"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vanity Plates Us All...

ANYONE WITH an ounce of restorative impulse can relate to the feeling, especially the elderly and skilled in this life. We often hear them say, “Things wear on you.” They emphasize that like sandpaper... whether smooth or coarse, the world grinds you down. The world is caustic they emphasize. It strips us. And we grow to realize that this observation teaches that the hostility of the world swirls all about. We are sinful victims… both young and old alike. Good Friday falls hard upon those who would restore.
 A person may be like an experimental vehicle that never survives the drawing board. We are sometimes aborted before we even get started. A dreary color thus casts first shadow on the human plight. We find that good planned at the beginning is eventually trashed by punitive time, wear or will. And, though we may attempt to restore those precious things that too soon fall into disrepair.., age, rust and corrosion continue to destroy. Those things we had restored soon need restoration once again. Finally, we are reminded when called to go to church to attend someone’s funeral or pay our respects for that which was humanly accomplished. There we can rightly hear the dismal truth. We hear it said from ancient scripture. The words toll to us across the pews…

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already, in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any such remembrance of later things… yet to happen among those who come after.”
                                                                                  (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)

Those in the automotive industry surely know this dying color. They see it whether applied by brush or spray. The color appears a lot in dull hues of grey or rusty red. With filler and primers we try to heal scars and blemishes. We try to set the bare stage anew. But all is vanity, says the Preacher. Finally, even with new brightness covering... we know that we are simply delaying the inevitable.
 Some think that we are left to just enjoy for the time that we have. All seems too depressing if we dwell long on stark thoughts... if we think too much about the human condition. So we return to our work. We work and we toil. We often try to raise our spirits with demonic spirits. Yes indeed, in toiling we find that all is vanity. Putting on a mask workmen try to make breath protected, as we scrape, scratch and scrub.Yes, if we stop and dwell on these thoughts, we know the futility felt by the ancient scriptural writer. We feel the futility that drives people to anger, others to pleading, some to bargaining, others to shrug, and still others to the very point of letting go of life itself. The thickness felt becomes a dull substrate for that which is to come. But, thanks be to God... we are surely wrong.
For thanks be to God, through Christ Jesus... a gift of eternal hope and faith can cover us. You see, unlike tired workmen or past kings who finitely gripped despair in the face of sinful misery, God does not rest from the doing of mercy. God came into this vanity to be with us.., to share our plight. Though innocent, Christ our salvation came into this fallen world deliberately..., to feel the pain. We read…  

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 
 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" 
 Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." 
 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the scripture, "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." 
 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 
 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 
 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), "I thirst."  A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 
 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:17-30)

Scripture tells us, therefore, that the depths of our creative plight are felt by God. In the face of sinful crazing, cracking, slew footing, and reflective runs… his Beloved Son worked that we may live and love forever. He worked teaching his apprentices like a master craftsman. Our Lord healed scars both visible and hidden... just to show us how to do it. His success was so great that competitors grew jealous of His work, and tried to mar the finish. But it would not be so.
 “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity” said the preacher. “What is done… is done.” Now truly there are some yet who wisely say what is repeated here. Some who follow like me shall say.., “No ancient preacher, in brightness it was truly finished only when God said “It is finished”. Nothing more was, or ever will be needed since then. All creation darkened shall be truly restored through Him. That good news  sparkles and glistens forever... from the cross of the Beloved Son.