Purpose-driven living, writing, and speaking are popular phrases and concepts these days. One of the more impactful books I read in the last decades urged non-profit organizations to stay “mission-centered.” The malaise that troubles so many of us these days is living without meaning or purpose. In many ways, as society has changed from a religious to a secular or scientific one, what we have lost is a common (and life-giving) story that gives us a sense of who we are, where we fit in and what our lives should be about. For centuries the church taught that our chief end is “to glorify and enjoy God forever.” But fewer and fewer and fewer these days claim that as their purpose.
When our congregation read the book Love and Quasars in the fall, the author (an astrophysicist) told us that as a young adult he left Christian faith and adopted a purely scientific view of the world. He found that “new place” terribly frightening. During that phase, he felt that his life was stripped of meaning and community. Joy and comfort were gone. His book (I highly recommend it!) is largely about his journey back to faith, love and community. It is a journey he makes without losing his commitment to science and intellectual honesty.
To be a faithful people, combat meaninglessness and reclaim a sense of dignity for all people, the church lifts up our God-giving calling to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” We find meaning and purpose, life and joy, in answering Jesus’ call when he said, “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of people”. There is so much good work to do…so many lives that need good news.
The verse from the Ephesians reading today offers a valuable purpose for our lives. It gives us lofty and needed direction or marching orders. Today’s verse declares that God acts with intentionality in Jesus Christ. God has acted for us so that we might act for others in response. The intended outcome of our faith is that we do good works. It isn’t “faith or works” but “faith that motivates good works.” In other words, as we mature and grow in faith, we realize what God wants and desires from us: blessing other’s lives and making an impact for good in the world, all to the glory of God who is love.