Sermon from August 15, 2021

Wisdom Calls: “Lay Aside Immaturity and Live”
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
August 15, 2021  Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
from Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

You can read or download the scriptures here: 8-15-21 Service Readings

You can watch the video recording of the Call to Worship, Children’s Time and Sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  Here is the text of the Call to Worship, Children’s Time and Sermon.

Call to Worship:  Last week I quoted Sheryl Paul, the best-selling author of the book The Wisdom of Anxiety. She said,

“Our symptoms are so wise. Our bodies are so wise…. We live in these extraordinary bodies and psyches that will guide us toward well-being if only we could slow down long enough and find the courage to listen.”

A Hindu teacher says that the greatest wisdom in all the Bible is, “Be still, and know that I am God.” 

The Spirit that created the universe is in all that it made.  Its wisdom is within us if we can quiet our surface life enough to hear. 

And what does wisdom want?  It wants life to survive, to thrive, to evolve.  It wants us to learn to love the way it loves, unconditionally and all inclusively, loving our neighbor as our self.  It wants us to see the truth that we are one with all the earth.  The Spirit wants us to see through God’s eyes, how small and precious and fragile earth is, how our only hope is in preserving it and helping it flourish. 

The Spirit wants us to be still and know this wisdom, and then let it guide us to create the realm of God’s love and justice and mercy and sustainable sufficiency for all.

So what is wisdom calling us to be and do in this moment in history?  What is wisdom calling you to be and do in this moment of your life?

Let us put our hearts and minds together as one and seek the guidance we need as individuals, as a church and as a world…

Time with the Children:  How can we have the wisdom to know what to do in a hard situation?  

Jesus gave an extremely strange teaching that may help answer that question.  He told his followers that they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life, a life that never dies. 

The earliest written record about the church was from a local official writing to his superiors in Rome asking what he should do about this bizarre cult that ate human flesh and drank human blood, like vampires.  It sounds gross, but it must be important because the church still does this in communion, a ritual where we say we are eating the body and blood of Christ. 

Back when I was a teenager Joni Mitchell wrote a love song that said: “Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine…. I could drink a case of you.”  Maybe a parent or grandparent has said to you, “I love you so much I could gobble you up.”  Love makes us want to be one, it makes us feel we already are one, and that is part of what it means to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, we love him and he loves us and we love one another, a love that makes us as one as we are with food we eat. 

But there is more to it.  There’s another saying, “You are what you eat.”  Jesus was one with God, he was as wide open to the Holy Spirit as anyone can be, miracles of love, works of justice and care, and the greatest wisdom poured through him.  We want that inside us, we want to be what he was, and God wants that for us, it is what we were created to be.

It is eternal life because the life of Jesus in us will not die when our bodies die, that Spirit lives forever.  So by saying we eat and drink Jesus we are saying we will let the Spirit fill us and change us and help us grow into being all Jesus.  Then the Spirit’s wisdom will be our wisdom, and we will know the right way through a difficult time—we will know what Jesus would do. 

We cannot eat much when we are full, so we have to empty ourselves of everything that is not Jesus in order to have room for him inside.  There is a simple way to do that self-emptying and we can do it all day every day…pray!!!

Prayer empties us when we listen more than we talk, listening for the Spirit to speak between, behind or after the words—that kind of praying lets the wisdom and power of Jesus grow and flow through us…

[The sermon text and video are below.]

Sermon: Wisdom Calls: “Lay Aside Immaturity and Live”

This week the entire world received several shocks—the hottest July on record; indications that the Gulf Stream may be dangerously unstable; and dire warnings from a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. 

The report confirmed what our senses have detected, that the climate crisis is already underway.  We breathe the wildfire smoke, we experience strange weather patterns, we suffer the fear of ticks and their diseases, and now we have this huge, irrefutable body of science that tells us that the rest of our lives will see an earth in worsening convulsions.

And yet we have what we need, we have the technology and know-how and models and wise teachers that can save the world.  We are lacking only one thing.

Greta Thunberg put it this way on Twitter: “It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis.”

Bill McKibben wrote this week in his New Yorker weekly climate email, “the climate movement has essentially been fighting for one thing: to build a conscious consensus among people that the world is in danger… It’s a fight for mental clarity, amid the vaguely toxic mental fog that has shrouded this life-and-death question for decades….”

