SERMON: The Epic Of Gilgamesh
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist, Gilgamesh, must face his fear of mortality.
From his response to the people, we can see his discontent with continuing to live a life lacking meaning. Gilgamesh responds: "How shall I answer them; shall I say that I will sit at home all the rest of my days" (74).
In the first half of the saga, after much lamenting and brooding over the limits of his mortality, Gilgamesh sees only one way in which he can at least partially conquer this natural and seemingly unavoidable violation of his experience and his pride.
He sets out to accomplish deeds that will secure his reputation and legacy in the minds and stories of generations to come.
This was the first sign of Gilgamesh's fear of death lending purpose and meaning to his life.
When Gilgamesh notifies the people of Uruk that he is going to embark on these tasks, the members of strong walled Uruk discourage their restless king.
Only through this conquering of his fear of death can Gilgamesh conquer the limits of death itself.
There are three feats through which Gilgamesh attempts to prove himself. All three of these feats take place in the Country of the Living, the Land of Cedars. First Gilgamesh, with the help of his comrade Enkidu, killed the greatly feared giant, Humbaba. Before the battle with Humbab, a Gilgamesh states: "If I fall, I leave behind me a name that endures" (71). Through killing Humbaba, the guardian of the Land of Cedars, Gilgamesh and Enkidu accomplish the deed of cutting down the great cedars.
Concerning this Gilgamesh exclaims: "I am committed to this enterprise: to climb the mountain, to cut down the cedar, and leave behind me an enduring name" (73). Before Gilgamesh leaves the Country of the Living, he completes his third deed: he writes his name "where the names of famous men are written" (70).
Though it is Gilgamesh's fear of death that motivates him to do these deeds, the acts of going into the uncharted Land of Cedars and challenging Humbaba entail Gilgamesh conquering his fear of death. Only through this conquering of his fear of death can Gilgamesh conquer the limits of death itself.
In the first portion of the poem, Gilgamesh's attempts to defeat mortality are confined to acts that will leave him an enduring name. Yet, with the death of his dear friend Enkidu comes a newly found fear of death. This is a fear that cannot be remedied by mere acts of courage. This new opponent is so oppressing, and depressing, that it can only be defeated through Gilgamesh attaining true, and unbridled immortality.
For the rest of the saga Gilgamesh spends his days seeking out a man by the name of Utnapishtim. This is a man like no other that has ever lived. Utnapishtim has been granted eternal life by the gods. He has what Gilgamesh so dearly desires. The new meaning of Gilgamesh's life is to find Utnapishtim and to ask him: "how I [he] will find the life for which I [he] is searching" (106). As he searched out Utnapisshtim, although Gilgamesh's means are different, his goal is tragically the same: to find meaning in life through trying to escape the law, which governs life itself.
In ancient times very little was known about the subject of death, other than the fact that no man can escape it's claim to his mortal flesh.
What more is known of it today? Actually, very little is known. Yet from 2,800B.C. to the modern age cultures have been have asking many of the same questions.
Why do some die young?
Why do some die old?
Why do some die calm, peaceful deaths, and others painfully tragic deaths?
Why do we die at all?
Yet, it appears that the most important question to many is, what happens when we die?
No one KNOWS the answer to this question. Some do claim to know, but they only have faith not certainty. The answer to this question, will undoubtedly continue to be one of the most sought after, yet feared' wisdoms of mankind. We can only have hope that there is a purpose behind living, and behind dying as well.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. N.K. Sandars. London: Penguin, 1972
Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan, 1986.
Adapted from a sermon by Daegan Sheehan
as submitted to www.theCOOLgroup.org
Come with us to a third grade classroom.....
There is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and all of a
sudden, there is a puddle between his feet and the
front of his pants are wet. He thinks his heart is
going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how
this has happened. It's never happened before, and he
knows that when the boys find out he will never hear
the end of it. When the girls find out, they'll never
speak to him again as long as he lives.
The boy believes his heart is going to stop; he puts
his head down and prays this prayer, "Dear God, this
is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes from
now I'm dead meat."
He looks up from his prayer and here comes the teacher
with a look in her eyes that says he has been discovered.
As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate
named Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled
with water. Susie trips in front of the teacher and
inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the boy's lap.
The boy pretends to be angry, but all the while is
saying to himself, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!"
Now all of a sudden, instead of being the object of ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy. The teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All the other children are on their hands and knees cleaning up around his desk.
The sympathy is wonderful. But as life would have it, the ridicule that should have been his has been transferred to someone else - Susie.
She tries to help, but they tell her, "Get out. You've done enough, you klutz!"
Finally, at the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and whispers,"You did that on purpose, didn't you?"
Susie whispers back, "I wet my pants once too."
May God help us see the opportunities that are always around us to do good.
Remember.....Just going to church doesn't make you a
Christian any more than standing in your garage makes
you a car.
Each and everyone one of us is going through tough times right
now, but God is getting ready to bless you in a way that only He can. Keep
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