Well, it was a rather cynical morning at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend, Oregon, at least as far as the readings are concerned.
The writer of Ecclesiastes concludes, when pondering “all the deeds that are done under the sun,” that “all is vanity and a chasing after wind.” He describes the futility of working with “wisdom and knowledge and skill” only to have everything he’s created “be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it.” As a result, he says, “I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun.”
The psalmist strikes a similar note: “For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they perish and leave their wealth to those who come after them.”
And in Luke, we have Jesus telling the story of the rich man whose land “produced abundantly,” so he had the problem of storing all that abundance. The rich man’s solution was to build bigger barns. He’d have sustenance to last the rest of his life, giving him the freedom to “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” Problem solved. And then God comes with these words: “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
What to make of these musings on human futility?
I think this morning’s readings from Ecclesiastes, Psalm 49, and Luke’s gospel are asking us to examine just how attached we are to having things beyond our control turn out a certain way.
All three readings are telling us that our job as God’s children is to create what is ours to create, and then to set our creations free.
The readings are calling us to a human version of photosynthesis.
Like plants, our call is simply and purely to offer the gifts we have – our qualities and skills combined with our environment – to make what is uniquely ours to make. And then let go.
Trying to control what happens to the products of our labors is as silly as an oak tree saying “Oh, Hell no,” and then refusing to let go of its leaves and acorns.
Being attached to outcomes is as ludicrous as a sunflower saying “I won’t make sugar and oxygen from sunlight and air and water and soil unless I can get a guarantee that they will only be eaten by some deserving animal.”
Our job is to do our best with what we’ve been given. And then let go.
Our job is to humbly and diligently co-create with God. And then let go.
Our job is to be who we are and do what we can in this incredible world. And then let go.
Any other course of action is, indeed “vanity and a chasing after wind.”