What Is Man?

(I prepared this meditation to go along with a sermon on Psalm 8.)

At some point in our lives just about all of us ask the question, “Why am I here? What is my place in the grand scheme of things?”

In trying to answer that question we run into one of the contradictions in human nature. On the one hand we have a pretty good opinion of ourselves. In fact, pride is one of our besetting sins. We tend to think that, at least in some ways, we’re better than others – or, we’re certainly not as bad as they are.

An Inheritance

Not too many days pass in which we do not get a rather pointed reminder about the uncertainty of life. We read or see on the news about a devastating earthquake. Thousands have died in an instant of time. In some other place, terrorists have massacred another village. A few days later we hear about a commuter train derailing, killing and maiming dozens. The list of such incidents goes on and on.

More To Be Pitied

We all go through struggles or hardships from time to time. But no matter how rough we have it, it’s pretty easy to look around us and see someone else who arouses our pity. For example, we might be feeling sorry for ourselves because we have car trouble. But then, we see someone who doesn’t have legs and cannot walk. All of a sudden, our transportation problem doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Royal Gambit

How many of you play chess? I’m absolutely no good at it, but occasionally it is fun to play against a computer program set on “easy”. I don’t play often. When I do, it’s purely for recreation.

Imitate His Faith

Our minds are wired in such a way that when we hear a name, we automatically associate certain attributes or characteristics with it. Whether it is true or not, whether it is deserved or not, the image or description pops into our mind. For example, when we hear the name of a particular company we immediately think, “high quality products”. Similarly, we associate another name with “excellent customer service” or “quick delivery”. Advertising people call this branding.

It Was Night

During the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples before the crucifixion, He predicted that the disciple to whom he gave a piece of bread would betray Him. We know, of course, that it was Judas. In describing the scene, John records a detail that isn’t in the other accounts. He writes, “As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.” (John 13:30 NIV)

When We Were Enemies

Our world’s a mess. Just about anywhere you look there is conflict and strife. The news is filled with the butchery that’s going on in the Middle East. There are wars all across Africa. Russia and Europe are facing off over Ukraine. India and Pakistan are fighting over who owns Kashmir. Even in places where people aren’t actively killing each other, nations like China and North Korea threaten violence against their neighbors.

Remember the Spirit

During the last meal Jesus ate with His disciples before the crucifixion, He broke some bread, gave it to the disciples and said, “do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24) After supper Jesus passed a cup around and said, “drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

Through the centuries, the church has kept this memorial. But what is it that Jesus wants us to remember? “Ah,” you say. “Isn’t it obvious? Jesus wants us to remember the sacrifice He made for us. He wants us to remember the covenant we’ve entered into with Him.”

Victims or Volunteers?

In our culture these days there’s a lot of talk about privilege and victimhood. Various groups claim that they’ve been oppressed or discriminated against. For example, we hear talk about how the 1% is holding everyone else back. It almost seems sometimes like there’s a competition going on to claim who is the most victimized.  It’s become a perverse sort of pride: “I’ve had it tougher than you so I’m better than you!” When you stop and think about it, it’s rather pathetic that people define themselves not by what they are, or by what they could be, but by what has happened to them.

Suffering For Doing Right

(I gave this talk one Sunday when the preacher brought a sermon on Job’s suffering.)

Each week we remember Jesus’ suffering by eating a piece of bread which recalls to mind His body on the cross, and drinking a cup of juice which reminds us of His shed blood. When we do this we remember that He went through the agony of the crucifixion for us. It was our sin and wrongdoing that put Him there. It was His death which made it possible for us to be reconciled to God.

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