Sermon Message for Saturday, September 18, 2021 & Sunday, September 19, 2021
Prayer For Illumination: Almighty God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open our eyes that we may see the wonders of your Word; and give us grace that we may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture Lessons: Psalm 1 (Page 536) & James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a (Page 1218 )
Sermon Message: “Wisdom Works”
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Good wisdom to live by. Sounds ‘sensible’ to most of us I am sure. This is a bit of Biblical wisdom that we know ‘works.’
Walking with God, sharing and embracing the Christian faith makes us ‘sort out’ wisdom.
There’s a type of wisdom that comes from experience, living life, reading, and studying.
There is another form of wisdom that is born from the elements of human envy. Jealousy, pride, and strife.
The Bible counsels of a firmer form of wisdom known to us as ‘godly wisdom.’
At differing points in the Bible wisdom is ‘personified’ as a female character or sometimes as the wind, or perhaps the ‘still small voice of God.’ Wisdom is portrayed as a giftedness of God and a further display of God-like qualities in a person’s life.
If you walk the Christian walk. If you have children, are married, seek to get along with others, or interface with people in any capacity, you’ve grown to see, learn, and appreciate differing forms of wisdom.
Not all wisdom works, but Godly wisdom surely does.
Take a look at the world around us and strive to perceive varying ‘forms’ of wisdom.
Covid-19 isn’t ‘over.’ It remains front and center in the news. Out West, the United States is still on fire. There are many people in Louisiana who still do not have power following Hurricane Ida. The remnants of Hurricane Ida caused dramatic, deadly flash floods many miles north of its landfall. City planners are calling attention to the inadequacy of our existing infrastructure. Climate change means warmer air, which can hold more water vapor, so sewers built even a few decades ago are not adequate when sudden, dramatic storms appear. Western Europe was hit by flash floods of a similar magnitude earlier this summer — as was Tennessee.
It seems we’ve gotten so used to “pandemic,” that we’ve forgotten to recognize and respond to those smaller catastrophes called ‘epidemics.’ Pandemics are worldwide, crossing national borders, reaching every time zone in a matter of months. They contrast with epidemics that are localized and easier to contain quickly. When there are outbreaks of measles or mumps in the United States because vaccinations against those diseases have failed to reach herd immunity in some communities, they rarely spread. Not so with the Covid-19 pandemic and its variants.
President Biden took dramatic action September 9, instructing the Department of Labor to put in place a requirement that businesses employing more than 100 people vaccinate their staffs against Covid-19. The mandate extends to federal employees and contractors, the staffs of facilities that serve Medicare and Medicaid patients, the staffs of Head Starts, Department of Defense schools, schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other entities.
President Biden’s patience with those who have refused to be vaccinated is gone: “What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?" he asked. “We've made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We've been patient. But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So please, do the right thing.”
Pushback was immediate and predictable. “Government has no business telling me what to do with my body!”.
Many communities (including faith communities) have made changes recently in their masking and physical distancing standards. Some require masks, others request masks, some say it’s your choice. Who’s wisdom works?
‘Godly wisdom’ as referenced in the Bible, appears to begin with individuals.
My dear wife and I will be married 20 years next month. To celebrate the event, this past week I called the funeral home. No, we are not making pre-arrangements! There’s a story behind my remarks:
About 18 years ago we moved into our current home. The previous owner passed away, and his son left many of the ‘belongings’ with the house. There were several very heavy vinyl upholstered ‘sitting chairs.’ We decided we had no need for those heavy chairs. Back then, I inquired if our church could use them and learned we were overwhelmed here with furniture. So we gave those chairs to a funeral home in Imperial, PA. The funeral director said, “I owe you a favor!” Eighteen years later I thought I might ‘collect’ on that favor. Perhaps you have seen where funeral homes will sometimes put together a DVD of pictures honoring the person’s life who has passed? I talked it over with Patty, and we agreed to seek out this particular funeral director to put together a DVD for us representing our 20 years of marriage with some music in the background. Patty wants Andrea Bocelli’s song, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love.” She just giggled when I mentioned the Beach Boys!
