What is man? That’s the question the psalmist asks tonight. That’s one of the questions a classical education should teach you to ask.

The broader culture, in an astonishing fraud that is neither scientific or logical, would have you believe that man is, that you are the product of a random mutation. That the incredible design of the world and the cosmos, the complex digital code embedded in your DNA, is all an accident. Without design. Without plan. And thus you are without purpose. Without hope.

What is man? What masquerades as science says that man is soulless, your thoughts and emotions pure chemical reactions. And what is your life? Meaningless. The weak we kill, and the dead return to nothing. The end.

Well that’s not very pleasant to think about. So ignoring the so-called science of macro-evolution, man consoles himself with another science: economics. In other words, how am I going to buy all the stuff I want in order to make the most of this life, to make me happy and comfortable? I want a new lacrosse stick, an iPad, video games and vacations.

I want, I want, I want.

I am Homo economicus, a producer, a consumer, and my identity is defined by my stuff.

Success. Pleasure. What is the end of that? You may simply have to learn this the hard way, but I pray instead that you will listen to St. Paul in his letter to Timothy which we heard tonight: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 

This life may not lead you immediately to ruin and destruction. The pursuit of prosperity, the pursuit of happiness, may cause you to move on to many more important graduations and achievements, to fabulous wealth and glorious successes. And that may be the greatest temptation of all – to have everything you can want in this life, and to put your feet up and say with the Rich Man in Jesus’ parable, “[I] have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” What does God say of that man? “You fool! Tonight your life comes to an end.” We do not know when our last hour will be.

Psalm 8, which we sang near the beginning of Vespers, directs the question where questions should be directed: to God. “O Lord … What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The psalmist acknowledges that God made everything: the heavens, the earth, the moon and the stars. Of all these beautiful and powerful, terrible and majestic things, why does God care for puny, insignificant man?

And the answer is love. God loves man. God made man out of love, bestowed all the riches of creation on the man out of love, and despite our rebellion, continues to love us.

What is man? Of himself, man is nothing. But man is not of himself. Man is made by the Maker. Man is loved by the One who is love. Man is redeemed by the One who became Man for us.

That is how you learn to answer the question, “Who am I?” I am not of myself, by myself, for myself. I am made by the Maker. I am loved by the One who is love. I am redeemed by the One who became Man for me.

So what ultimately matters is not how many schools I can graduate from, how much money I can get, what kind of name I make for myself, how many years I can live. What matters is that I am made by the Maker, I am redeemed by the Redeemer, I am sanctified by the Sanctifier, I will, though I suffer every trial and then death, be raised again from the dead and live with Christ in His kingdom.

So if there’s one thing I want you graduates to take away from Immanuel Lutheran School, it is this, that you can say and confess: I believe God has made me and all creatures; I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord; the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certain true!