Several years ago Gus Speth summed up the wisdom of Thunberg and McKibben and the 234 scientists and 14,000 scientific papers behind the IPCC report.  He wrote,

“Many of our deepest thinkers and many of those most familiar with the scale of the challenges we face have concluded that the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness…. a spiritual awakening—a transformation of the human heart.” (from The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability)

Wisdom has sent out servants like Thunberg, McKibben and Speth, “she calls from the highest places in the town…. ‘Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’”

A voice from the early church calls to us: “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is…. Be filled with the Spirit.”

The good news is that we can see more people following the call of wisdom from the highest places.  A small, middle-class sixteen year old Swedish girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder broke her selective mutism to become a passionate, eloquent voice inspiring millions of children and adults to take to the streets, her wisdom sparking their wisdom and together stirring the whole world momentarily out of its “toxic mental fog.” 

Others are applying their wisdom to the way we work with soil, like Didi Pershouse and Dave Chapman in Thetford.  Others are rethinking the design of all the systems that support civilization in order to make them sustainable and harmonious with the earth.

I have been thinking about the wisdom of people here who have recently died.  I think of Bill Burden’s wisdom, and miss it so much, his calm, cheerful, persistent pursuit of the wise path for the church and town and world.

I think of Barb and Roland Hanchett.  Barb was like Bill Burden, quiet, calm, patient and capable of profound insights and a gentle but pointed delivery you did not forget.  Roland was like no one but Roland, really, and his reputation on this side of town was mostly as a cantankerous gadfly attacking what he perceived to be foolish town policies. 

But Roland and I served on the Planning Commission together for several years—I think he joined it to make sure I didn’t get the town in too much trouble.  We used to drive together from our neighboring homes on Miller Pond Road, and the amazing thing is that we felt like even better friends on the return trip because we always found a way to negotiate our differences into wise policies that served the town well.

A young man told a story about Roland at the memorial service last week.  He said Roland hired him when he was a boy to clean the Hanchett pig pen.  He said Roland would let the manure get knee deep before calling him, and then would sit on his tractor and cackle with laughter as he watched the poor boy struggle.

You could look at that and think how mean he was, and maybe there was some of that in it, but having been on the receiving end of Roland’s cackles and scorn many times, I know that there was far more to it than meanness. 

Roland was watching that boy because he cared about him, he wanted to make sure the boy learned, and make sure he did not get so deep in manure that he got discouraged.  I know from experience that if the boy got in over his head, Roland would get down from that tractor and help, and do it both with kindness to keep the boy from feeling bad and with the exemplary skill that he wanted the boy to master.

Indigenous Americans refer to their elders as wisdom keepers.  This week I have been looking back and realizing that Roland was a wisdom keeper and teacher about how to live sustainably in these hills. 

If you look around this congregation and this town and reflect on all the different forms of wisdom we have among us, all the keepers and teachers of wisdom, you will see that humanity already has much of what it needs to live sanely, sustainably and harmoniously on this earth.

We can also look at the teachings of the scriptures, as I did in the children’s time today, and find a path to ever greater wisdom and maturity of consciousness.  We are seeing a great awakening of the contemplative tradition in all religions, with many more people seeking the direct experience of the Spirit and the wisdom the Spirit gives.  Meditation can make us, in the words of one neuroscientist, “insight machines.” 

We have much wisdom, we know the path that leads to greater maturity, but what remains to be seen is whether sufficient numbers of people will respond to the crisis and follow wisdom’s call, and do so quickly enough to save a rapidly deteriorating earth.

Do we have the wisdom it will take to convince our entire culture to undergo the revolution of values needed to change how civilization works?  Do we have the wisdom we need to convince governments to act? 

Wisdom calls, saying, “Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”  Let us pray in silence, each of us listening for the wisdom that the Spirit calls us to follow and share, because have no doubt, the Spirit needs you and your gifts to help save all that it created, in ways large or small…

You can hear and watch the text being delivered in the video below.

 

One Comment on “Sermon from August 15, 2021

  1. And the hard part is that wisdom comes mostly through difficulty in living. If it weren’t painful we would not learn. (Is this the original sin: that we learn only through painful experience? Are the wise those who have done that and learned? ) With so much evidence of the lack of wisdom right now, can we figure out why that immaturity is rampant? Link sorrow and learning!
    This sermon and service is deep into the heart of all our troubles. The richness of our country has made it harder for us to grow, in some vital ways.

    Like

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