GO Therefore: What on earth am I here for?

“What on earth am I here for?” This is a great question. It invites us to deeply reflect on an important part of what it means to be human. It invites us to deeply reflect on our purpose and what makes our life meaningful and worth living.

It’s also a question that, when left unanswered, can bring up all kinds of insecurities, anxieties, and even fears. Left without an answer to this question, we can easily drift into one of the greatest existential crises of our time: meaninglessness. And without meaning, our lives can seem fairly bleak.

There are a lot of ways a person could answer this question for themselves. Those who confess some sort of faith often look to that faith for answers. I would argue that even those who confess no faith are often answering the question in “religious” ways, even if those “religious” ways don’t speak of a deity or use typically spiritual words. These big human and religious questions will be asked and answered, whether we confess a god or not.

For Christians, answering the question, “what on earth am I here for?” means looking to Jesus, the Bible, and our own experiences of grace. The Bible reveals God’s story and invites us to reflect on our own stories in light of the character of God we read there. God most clearly shows us who God is through the person of Jesus. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, cared for orphans and widows, spent time with society’s outcasts, and criticized the legalistic religious zealots, not to mention the many miracles he performed as signs of what God’s kingdom has the power to do.

Again, for Christians, answering the question, “what on earth am I here for?” means looking to Jesus, what he did and how he behaved. We do our best to imitate these things, knowing that we cannot do them perfectly, or even very well sometimes. The old, slightly worn-out phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?” tells us at least a little bit about what we’re here for.

In our own Christian tradition, Lutheranism, we’ve attempted to live out this purpose in big, impactful ways. Lutherans have sought to provide solid education for nearly 500 years. In fact, Lutherans have a history of being some of the most vocal supporters of educating girls as well as we have educated boys. Lutherans have histories of parochial schools, colleges and universities. We’ve also established hospitals, often caring for people who may never be able to pay for their medical bills. We’ve created organizations like Lutheran Social Services, assisting with mentoring, counseling, financial counseling, fostering, adoption, and refugee resettlement. When Lutherans answer the question, “what on earth am I here for?” we often answer it in big ways that model after the person of Jesus.

However, Jesus is not simply a model for how to behave and answering the question isn’t only about things that we should do. “What on earth am I here for?” has its root in a bigger human question, “Who am I? Or, even more accurate, whose am I?” As a Christian, I believe that not only have I claimed God, but God has claimed me. I am a child of God. This is who and “whose” I am.

Every night when I tuck my kids into bed we trace the shape of a cross on each other’s foreheads with our index finger and say, “You are a child of God.” This simple action is also rooted in these questions, “who and whose am I?” I am a child of God because of Jesus; and even more importantly, because of what Jesus did on the cross. What he did was not glamourous. It does not look like a victory. But it does look a lot like how he lived: sacrificial, giving, humble, meek, and mild. Jesus humbled himself and died on the cross, and by doing so claimed me as his own.

The world wants me to be something and someone else. As an example, the economy wants me to be a consumer; and by extension, the question of what I am here for is answered by how much I have to spend. The government wants me to be a citizen; and again, by extension, the question of what I am here for is answered by how loyal I am to the state.

The world will always try to tell you what you are here for. The world will always try to define who you are and what you should be doing. The big human and religious questions will always be answered, whether we’ve thought about them or not. They will be answered for us if we do not answer them for ourselves.

I’d love to invite you to consider these big questions. Don’t let the state or the economy or anything or anyone else ask and answer these questions for you. Consider the questions, “What on earth am I hear for?” And, “Who am I?” And even, “Whose am I?” Stem the tide of that existential crisis our world is facing by answering these questions for yourselves. And join me in answering them in a specifically Christian way. It has brought a whole lot of meaning and purpose to my life and I know it will yours, as well.

Pentecost 2018
Pastor Chris Zuraff