"Knowing Means Everything!"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - September 14, 2003
Psalm 19; Proverbs 1-20-33
Their judgment has nothing to
do with how much we are loved by God. Their judgment has nothing to
do with our looks, our vocation, our age, our experience or our
wealth. Their judgment is extremely fair, honest and objective.
Their judgment does not care who they may offend or to whom they
appear to show extreme partiality. From the perspective of the
Proverb we listened to today, all humanity is standing on a level
playing field when it comes to the consequences of what we do. We
are being challenged by our life experiences to make a choice.
Listen to these opening
Listen! Wisdom is calling out in the
streets and marketplaces, calling loudly at the city gates and
wherever people come together. Foolish people! How long do you want
to be foolish? How long will you enjoy making fun of knowledge?
Will you never learn?
Immediately a number of us
may think, "Well, this does not apply to me. Most of the time I
know what I'm doing. My choices work for me. Besides, I don't want
or need anyone shoving unsolicited advice my way." The moment we
forget that we are humble students here, that is a sure sign that we
will have some rough sailing ahead of us.
Currently there is a
considerable amount of advertisement in the media regarding
teenage-parent communication. We are reminded to talk to our
teenagers about smoking, drugs, drinking and sex. We need to talk to
them about being responsible for how they spend their money as well
as being attentive to their attitudes while they are driving a car.
Occasionally when we are trying to communicate with our teen, we may hear words like these, "Mom! Come on! Get off it! Being 14 has nothing to do with this. When are you going to loosen up so that I can prove to you that I can be responsible? Jamie, Heather and Susan's parents let their daughters stay out until midnight. You know, you can't go on sheltering and controlling me for the rest of my life!"
This teenager has not yet found
the wisdom of learning the basics of obedience and respect. She has not
yet grasped that she has the rest of her life to experience independence
and the joys of her autonomy. Wisdom does create the level playing
field. The simple truth is that at every age, the consequences of our
wisdom or lack of wisdom will rain down either blessings or tragedies.
Knowing means everything, particularly when we are growing up. Parents
have been there, and if kids would pay attention to the wisdom of Mom
and Dad, think of the heartache they could avoid.
Another very popular version of
our resistance to wisdom surfaces in the following conversation.
Husband, "Look, if we can't sit down like two human beings and
talk this thing through, we don't deserve to be married." Wife,
"We have tried so many times and have failed. You never understand my
point of view. All that I am asking of you is that we both go to a
counselor." Husband, "Honey, I don't want someone poking
their nose into our personal business. What can some stranger tell us
that we can't figure out for ourselves?"
How odd it is that when we need a
hip replacement, we have no problem searching for a physician who
routinely performs this procedure three or four times a week. We want a
surgeon who has operated on hundreds of patients, who has encountered
every conceivable complication and who has a success rate of better than
98%. We want someone who has extensive knowledge. But when it comes to
the emotional and spiritual health of our relationships, this husband is
insisting that the two of them need to heal themselves.
When we resist obedience and
respect for our parents and we resist communicating our vulnerabilities
to "a stranger," we are the ones who cannot recognize wisdom's voice
when she calls to us. Verse 25 says, "You have ignored all my advice
and have not been willing to let me correct you." Who would not want a
course correction if we are heading toward a brick wall? Unfortunately,
plenty of us.
Can you remember the last time
someone corrected you? Did you grow defensive or were you most
appreciative? Think about your answer! When we remember we are
students here, we will always remain open to listening to anyone who may
offer us valuable feedback. It is not a matter of having wisdom in
our minds as many of us do. It is a matter of making what we know
One of the reasons why Tiger
Woods is among an elite group of golfers is that he constantly wants to
improve his skills. As soon as Tiger experiences a failure, he
immediately begins to work on what happened. He wants to find out what
he was doing incorrectly. While we all assume that we are working on
our neediness and our irritating habits, how many of us really are?
As inconceivable as this might
appear, during his high school years Michael Jordan was refused a
position on the varsity basketball team. Any number of people could have
said to themselves, "Oh well, I guess I was not cut out to be a
basketball player." Michael had to learn more about himself. He had to
work at chipping away at his lack of motivation, his lack of
self-discipline and his attitude toward his coaches who knew far more
about the game than he.
Knowledge blesses those who have it and continues to blind and confuse those who do not. Wisdom is impartial. It does not chose who gets it and who does not. It is free to everyone if they are interested in learning. Those of us who have grown wise will not only be a blessing to others, but we will also be happier and more fulfilled people ourselves.
Most of us are familiar with the various
attitudes of being -- The Beatitudes -- that are the preface to
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Depending on your translation, Jesus
said, "Blessed are those who, or Happy are those who . . . " as he
discusses several behaviors. In essence, Jesus was saying "when you
have it, you are blessed. You are happy." On another occasion Jesus
put spiritual wisdom fairly succinctly while talking to his disciples,
The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you. For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough, but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. (Matthew 13:11f).
Ricky Greene loved motorcycles. He could
disassemble any part of the motorcycle, repair it and put it together
again in working order. He raced motorcycles and knew how to lay one
down without hurting himself. One evening Ricky had his girlfriend on
the back of his bike when he and several of his friends went riding
together. Perhaps it was his need to show off his skills to his
girlfriend, or he became lost in a moment when he needed to prove to his
friends that he held a competitive edge -- no one knows what caused
Ricky to do what he did.
