find satisfaction in our lives

In our relationships

In our jobs

In our financial status and material possessions

In our spiritual lives

And personal maturity

In our vocations

And service to others

And parenting

And spousing

And why not, maybe even in our bodies

And our churches

And sports teams


How satisfied are you?

Scale of 1-10.

With your friendships __________

With your car __________

With your self __________

With your work __________

With your spouse __________

With your cellular service __________

With your income __________

With your pastor __________

With your living situation __________

With your physical fitness __________

With your parents __________

With God __________

Which brings up another question.


How satisfied should you be?

Which, the more you think about it, requires you to answer another question.

What does it even mean to be satisfied?

Does it mean you can’t imagine it improving?

Does it mean it doesn’t have room to grow?

Does it mean there is no ache in you for something more?

Our primary text is the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon.


“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless!”

Ecclesiastes will seem at first, perhaps, to be the wrong book for this subject. How is a book about meaninglessness, about vanity and futility the right book for us? Great question. Maybe it’s not. But maybe, just maybe it’s exactly the right book. Maybe only in truly understanding meaninglessness and dis-satisfaction can we move towards true satisfaction. Let’s see.

Oscar Wilde, the 19th century Irish author and playwright (A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest) wrote something provocative on the subject, in the same vein as Solomon:


In this world, there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Dumby, in Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Think about the patron saint of Dis-satisfaction, of Not Getting What You Want. (No, not Mick Jagger. He sings about not getting what he wants, about not getting no satisfaction, but only one truly embodies it. )

I’m talking about the coyote.

Wile E. Coyote.


Spending his whole life chasing the roadrunner. Again and again and again. Always frustrated.

What are his options?

Give up, throw in the towel. Settle down. Have a family maybe. A couple coyote pups. But we know he’d always be thinking, “If I got that bird, I’d be happy.” No matter what good things happened in his life, secretly, he be thinking about that bird all the time. A miserable option.

Or maybe, what if he actually caught the bird…? “What are you going to do now?” Not really any better than the first option, is it? Maybe worse.


Or, he keeps chasing it and hopes he never catches it. Maybe that’s the option he’s already chosen. Maybe that’s why his equipment always fails. How would Acme stay in business if their products were actually that unreliable?


More likely, Wile E. is sabotaging himself, because he knows if he succeeds, it won’t actually be satisfying.

Oscar Wilde, Wile E. Coyote, and Solomon all get at profound truth about satisfaction from different angles. Namely, that satisfaction isn’t found where we are normally looking.

Listen to more from Israel’s King Solomon, a man of legendary wisdom.


Ecclesiastes 1 & 2…

1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

3What does anyone gain from all their labors

at which they toil under the sun?

4Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever.

5The sun rises and the sun sets,

and hurries back to where it rises.

6The wind blows to the south

and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

ever returning on its course.

7All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

there they return again.

8All things are wearisome,

more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

nor the ear its fill of hearing.

9What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

10Is there anything of which one can say,

“Look! This is something new”?

It was here already, long ago;

it was here before our time.

11There is no remembrance of people of old,

and even those who are yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless

12I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on the human race! 14I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15What is crooked cannot be straightened;

what is lacking cannot be counted.

16I said to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;

the more knowledge, the more grief.

Pleasures Are Meaningless

2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2“Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my labor,

and this was the reward for all my toil.

11Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,

and also madness and folly.

What more can the king’s successor do

than what has already been done?

13I saw that wisdom is better than folly,

just as light is better than darkness.

14The wise have eyes in their heads,

while fools walk in the darkness;

but I came to realize

that the same fate overtakes them both.

15Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.

What then do I gain by being wise?”

I said to myself,

“This too is meaningless.”

16For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;

the days have already come when both have been forgotten.

Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21For people may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to others who have not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.


Satisfied? A series from Ecclesiastes? How is this going to be helpful!? How did this even get in the Bible?

Well, it’s a bit like when you go to the doctor with a chronic condition, something that’s been bothering you for a long time. Something that you’ve tried to fix, unsuccessfully, on your own. Something that you tried to make your peace with, but it’s just getting worse. And the doctor says to you, “Well, I can help you. But it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to hurt. But if you trust me, if you let me do what I’m about to do, and if you do what I’m going to tell you to do, and you keep at it, this time next year, you’ll be all better. Whadda you say? Are you in?”

Our lack of being satisfied is like a chronic condition for many of us. We’ve almost always had it. We’ve tried to fix it, we’ve tried making our peace with it, and it’s just getting worse. At least, that’s my experience.


