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Why am I here? Our struggle for meaning, in the world and church

By       Message Robert Jensen     Permalink
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[This is an edited version of a sermon delivered July 25, 2010, at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX. http://www.staopen.com/]

Let's approach the question "Why am I here?" at two different levels.

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The first is the question of the ages, which we all have asked at some point: Why is any one of us here? Why are we humans here, with this vexing consciousness and frustrating capacity for self-reflection? Are we the product of some larger plan beyond our understanding? Do humans have a purpose? Are we special?

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The answer to that is easy: No. We are not special. We are an organism like all others, the product of an evolutionary process in a very big universe in which we are, as individuals, insignificant. But don't fret about that; we are also insignificant as a species, and the collection of entities on Earth that we call "life" is insignificant, as is the planetary ecosystem in which we live and our solar system and our galaxy. We are, in the big picture, insignificant beings floating in insignificance in a universe that is vast beyond human comprehension.

If anyone is still wrestling with that one, still searching for some essential meaning to our existence, I have some simple advice: Get over it, and start pulling your weight in the meaning-making enterprise. If there's meaning in any of this, we create it ourselves, and we need all hands on deck for that one.

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The second, and more important, question: Why am I here, at St. Andrew's? That's a question all of us have asked at some point, and I suspect most of us ponder it regularly. Why are we members of a church, specifically members of this particular church, with its -- how shall we say politely -- tendency toward heresy and unwillingness to bend to the will of God as understood by John Calvin and his descendants in the Mission Presbytery.

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Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book, All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, was published in 2009 (more...)
 

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