There is ‘some’ wisdom that works in songs we hear. Particularly some Country songs.
Back in 1988 a Country music artist, Tanya Tucker, composed a # 1 hit, “Strong Enough to Bend.” Here are some of the words to that particular song:
“There's a tree out in the back yard, That never has been broken by the wind. And the reason it's still standin' - It was strong enough to bend.”
One thing we all might agree upon: wisdom teaches you ‘how’ to bend and the need to bend.
My father taught me what your father perhaps taught you: “Work hard son, and you’ll get ahead.” He also tried to teach me some sort of moral value when he’d say, “whatever you do, remember to keep your nose clean!”
Psalm 1 is all about happiness and prosperity — for those wise enough to meditate on the Lord’s instruction. While this is no advertisement for the prosperity gospel, Psalm 1 points us in the direction of sustainable, godly wisdom for one’s life.
The scriptures from the Book of James point out two kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom from ‘above.’ There is also the wisdom from ‘beneath.’
I suggest we all choose the wisdom from ‘above.’ Godly wisdom works. It is peaceable, gentle, and willing to yield. Much of human wisdom is rooted in bitter envy and selfish ambition.
I’ve long favored the godly wisdom referred to in Psalm 1. These scriptures imagine the wise one as being a soul who understands and continually seeks to grow in understanding. Such wisdom from ‘above’ makes a person sturdy, well-rooted, like a tree near a reliable source of water.
Perhaps better still is James' advice to the early church. He writes of wisdom that ‘shows up’ in people’s good lives and in deeds done in humility.
There’s a difference between those who ‘pretend’ to be wise, or strive to ‘convince’ others they are wise, and those who really are wise. There remains a distinct difference between wisdom that is from beneath and that which is from above.
A wise person does not value him/herself merely upon knowing things. True wisdom is not only knowledge but application of that knowledge.
Perhaps you have met people who strive to ‘impress’ you with their knowledge, their title, their position, or even with their authority. Those are usually ‘rough’ conversations. True wisdom is better known by its works.
‘Talking well’ and ‘thinking well’ are only part of wisdom. One must further live and act well for wisdom to work.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” (Matthew 5:5) True wisdom may be known by the meekness of the spirit and meekness of one’s temper. Wisdom teaches us still to prudently bridle our own anger and strive to patiently bear the anger of others. When we are mild and calm, we are best able to hear reason, form reason, and speak reason. Wisdom produces meekness, and meekness increases wisdom. Such wisdom works.
Today’s scriptures declare: good life and deeds done in humility come from wisdom.
The Bible further warns us that if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambitions in your heart, the ‘wisdom’ produced does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
Wisdom from above, the kind of wisdom that ‘works,’ is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Unless we submit to God our prayers seem to go unanswered. Praying from wrong motives results in emptiness.
Throughout the Bible we are repeatedly taught that we must submit ourselves unto God and resist the devil.
Wisdom works. Wisdom from above teaches us to bend. Employing Biblical imagery here, we may be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and prospers. Yet we are to remember that only trees that are willing to bend will survive the storms and trials.
Some of the ‘bending’ we have to do is letting go of ego and selfishness, becoming willing to admit we have been wrong, and be forgiving.
There are numerous situations and scenarios in our nation and inside of us that need to bend in order to yield good life. God desires for us to have life. God has never desired for any of us to become God. Simply put, we are not God nor do we have all the answers.
The world does not understand nor well relate to our godly wisdom that teaches us to pray for our enemies, bless those who persecute you, go the extra mile, pray for your enemies, and forgive.
The wisdom that works is born of God and from God. Such wisdom knows Jesus and responds, positively, affirmatively so, to Jesus.
Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Amen.