“Reigniting! A Sense of Purpose”

June 28, 2020


Robin McGonigle
University Congregational Church
June 28, 2020

Reigniting! A Sense of Purpose
Ecc. 3: 1-12

George Eliot wrote, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” We continue our sermon series on Reigniting! our lives. Whether it is because we have been in quarantine for months, or have been in a personal slump, just need a new lease on life, are aging, or need some revitalization, it is time to Revitalize and rejuvenate ourselves! We are using Julia Cameron’s book “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” as a guide.

To Reignite! a sense of purpose, Cameron suggests that we make a list of 25 things we love. At first, I have to admit I was skeptical, but it truly was helpful – so I’m going to suggest that you take a moment to list some things yourself. Get a piece of paper and pen and start writing down a few things that you love.
· Think about the tastes you love – hot cocoa, cherry pie, fresh pizza out of the oven, homemade bread
· What things do you like to touch – cool fresh sheets on your bed, your pet’s furry coat, velvet
· What are some of the smells you enjoy -incense, spring rain, a specific cologne, lilacs in the spring, pine boughs at Christmas
· Name some of the sounds you love – the sounds of waves crashing on a beach, the sound of children’s laughter, a particular musical sound or album, a loved one’s whistle or singing, a bird’s song
· What are some sights you yearn to see – mountaintops, fresh flowers, snow, waving wheat fields, an animal in the field, a beloved family member
· List some other things you love – art, music, science, health, exercise, home-cooked meals. Think about things you loved when you were a child and perhaps didn’t follow up on as an adult. Think about interests you had in high school or college, teams you played on or groups you competed with. Did you love to debate? Or play basketball? Did you enjoy acting or working in the lab? Did you enjoy writing or reading poetry or building in the shop?
· What makes you tick? Keep adding to your list as things pop into your mind. Whether it is a favorite meal, a well-loved jacket, a piece of music, or a soaring hawk – these things that we love could be called touchstones of our lives. Touchstones like these fuel our sense of identity. They help us remember who we are and help us ground ourselves with purpose.
If it is time to Reignite! your life, it is time to look at your list of things you love, or have loved and think of something that you might want to pick up again! If you enjoyed cooking when you were a child, it might be time to try your hand at it again. And if gardening is also on your list of things you have loved, why not start growing vegetables or herbs and use them in your cooking? Or take a cooking class, either online or in person? This kind of endeavor can Reignite a life and create a new purpose and energy!

Our traditional word for today is from the Hebrew Bible. It is from the ancient wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. You may recognize the middle part, which was made into a folk song in the 1960’s.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live. Ecc. 3: 1-12

As I mentioned last week, Ecclesiastes is a part of the Bible’s wisdom literature. If it is read carefully, wisdom literature can provide training in the daily life of faith and evocative images to stir the human heart to devotion. These texts are not narratives; they are poetry, and like all poetry, they communicate in language aimed as much at the heart as at the head. Martin Luther called Ecclesiastes “this very beautiful and useful book” which “on many counts deserves to be in everyone’s hands and to be familiar to everyone.”

The book of Ecclesiastes is usually called “skeptical” Wisdom or “dissenting” Wisdom. The author of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher, is a sage who has lived long and has grown weary of life’s ups and downs. Death makes fools even of the wise. The knowledge that life is fleeting should not be defeating. It should lead, instead, to humility and to a proper delight in the gifts of God.

As we Reignite! our lives, this text reminds us that each day brings new opportunities. God wants us to be happy and offers a variety of times for us to explore and enjoy a plethora of activity. “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live”. Imagine if every person in the world understood that to be God’s wish for their lives! If I stood on the street and asked people if that sentence was in the Bible, what percentage of people do you think would affirm that it was? How many do you think really believe that God’s will for them is to be happy and enjoy themselves for as long as they live? Do you believe it in your deepest soul? Then, let’s Reignite! our lives and live with even more true joy!

Look at your list again. What do you love? Dalmation dogs? Vintage Mercedes sedans? Blue velvet? If we are feeling lonely or discouraged, reviewing our list of touchstones can provide us with a greater sense of connection, because that is what fuels our sense of identity. When we remember what we love, we remember our true values. If we drift away from what we love, we need to step back to what we love and encompass those loves.
· If you love horses, find a local stable and sign up for riding lessons or to take care of horses.
· If you love forests, but live in the heart of Kansas, you may need to start a greenhouse or a small sanctuary of houseplants.
· If you love history, consider becoming a docent or tour guide.
· If you love math, think about volunteering to do tutoring.
Lauren Bacall is credited with saying, “Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”

It is not too early or too late in your life to think about your legacy – what do you want to leave and for whom? For some, your legacy will be a work – or works – in the form of art, song, painting or poetry. For others it may be an account of memories or rich stories to share with future generations. Writing a memoir, using a helpful guide from a bookstore or just leaving some journals about your life for younger generations is a priceless gift. Many of us will find meaning and a deeper purpose in our lives by recalling the events and people who shaped our personalities and characters and telling our personal stories. As we tell those stories, we may even connect to a greater purpose in the story.

I want tell you something incredibly personal here. A month ago, I decided it was time to update my funeral file. I do this about once a decade. Nothing is wrong – I am not sick. Because I conduct funerals so often, I am poignantly aware that it is a gift to a family to pre-plan. Ever since I was 25 or so, I have a file with arrangements for my own funeral and I update it periodically for my family. This time, I wrote my eulogy. I went into detail about my early years and the events of my life that formed my personal values, beliefs, interests, hobbies, and enduring truths. It was a cathartic exercise for me to write that history and to explain what makes me tick – why certain things are essential to who I am, what I believe, and how I love. This eulogy may never be used… but the value of writing it was priceless. I got in touch again with my roots – with those things that I love – with my purpose. Writing it gave me passion to live and energy to explore more of what I want to do with the rest of my life!

So, take the list of the things you love and find some new things to do while you’re staying at home or Reigniting! your life, my friends! God wants us to be happy and to enjoy all the days of our lives. We are co-creators of these lives we have been given. Let’s live with purpose!

Resources Used:
Bridges, Brenden. “Called to Community Building”. https://sermons.faithlife.com/
Cameron, Julia. “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again”. New York: Penguin Random House. 2016