First Congregational Church
August 19, 2018
13th Sunday after Pentecost
“Stop. Right There.”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Children’s Time: Finding the Differences (in two similar but different pictures)
I don’t know if there are people willing to claim the origin of these thoughts, but I came across some dandy thoughts. Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things. One nice thing about egotists is that they don't talk about other people. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity. If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting? If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2? If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
Our scripture passage for this morning is probably a familiar one to many an ear here today. Indeed, I have crafted a sermon or two over the last 20 years using it. But when I read this morning’s passage, I almost instantly stopped. It’s a take-off of the passage from last week, when the topic was developing our own kinder and gentler spirit as a testimony to God’s work in us.
Ephesians 5:15-20 (NIV)
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Mary. As I said, I had hardly started reading, and was prompted to stop. “Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise.” In many ways, it’s not an earth-shattering statement. But in other ways, it’s got gusto. Or as I’ve heard that is said in the upper peninsula, It’s got go.
There is a word, sapience, which means ultimate reality or the ultimate truth of things. According to Wikipedia, “Wisdom, or sapience is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as compassion, experiential self-knowledge, non-attachment and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.” Those who like to sort out differences have categorized wisdom into two large groups: sophia is the Greek word meaning wisdom and phronesis is the Greek word for prudence and/or practical intelligence. Interestingly enough, while the worlds of theology and management recognize wisdom, the psychological world does not.
It’s also interesting that so much has been written about wisdom. Knowing that the sanctuary would be warm, hoping to help you all stay awake, there are numbered quotes that have been attached to various bulletins throughout the congregation this morning. Each has been numbered, and if you have one of those notes, if you would stand and read it aloud, including the name and designation of the author when it is your turn, something may take your mind away onto God’s side sermon this morning. And worry not, I’ll keep each of our contestants on track with the numbers. So, who has number one?
1. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” ― Socrates, Greek Philosopher
2. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
3. “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” ― Albert Einstein, German Physicist
4. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” ― Socrates, Greek Philosopher
5. “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ― Confucius, Chinese Philosopher
6. “Angry people are not always wise.” ― Jane Austen, Author
7. “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, Author
8. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
9. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ― Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
10. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi, Persian Poet
11, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” ― Marjorie Pay Hinckley, Later Day Saints Member
12. “Don’t Gain The World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom Is Better Than Silver Or Gold.” ― Bob Marley, Jamaican Singer-Songwriter
13. “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens” ― Jimi Hendrix, American Singer-Songwriter
14. “The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” ― Thomas Paine,
15. “We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Russian Author
16. “Music is ... A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy” ― Ludwig van Beethoven, German Composer
17. “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” ― Maya Angelou, American Poet
18. “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire, French Philosopher
19. “We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring, Will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time.” ― T.S. Eliot, American Author
20. “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
― H.L. Mencken, American Journalist
21. “Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.” ― Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet
22. “Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”
― Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English Poet
23. “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates, Greek philosopher
24. “It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” ― Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Author
25. “Half of seeming clever is keeping your mouth shut at the right times.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, American Author
26. “Life would be tragic if it weren't funny.” ― Stephen Hawking, English Scientist
27. “Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” ― Thomas Jefferson, American President
28. “It is one thing to be clever and another to be wise.” ― George R.R. Martin, American Author
29. “Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” ― Michael Levine, American Author
30. “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Author
31. “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ― Francis Bacon, English Philosopher
32. “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ― Umberto Eco, Italian Author
Thank you all for participating in the Frankfort Congregational Church wisdom-athon. Feel free to see if the person who read your favorite is willing to give it up. Like so many things, I think that each of these thoughts has a little bit of the truth attached to them. Being intelligent is nice, but without wisdom, it is merely a brain thing. Being smart is good, but without wisdom, it is impersonal. Being savvy can be good, but without wisdom, it can be hurtful, too. Wisdom is an ancient concept, and not necessarily one to which we aspire these days. We might first pray for patience or for situations to work out the way we want, but perhaps wisdom ought be the first thing to pop into our mind when it comes to praying.
Our scripture passage gives us ways of acting wisely; for instance, making the most of opportunities, singing to and with each other, and being thankful. Those are things that we can do - mark off on a list - perhaps even on our own steam. It also says to be filled with the Spirit, which is not just a one-sided venture, but one in which we and God work together - in giving us the best well-spring for all that takes place in our lives. If we remember, too, to whom the book of Ephesians was written, we are reminded that this wisdom of which the apostle Paul wrote, is what marks people as being followers of Christ - like the contrast between the wild west of Ephesus and the civility of Christ followers. This wisdom is not a dividing line, but an inclusionary circumference, that gathers God’s people into “the” church.
This wisdom idea seems like a big, heavy deal, and in many ways, it is. But it is also easier because we don’t work toward it alone. It is God’s wisdom for which we are to pray. It would be flattering to pray for Dinah’s wisdom, I know, but every time I think I’m up to take the God test, seems that I mess up right before it.
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, rises more than 2,700 feet—over half a mile tall. It has 160 floors and is twice as tall as the Empire State Building in New York City. It is home to the world’s fastest elevator that travels at 40 miles per hour. The Burj Khalifa also hosts the world’s highest outdoor observation deck (on the 124th floor) and the world’s highest swimming pool (on the 76th floor).
The secret to the stability of this massive building is found underground. Before construction began to rise up, workers spent a year digging and pouring the massive foundation that supports the building. The foundation contains some 58,900 cubic yards of concrete weighing more than 110,000 tons. The building is safe because the foundation is solid. Let us shore up our foundations as we pray.
God of Wisdom and Power, instill in us - and all your people - a greater desire for wisdom. We are grateful for the knowledge and experience you given each of us, but help us to follow you more closely, with more wisdom, that others would be attracted to you and your way of life through us. And help us to use that wisdom in ways that honor you, that we be part of creating, with you, your Kingdom. For answering all our prayers, in your wisdom, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.