He began to raise the front wheel
of his motorcycle off the road as he drove between two cars on the
Baltimore Washington Parkway about 18 months ago. The other bikers
followed in hot pursuit, performing the same dangerous maneuvers Ricky
was demonstrating. While Ricky was a master of riding motorcycles, he
did not anticipate what happened next.
A person driving a car decided to
change lanes just as Ricky was passing at a very high rate of speed. The
two vehicles collided and a horrible accident resulted. The driver of
the car never saw the cyclist coming because Ricky's headlight was
aiming at the sky. Ricky's girlfriend was killed instantly. After a
lengthy period of hospitalization, Ricky had his right leg amputated.
Of course, everyone was very sorry, but being sorry does not undue the
damage caused by someone's act of foolishness. The Book of Proverbs
tells us that such a choice is before us every day.
A harsh consequence was handed to
the youthful cyclist. He had mastered a piece of machinery but he had
not mastered himself. The teaching of Jesus, unfortunately, became very
clear. ". . . but the person who has nothing will have taken away from
him even the little he has." This is terribly sad but Jesus was
correct. It happens.
Everyone makes mistakes in
judgment, but when we continue to make the same ones over and over
again, we are being ruled by some appetite that may be our undoing when
our behavior comes into the light. Where do we place honoring God
with how we live?
Wisdom directs us to live so that
every word we speak, every deed we do and every thought we think could
be broadcast to our colleagues, friends and family members. Few of us
would want our lives placed under such a microscope. This is why
wisdom directs us to keep changing, growing and evolving even in the
midst of frustrating mistakes and our need for constant course
Before his death, Charles Schultz
had a marvelous way of putting many of life's lessons into his
Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown is at bat and there was a called
third strike. Dejected by yet another failure, Charlie slumps down on
the player's bench. He says, "Rats! I'll never be a big-league player.
I just don't have it! All my life I've dreamed of playing in the big
leagues, but I know I'll never make it."
Lucy says, "Charlie Brown, you're
thinking too far ahead. What you need to do is set for yourself more
immediate goals." Charlie Brown asks, "Immediate goals?" Lucy says,
"Yes! Start with this next inning when you go out to pitch. See if you
can walk to the mound without falling down." Wasn't Charles Shultz a
We need to remember that we can
never skip the basics on our way to the big leagues of living. We may
fall down repeatedly but eventually we will see results. We crawled as
babies before we learned to run in our marathons. It is the same with
developing spiritual wisdom. Being wise takes time and patience.
We need to remember that after
being sold into slavery, Joseph waited many years in jail and in exile
before being reunited with his family. Moses found himself arguing with
God for quite some time before he became the liberator of his people.
Jesus had to attend to chores and family responsibilities for some
thirty years before he waded into the River Jordan to be baptized by
Just because we have invited
Christ to take up residence in our minds and hearts does not grant us
instant wisdom for our journey. Many of us have to spend time
disengaging ourselves from long held methods of coping that are
childish. Some of us may need to begin using less judgmental language
when we communicate. We may need to develop better listening skills.
We may need to learn how to respond more creatively when we honestly
believe we are not receiving enough love at home. This kind of
wisdom helps us to navigate in life when all around us the shallows
threaten to bring our growth to a halt.
It takes courage and persistence
to grow wise as Jesus did, and each person has an equal opportunity to
do so. Knowing means everything. It gives us perspective for our
experiences. It helps us re-frame most circumstances so that we benefit
from them. It prevents us from over reacting. And it motivates us to
want to learn even more. Wisdom makes it easier to love those who are
least like ourselves. Wisdom draws us closer to understanding God.
Are you making decisions that reflect God's presence in your life. If not, why not? What else is there in life that you want more than that? This week, think about your answer.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
reflective moments, O God, we often sense your call in what we
experience. Yet we feel the tug to hold on to what appears safe and
secure. We know that faith is being sure of what we hope for and
certain of what we do not see. Yet our senses feed us a diet of what
has form and substance. How compelling our world appears. We are eager
to find our identity in relationships, our jobs, our responsibilities
and our wealth. How easy it is to forget our true worth. Compassion,
hope, enthusiasm and joy are created from a place that no one can see or
touch. Inspire us, O God, to remember that there is more treasure
within us than we could possibly imagine. May we learn that the more we
share our abilities, the more we will have to give. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
Loving God, we thank you for these moments
together. We thank you for the wisdom that tells us that faith is the
assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things we cannot
see. Yet, how many times we react and respond because of what we do
see. Our thoughts are kind, until the words of others hurt us. We remain
faithful disciples until a major disappointment appears to over shadow
everything else. We love without counting the cost until that cost
becomes more than we can bear and our faith begins to bend.
It is humbling to realize, O God, that we may
not be as wise in our faith development as we had thought. Help us
understand that failures, set-backs and life-reversals are part of what
it means to be fully human. We are your sons and daughters and that
thought alone should control our minds and hearts far more dramatically
than it does.
We pray this morning that more of your sons and daughters may come to the awareness of their inheritance. Our world's people suffer because so many perceive without love. Their values have been clouded by fear and hatred. So many innocent people die because of those who lack the wisdom to behave otherwise. Send healing, O God, in many forms so that more of us will understand the purpose of why we are here. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus who taught us to say when we pray . . .