Vanity of Vanities

The readings this week were just so beautiful that the sermon just dropped out the bottom and you can hear it here on the podcast.

One of the things that has become increasingly clear is that if we want a different future then we need to create a very different NOW. The values and aspirations of our current cultural paradigm are leading us to destruction as they are rooted in competition, winners and losers, the subsequent acquisition of wealth and resources in the hands of too few. I don’t make a political point here for all parties are trapped in the language of this paradigm.

It is rooted in ideas from the Enlightenment like Darwins ‘survival of the fittest’; in a view of our human nature as innately combative. The expectation that human beings are by nature, root and bones, part of a struggle for survival whereby we will stop at nothing to protect our own and will hoard our possessions away from others in order to protect from hardship. We see this cultural structure of inequality as expressed now throughout our global markets as something that is ‘just the way it is’, the winner takes it all!

However this western cultural story, which has consumed so many cultures through elitist education models and trade, may not be TRUE!

It may be that Jesus was right!! It may be that we can tell ourselves a new story about our human nature, one in which the last are first and the poor are Blessed. I stress again that this is not about political reordering, it is so much deeper than that. It is not a revolution, moving power and control around, it is a completely different story of who we really are. It is pure rebellion, a paradigm shift… and the thing is that this story is told beautifully by Jesus.

I am not in anyway however saying that this is reflected in the historic church as it developed as a machine for power and control over the centuries and the elitist and economic models that came to dominate theology and orthodoxy from the council of Nicea onward. Much of the structure of our theology is too tainted to be of any value in this new future.

The New story is rooted in an idea that human nature is in fact culturally altruistic. That 190,000yrs of our human evolution requires this to be so, it was the key survival trait. This is explored in lots more depth in the group below and I am just beginning to look at it. It was alluded to in a talk given at the Seed festival by Bruce Parry and his most recent film …

This is the group of anthropologists working on a new vision of the past that may have the power to transform our future.

The reason that I am so inspired by all this is that our faith teaches that a new human existence is possible, that Jesus teachings give us the values for harmonious cohabitation in the Kingdom of God on earth. Many voices outside the faith are speaking, longing and creating this peaceable Kingdom and we followers of Jesus also have so much to offer at this time. One of the secular commentators that I love to listen too is Alain de Botton and this little ted talk is one of his gems.

Ecclesiastes 1:1,2,12-14, 2:18-23

The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
1I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, 13 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. 14 I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.
2: 18 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 19 —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. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 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. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 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.

Luke 12:13-21

The Parable of the Rich Fool

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 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?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Do Not Worry

22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[d26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;[e] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31

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