And Solomon is like the doctor. Or better, like a master teacher. And he’s been really helpful to me. So I’ll be preaching to myself here, if nothing else, and whomever wants to listen in is welcome.

Ecclesiastes falls into the general category of wisdom literature. But it’s not like most of the other wisdom literature.

Most wisdom literature falls along the lines of:

Do good, get good.

Do bad, get bad.

This series, this book Ecclesiastes,

is for everyone who did the right thing, and it all fell apart.

Or, maybe, it’s for those of us who did destructive things, and we came to the end of ourselves, and still found a God who loved us and rescued us.

This is Wisdom beyond wisdom.

A master teacher’s first job is to disrupt. To make you unsure of everything you think you know. So that you can receive something new.

Think about the first time human beings encountered the idea that the earth was round. Or that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe.

You can’t begin to absorb the new perspective until you can let go of the old one. And it’s hard to let go of the old one. Because so much of your current life rides on the assumptions that flow from the old one.

So the master teacher has to begin with disruption.

Jesus does this all the time, doesn’t he? He makes the outcast the hero of his story about what it means to be a good neighbor. The cheat the hero of his story about forgiveness.

Blessed are the poor.

Blessed are the meek.

Blessed are those who mourn.

The last shall be first.

You have heard it said…but I say to you…

Anger towards your brother is the same as murder. Lust the same as adultery.

You’ve got to lose your life if you want to find it.

Love your enemies.

The teacher here in Ecclesiastes wants to disrupt our understanding of satisfaction. To disrupt our assumptions about success and meaning and what matters in life. We’ll get to that more and more in coming weeks, as we talk about satisfaction in various areas of our lives, in our work and relationships and money and stuff and faith and all that. For today, though, I want to give you a window into some central ideas in Ecclesiastes that we can build on later, and that you can take with you as, perhaps, you read for yourself this week.

Let’s start with the word, “meaningless.” It’s the Hebrew word, “hebel” and many versions of the Bible use “vanity” to translate it. Vanity, all is vanity.


Literally, hebel means vapor, or breath.

You can’t get your hands on it. It disappears. Evaporates and is gone. Fleeting, temporary. Insubstantial.

Vapor, everything is vapor.

Not everything, actually, but everything “under the sun.”


“under the sun” occurs 29x

It’s the realm of the created. Everything that exists in time, between birth and death, rising and setting.

Solomon does it all, explores it all, everything there is to do or see or acquire under the sun. He learns, he builds, he buys, he tastes, he feels. He experiences everything the created and the creation has to offer. And it’s not bad – a lot of it is pretty dang awesome. As he says in 2v10:


10I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my labor,

and this was the reward for all my toil.

This is a bit refreshing, isn’t it? He’s not fooling himself, so we know he’s not trying to fool us.

A lot of things under the sun are desirable and pleasurable. There is delight to be had. Fast cars are fun to drive. A nice crib is pretty cool to live in. A job where you can accomplish things and feel good about your efforts beats flipping burgers you can’t even afford to eat yourself. The buzz that wine gives you doesn’t necessarily feel half-bad. An expensive cut of steak, well prepared by a great chef tastes good. Most harems get good reviews on Sultanslist.com. All things being equal, being smart and in the know and making good decisions sure beats being dumb and ignorant. Life just works better. And it’s a good feeling to wake up to a vault filled with gold and a 401K that you could live comfortably on for a 100 years if you had to.


[5 Minutes of Heaven…

Joe: So! The man shot my brother three times in the head. The man is having the life of Riley. What should I do? Do I shake his hand or do I kill him?

Vika: Well, killing him wouldn't be good for him.

Joe: For sure of that!

Vika: But it wouldn't be good for you either.

Joe: Oh, not good for me? My five minutes of heaven! How would that be not good for me?]

The answer is in chapter 2, verse 11:


“Yet when I surveyed…”

It’s the morning after.

After the pleasure of the moment has passed.

You’ve caught the roadrunner and feasted on it, and you’re cleaning up the dishes.

5 minutes after the 5 minutes of heaven.

This is when you evaluate whether you are satisfied or not.

Not, whether the food was good or the product was worth buying or if the house you built is a good house or the company a good company.

But whether you’re actually satisfied now.

Now that you’ve got the job.

Now that you’re married.

Now that the mustang keys are hanging in your kitchen.

