By The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Baines
Everyone who has ever lived knows well the experience of waking up one day and wondering what life is all about. However full and demanding, sometimes we just ask ourselves what it is all for. And sometimes it seems a bit pointless.
This is where the writer of Ecclesiastes begins. What’s the point of it all? We eat and sleep and work; we live and love and weep and breed. Life just goes round in circles and doesn’t always seem to get anywhere. So, how are we to respond? How are we to think about our lives and what they mean?
Well, Ecclesiastes confronts us with our common starting point as human beings – whoever and wherever we are: our mortality. We are mortal beings in a contingent world. So, get used to it and don’t run away from the questions of meaning.
The Psalmist, as we know, has experienced the same questioning. However, he looks up at the stars and sets his own personal experience in the context of the enormity of the universe. Seen in this way, he is able to see the bigness of God’s creative love, holding together the cosmos and the individual who could otherwise feel as insignificant as a grain of sand. And this perspective – seeing through God’s eyes, evokes a response of wonder, praise and gratitude.
Funnily enough, this is the vision of God, the world and us that had so gripped Paul. In his letters to struggling Christian churches he repeatedly tries to lift their eyes – to see themselves, their lives and predicaments through God’s eyes and in the context of eternity. So, he says to the Philippians, sort out your relationships. What do your arguments and power games look like when seen in the light of the cosmic God who loves you?
Do you look at yourself and wonder why you matter – or look at God and know you matter?
Lord God, creator of all that is, lift the light of your face upon me, that I might see the world as you see it and love it as you do in Christ. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Baines is the bishop of Bradford in England.