Was it meaningful?

Did it really matter?

Are you truly content?

Are you left with lasting joy?


11Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was vapor, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun.

Everything under the sun is vapor.

Our physical lives and current bodies.


All of our stuff. Our houses and cars and clothes and phones and tools and food and lawns and companies and teams and countries.


Our jobs, our tasks. Running errands. Managing people. Selling insurance. Gardening. Filling out permission slips. Cooking food. Filling up with gas. Shoveling snow. Making beds. Doing dishes. Cleaning toilets. Scoring touchdowns. Walking the dog. Organizing the garage.


That’s not all there is, of course. Not everything that is, is vapor. Not everything that is, is under the sun.

Listen to 2v24 & 25:


24People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

God isn’t under the sun.

He’s uncreated, he’s not in time, no birth or death.

He doesn’t fall in the category of vapor.

And yet, he can somehow be connected to the things that are under the sun. He can give them meaning, transform them from vapor to glory, from insubstantial to meaningful. The food and drink and toil that is received from God’s hand as gift is something loaded with the breath of eternity. It becomes satisfying, somehow, in a way that on its own, divorced from heaven, it can never be.

Is love the stuff of heaven, or the stuff of earth? Is hope, and faith? Is joy? Peace? Is love vapor? Will it be here today and gone tomorrow? Or will it last forever and ever, even after all vaporous things have passed away?

We, like Solomon, spend our lives looking for satisfaction in things under the sun, and discover that they are vapor.


Satisfaction is found only in the uncreated one who is outside of time, who gives light to the world and brings all true, substantial things into existence. A satisfied life finds satisfaction only in God, who creates all things, including us, as an expression of his love, and as containers of his love.

Is your work, to you, an expression of God’s love – a container of God’s love - that you receive as a gift from him? Or is it something you look to, hoping it will satisfy you? Is your money, to you, an expression of God’s love that receive as a gift from him? Or something you look to, hoping it will satisfy you? Is your spouse? Your child? Your stuff? Your body? Your church?

Are you expending your energy to make your life more satisfying – to get more, be more, see more, do more, have more, give more?

Or is your expenditure of energy an expression of the gifts God has already given you? Are you expending your energy to fashion yourself and the world around you into containers for the life that God desires to give? Containers for God himself in this vaporous world?


I like an expression of Rob Bell’s – he says that sometimes our lives are nothing but “vapor management.” Trying to turn our vapor into something that will satisfy us. Trying to manage our relationships, our work, our money, our stuff, all of it, to corral it into some form that we’ll find satisfying.

We’ll even come to church, to God, thinking we need his help doing better vapor management. Thinking he can help us manage our money or our relationships or our stuff in such a way that it will start to give us life. Ah, if I spend money more wisely it will satisfy me. I’ll be more prosperous. If I give it to the poor. If I forgive people I’ll have life. If I do the right things with my body or my mind. Or whatever. I just need to follow the owner’s manual for this vapor, and it will finally be satisfying.

And it never works. You can never get good enough at vapor management to make vapor satisfying.

Which is why some come to church, to God, because they have gotten it all, they’ve won, they are the best vapor managers on planet earth, and they still have nothing but vapor.


The satisfied person is not defined by the quality of their vapor management. They might be rich. They might be poor. Their lives might be all in order or all out of order. What they have in common is the profound awareness (“this too, I see”) that life, all of it, is a gift from God to be appreciated and enjoyed.

This is why the teacher in Ecclesiastes is here to disrupt us. To shake us from chasing after the wind. To get us to stop. To look around. To feel the wind of God’s breath blowing against our skin right here, right now. To feel the warmth of the sun he made to shine on us. To receive Christ in the person before us, to receive him in the meal prepared for us, to receive him in the good work prepared in advance for us to do.

Jesus says it this way in Matthew 6v33

But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well …

God’s kingdom started before time, and will extend beyond time. God’s love, his provision, his power, the life of the ages, it’s eternal. Don’t seek after what you will eat, or what you will drink or what you will wear – the pagans look for satisfaction in these things. The Father knows what you need.

It’s as if Jesus is saying, it’s all gift, an expression of the Father’s love, a container of his love, and when you see that, when you become aware of that, you’ll finally know what to do with it.

Practical Suggestions:


Make a resolution to

Let your life be

An expression of (God’s gifts to you)

Instead of

A search for (something satisfying)


Let go of the lie:

If I could just _________________

Then I’d be ________________

No comments: