The Rev. Dr. John Judson
March 31, 2019
1 Kings 12:1-11; Matthew 20:20-28
He had a decision to make. Which way would he go? To understand Rehoboam’s decision tree, let’s take a quick look at our morning’s story. Rehoboam had been named king at the death of his father Solomon (who was not as wise as people make him out to be and was an incredibly brutal monarch). Following Rehoboam’s coronation, a delegation from the ten northern tribes of Israel came to him with a proposition. If he was nicer to them than his father had been, which would not have been difficult, they would be happy to be his subjects. Rehoboam, not sure what to do, asked them to come back in three days. To facilitate his decision, the king went to his older, wiser advisors. He asked them what he ought to do. Their answer was to agree to all the terms and conditions offered by the tribes. Not really liking that advice, the king went to the young men who had grown up with him in the palace in places of power and privilege. Their advice was to threaten the northern tribes with even worse treatment then his father had imposed. So, which would he choose? The answer unfortunately seems too obvious. He chose the latter...the way of absolute power. It proved again Edward Abbey’s comment that “Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.” Oh, and the result of his choice? It was violence, civil war and the destruction of the kingdom.
While we might want to criticize Rehoboam for this decision, my guess is that deep down inside all of us is a desire to run the zoo; to organize the world, the nation or our lives, exactly the way we think that it ought to be. Unfortunately, this desire for power, when it leads to real power usually leads to death rather than life; to diminishment rather than to empowerment. One of the great experiments dealing with power occurred at Stanford University in 1973. One of the psychology professors was tasked with determining why prison guards tended to abuse their prisoners. Was it the prisoners? Was it the conditions? Was it the guards? He was not sure, so he created an experiment in which he would have students act the parts of prisoners and guards. He recruited 24 mentally healthy students to participate. Half of them were prisoners and half were guards. The prisoners were rounded up from their homes and placed in prison cells that had been created on the campus. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks but was cancelled in the sixth day because the “guards” had become so abusive to the prisoners that the professor feared for the prisoner’s mental health. One of the student guards later said he could not believe his own vicious actions. Again, “Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.”
This understanding of power is on clear view in our Jesus’ story this morning. Jesus was moving toward Jerusalem and what his followers believed was that there would be a consolidation of power over the Roman legions and their Jewish colleagues. Not wanting her sons to miss out on the most powerful positions, Jesus’ aunt asked that her two sons, Jesus’ cousins, be given the most prestigious and powerful positions in the new kingdom; the seats at Jesus right and left hand. This made sense because positions of power were almost always consolidated within families. Though Jesus tried to explain what those positions entailed, which they did not understand, he then made it clear they were not his to give. Needless to say, when the other ten heard that they might miss out on being power brokers in the new kingdom, they went ballistic and their anger toward the two brothers boiled over. They were not about to be left out of the positions of power. they wanted their opportunity to dominate not only the Romans but the corrupt Jewish administration in Jerusalem. It was in that moment that Jesus decided to give a two-lesson short course on power in the Kingdom of God.
The first lesson could be called, “Uh, Uh, not in my house you don’t.” If any of you ever came home and said or did something you learned elsewhere, which was not acceptable in your own home…and your parents said, “That is not acceptable in our house”, then you know what was happening here. These are Jesus’ words. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you.” Jesus wanted to make it clear that this new kingdom was not like the old kingdom; that the Kingdom of God was not the Kingdom of Rome. And because of that, the way one operated was going to be different. And I want to be clear here what I believe this means. Some people, including Luther, interpreted this to mean that lording it over and being tyrants was OK out in the secular world; the world of governments and military might be like this, but it was not acceptable in the church. This is what some people refer to as two kingdom theology. In other words, Christians can be brutal to others in the public square, just not in the church. This is not what Jesus is saying. He is saying it is never acceptable, whether in the church or in government or in families, for his followers to act like Romans and use power to get their own way while oppressing others. It is not acceptable because it destroys rather than gives life; it tears down rather than builds up. And God is about life and building up.
The second lesson could be called, “Now this is real power.” Originally, I was going to go straight to Jesus’ words, but I think we need to pause. We need to pause because the words I am about to read have become such throw away words that I believe that they have lost their power. What I want us to do is to rethink them even before we hear them. Let me ask, how many of you have ever been in an airport? Used a restroom in an airport? Noticed the person cleaning up the restrooms? OK, keep that person in mind as we read Jesus’ words. “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be the person who cleans the toilets in the airport. And whoever wishes to be first among you must be the one who cleans them forever without pay.” I say this because Jesus’ words about being servants and slaves would have hit his disciples in the gut, because his followers had servants and slaves. And the thought of having to trade places with those servants and slaves would have been unthinkable. Thus, when Jesus tells them that greatness and real power comes in serving others, it would have blown their minds. He would have been calling for them to radically rethink all their relationships, both with each other and with the world. And in so doing they would have discovered that service is real power because it lifts people up and helps them to understand that they are valued by God and others.
One of the great sins of the church is that we have either forgotten or ignored these words from Jesus. And that decision is what has led to the ongoing sexual abuse scandals in not only the Roman church but far too many protestant and independent churches as well; because that kind of abuse is not about sex but about power. It has led good church going folk to seek power in politics and to forget that they are to be servants and not overlords. Is has led to tens of thousands of women and children fleeing their homes because of abuse, some of the abuse even sanctioned by clergy. We have forgotten that this kind of power leads to diminishment rather then the empowerment of the image of God in others. What should we do then? The answer to this comes in a practice I will give you this morning. First look around you at the people sitting close to you. Now turn to them and say, “What can I do for you?” That’s right, turn and simply say, “What can I do for you?” See it isn’t that hard to say…and it isn’t that hard to do. But in so doing we become servants. We become those who, like Christ, serve others and in so doing help transform people and communities and the world into the realities that God desires them to be. That then i my challenge is that wherever you are this week, to look for opportunities to ask others, “What can I do for you” that you might help to transform the world.
Youth Sunday, March 24, 2019
Anger is consuming.
As you heard Emily say in this morning’s announcements, I am in the MRP’s production of West Side Story. Our final show is today at 2pm, in Marian’s auditorium – tickets are $10 at the door, but I’m not here to give a shameless plug. Some of you know how competitive landing a role in theatre can be; which is something very relatable to obtaining or climbing the ranks of employment. Now when I was auditioning for this year’s production, I was fairly confident in my position. Last year, I was the lead in the Little Mermaid, Prince Eric, and had taken up a leadership role in Choir at Marian. My goal was to receive the lead role of Tony, and I was determined, even a little conceited. I was on my game throughout the audition process. After the dancing and monologue portions, however, they didn’t even give me a chance to sing for Tony. I must have impressed the dance coach more than I expected though. Some of you may know, West Side Story is a dance heavy show. With dancing being something I have never been experienced in, I was shocked when I saw the cast list come out; I got casted as Riff, and a buddy of mine got the role of Tony. I was furious - I immediately went into my basement, hung up the punching bag, and unloaded on it. Still have scars on my knuckles to this day. The following days, I used some select words with my friend who got the role over me. I was very brutal with him, and I never knew how much it would affect him. All of these things I didn’t mean. I was blinded by anger and I never took into consideration how my friend would have felt, and I was wrongly searching for my own peace. Even though I was still jealous, I made amends with my friend and I have actually really enjoyed my role.
Of all the things in the human heart, anger can be one of the most intense, destructive, and unhealthy emotions that we can experience. If not handled in the proper way, it can have drastic life-changing consequences. Anger may be caused by pressures of work, family or even from being the innocent victim of another’s wrong-doing. If left unresolved, anger creates a deep desire to destroy.
Psalms 103 may be the “Mt. Everest” of praise psalms. The speaker here is David, written in his later-life. David begins by praising God for personal benefits, then moves on to God’s mercy toward all the people and how even sin cannot destroy that mercy. Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous retribution upon the guilty, but it is his work; his love remains long, giving space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. That is the grace of this passage, the good news. The Lord’s patience to anger with us is a virtue that we can only repay by becoming acquainted with asking for forgiveness. We ourselves must learn from this passage to be slow to anger.
This is the message of anger throughout the Bible. Ephesians 4:26-28 states “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” What should be taken away from here is that anger is a normal, human response to things that provoke anger. God gave us anger as an emotion for a reason. The harm caused is when we act upon our anger; that is when we are left to deal with the repercussions. This passage also tells us to “not let the sun go down on our anger.” This can be interpreted as an instruction to make amends with our neighbors when we do get angry. Many times, I’ll get angry at someone for something, and through human nature, I act on it. Then my actions cause that person, or another person to become angry. Now we are left with this pile of anger, and the more that time passes sitting on this anger, the larger the pile will grow. This can be due to many factors. Whether it’s lack of communication, past ordeals, or differing opinions, the expansion over time is the bane of anger.
There are also different levels to anger that should be deciphered very carefully. The angry we get when you stub a toe is incomparable to the anger of breaking your phone. The more substantial anger is especially hard to recognize because the anger can be so deep that we are unaware of the situation, or what is at stake. This is rage. I can say I have felt rage only a few times in my life, and they’re intensely surreal. Dealing with this type of anger is something that I struggle with as a Christian. Remember when I talked about hanging up that punching bag? That was my “healthy” way of exerting that anger. Various methods call for: a nap or some exercise – just a way to blow off the steam. Finding what way works for you is important.
In saying that, there can be such thing as healthy anger. We should be angry when our favorite basketball team loses a game, messing up all of our March Madness brackets. I’m looking at you Wisconsin. Anger can also motivate and inspire. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox came back from a 3-0 game deficit to win the World series, an event that would later go on to be on the most incredible moments in sports history. I can’t even imagine how upset those guys were by the end of the 3rd game. But see, they acted correctly on that anger. They translated the anger they were feeling into a positive energy, and it led them to greatness. As unbecoming as the thought of anger is, there is grace, it just needs to be utilized correctly.
Anger is consuming. But, there is a right and wrong way to handle it. God placed anger into us for a reason. We must be slow to anger, and never let the sun go down on our quarrels. We must be mature to anger, and never let it get the better of us. We must be cognizant to anger, and always be aware of the situation.
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
March 17, 2019
Deuteronomy 24:17-22; 1 Timothy 6:710
Twenty-three billion dollars. It may not seem like a lot of money to some people in D.C., but it seems like a great deal to me. And it ought to seem like a great deal to most of us because it is the value of commercial fishing and recreational boating on the Great Lakes. In other words, the Great Lakes are a significant economic generator for all the states that border the lakes. Unfortunately, all of this could be at risk because of a single fish, the Asian Carp. The Asian Carp, even though it is actually four species of Carp, has the ability to destroy the entire Great Lakes eco-system if it is given a chance. It can do so because it has a voracious appetite allowing it to consume between five and twenty percent of its weight each day. It is an eating machine that knows no bounds. If allowed to do so it would consume almost all the food used by all other species of fish in the lake. In addition, they have this nasty habit of leaping up out of the water at the sound of propellers, and hitting people in the face, knocking them down. Thus, making recreation on the Lakes a lot less appealing. So why am I talking about Asian Carp? I am doing so because I want you to think of Greed as the Asian Carp of God’s relational ecosystem. Let me explain.
The Biblical story is that when God created the world, God created it in such a way that all living beings, plant, animal and human, could flourish. God created an ecosystem in which all living things could live together, share this planet and flourish. In terms of human beings, this ecosystem had two components that would allow them to flourish. The first was a vertical component. The vertical component was that human beings were to look “upward” to God for love, forgiveness, guidance and direction. If human beings did so they could flourish by being open to God’s gifts and by giving thanks back to God. The second component was horizontal. This was the interconnectedness of all humanity. Like tree roots in forests that intertwine for shared support and nourishment, human societies were designed to be able to work together to support and nourish one another. In this eco-system, human beings could reach for and find their purpose and reach their potential, each living into their calling to be God’s children. This time, though, unlike the possible consequences of Asian Carp in the Lakes, Greed has already done great damage to this relational ecosystem.
First Greed has damaged the vertical aspect of this system. To see this, we can go to the Greek definition of greed, which is, “An insatiable desire for more.” When it says more, it means greed is not limited to money. Greed is an insatiable desire for more of anything: money, power, sex, fame, tech-toys. The Roman philosopher Seneca put it this way, “For greed, all of nature is too little.” Greed is like trying to fill a bucket with water when there is a massive hole in the bottom. Regardless of how much one puts in, it will run right out. And this type of greed damages the vertical portion of the ecosystem because those who are possessed by greed never “look up.” They never turn their eyes toward God looking to be filled with the good gifts that God offers; the good gifts that God desires to give to human beings, peace and contentment. Instead, greed causes people to keep their eyes on the horizon always looking for more…more of whatever it is that they believe they must have. More of what will not fill them.
Second, greed damages the horizontal portion of the ecosystem. To see this, we can go to a Hebraic understanding of greed, which is, “a selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, regardless of the consequences to individuals or humanity.” This understanding lives in the world of the zero-sum game, which sees individual attainment as the only goal. In other words, if you have something, it means there is less for me. Therefore, I must not only desire more than I need or deserve, but I will do whatever is necessary to get it. This damages the horizontal ecosystem because it sees “the other” not as a partner, but as a competitor, an enemy to be defeated so that what they have, I can take because I deserve it. This leads is to injustice. As Julian Casablancas puts it, “Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as its current enforcer.” This is the greed that led to slavery and child labor. This is the greed that allows Payday lenders to charge an average annual interest rate of 400%. This is the greed that damages human relationships, communities and our world.
What ought we to do then? In this face of greed which is damaging God’s relational ecosystem, what ought we to do?
First, we begin by reestablishing the vertical dimension of the ecosystem. We do this by remembering. The writer of Deuteronomy tells his readers that they are to remember that once upon a time they were slaves and that God redeemed them. This reminder is intended to draw God’s people, including us, back into the story of God’s providing love. For it was God who heard the cries of God’s people. It was God who freed them. It was God who clothed and fed them. It was God who gave them this land flowing with milk and honey. It is God who waters the land. In other words, we are to restore the vertical by remembering that all that we have is a gift. And as gifts are not to be greedily sought, they are to be thankfully received. When we do this, we look up and we connect again with the God who desires to fill our emptiness with the goodness of love and communion.
Second, we then move to reestablishing the horizontal dimension of the ecosystem. We do this by restoring. Again, the writer of Deuteronomy tells his readers, including us, that we are not only to look up to God and remember God’s mighty work for them with thanksgiving, but that we are then to restore the fortunes of those who have little hope. We are to ensure that aliens and orphans, those with no power, are given justice, meaning that they are not taken advantage of or harmed in any way. We are not to take a widow’s garment in pledge, meaning we are to insure that the widow is warm and protected. When we take for ourselves the fruits of our work, like wheat and grapes, the very sustenance of life, we are not to take them all, but we are to share them with those who do not have. And by doing all these things, we reestablish the interconnectedness of humanity, which will according to the writer, allow God to bless all of our undertakings.
A tendency to greed is in us and around us. It is part of the context of human existence. Yet it does not have to rule us, which is why this church community matters. For it is here that each week we work to reestablish our vertical connection with God. And it is here and from here that we work to reestablish our relationships with those who struggle by sharing what we have, that all might have enough. Today there is a special opportunity for all of us to help rebuild that wider community of humanity. And that is, at 6pm at the Muslim Unity Center there will be a vigil in support of the Muslim community of New Zealand. I would encourage as many of you as possible to attend as a way of moving away from Greed and toward a greater humanity.
My challenge to you then is this, to ask yourselves, how am I healing God’s relational ecosystem through looking up to God and sharing what I receive with others.
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
March 10, 2019
Exodus 32:1-6; Colossians 3:1-4
I am going to begin this morning by reading you a list of things and I would like you to figure out what these all have in common. Here we go. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, crucifix, statue of the Virgin Mother, drugs, rap music, cell phones, iPads, video games, the Trinity, movies, pornography, sex, nice clothes, expensive cars, church, cross jewelry, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and all their stadiums, Nike apparel, money, military power, border walls, guns, the flag, restaurants, relationships and my favorite, Alexa. And for those of you who don’t know Alexa, she is not a she, but a voice activated personal assistant. What do these things have in common? They are all, according to the internet, idols. They are things that we worship other than God. While some of these may not come as a surprise, chances are that many of them do. And they do so because we know what an idol is. It is a statue that people worship. It is the Golden Calf of the Great Golden Calf Incident in Exodus 32. However, I believe that a retelling of the Golden Calf story, and its basic theme, meaning the saving work of God, will help us make a connection between that calf and all the things mentioned above.
Let’s begin. The Israelites initially arrive in Egypt because God is saving them from a famine. Unfortunately, they become slaves and their life is hard. They cry out to God for deliverance. God hears their voices and sends Moses and Aaron to negotiate with Pharaoh for their release. The negotiations do not go well, but then God sends a few plagues and the people are given their freedom. As they leave, God has the Egyptians give the former slaves all sorts of parting gifts including gold jewelry. Once the people were in the wilderness, God provides them with water and food. Knowing that the people need guidance by which to live, God calls Moses to Mt. Sinai to receive the law. While Moses was gone, the people began to be afraid. God didn’t seem to be around, and Moses was running late. Rather than wait for either of them to show up, the people melt down their rings and make an object, a calf, which they then declared to be their god, and they worshipped it (note the theme…everything they have is a gift of God). What this means is that they chose to worship the gift rather than the giver (Calvin’s definition of idolatry) and in so doing made something other than God the giver the primary object of devotion. Thus, anything or anyone we make the primary object of our devotion, can be an idol.
Making something or someone, other than God, that is the primary object of devotion; that is the working definition I would like to use this morning to describe idolatry. What I mean by the primary object of our devotion is not simply describing that one person or thing to whom we bring a valentine card, or flowers on their birthday. Something becomes the primary object of our devotion when it becomes that something or someone on which we focus most of our time, talent, treasures and trust because it is the one which we believe will give us meaning, purpose and protection. (Jesus reminds us of this when he says that our hearts are where our treasure is.) Looking for someone or something other than God to become the primary object of our devotion makes sense because, as human beings, we live a tenuous existence. As corporeal beings, we live in a world we cannot control and one from which death will one day take us. This leads to anxiety and insecurity. Because of these two realities we seek that which can organize our lives in such a way that we find meaning, purpose and protection. And, if we are honest with ourselves, it is far easier to find that security in something we can see, touch and perhaps taste, than it is in an invisible God. This seeking explains Calvin’s statement that the human mind is an idol factory…always looking for the next thing that can be the primary object of our devotion in which we can find meaning, purpose and protection. What this means then is that all those things I first listed, if we allow them, can be idols.
Why is that a problem? Why shouldn’t we make something we can see, touch or taste the primary object of our devotion? There are two Biblically based answers I would offer.
First, making someone or something other than God the primary object of our devotion will ultimately bring disappointment, fear, anxiety and not joy. Let me ask, how many of you have ever had buyer’s remorse? Right, and we have it because the things we cannot live without, that we must have, that will make us complete, always let us down. They will let us down because they do not, in the end, possess the power to give our lives meaning, purpose and protection. While they may claim to do so, sooner or later they will fail us, and we will have idolater’s remorse. People will not live up to our expectations, objects will break, politicians will let us down, those things that we believed we could not live without…there will be something better next week. What happens then is that we go looking for the next thing to take their place with a sense of disappointment and not joy. If you want to see how this works, simply look at our beloved Detroit Lions. At the beginning of each season we invest ourselves in them, don our liturgical sports clothing, visit their downtown temples, perform the appropriate liturgy (the wave, making noise when the other team has the ball…you get it) and believe that this will be the year. However, somewhere toward the end of the season we begin to feel disappointment set in once again, leaving us unfilled, disappointed and empty. This is what happens every time we make something or someone other than God the primary object of our devotion...we end up with idolaters remorse.
Second, making persons or things the primary object of our devotion, gets in the way of us receiving what God wants to give us. When I was a child, we only had one television. I know, it is hard to imagine such deprivation, but it’s true. And whenever I would wander in front of it and become mesmerized by its glowing images, I would stop and stare, which proves that some things never change…and then my father would say, “John you make a better door than a window.” At which time I would realize I was blocking the view. This is what idolatry does. It blocks our view of God. It keeps us from seeing and receiving all that God has to offer. For God desires to give us a love that is deep, wide and eternal. God desires to gives us safety that will watch over and care for us regardless of what happens in our lives. God desires to fill our lives with meaning and purpose as God’s own children, called to love and be loved. When we allow objects, people or things, to come between us and God, they become better doors than windows and keep us from receiving all that God desires for us.
How then do we keep the appropriate perspective? How do we keep our minds from making things in this world the primary object of our devotion? The answer is to look up. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Colossians, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above.” What he means is that we keep our eyes, our minds and our hearts appropriately oriented toward God in Christ, such that it is only in God that we seek meaning, purpose and protection. It means that we consciously orient ourselves daily to the One from whom all life and love flows. The gift of doing this is twofold. First, it allows us to receive all the gifts of meaning, purpose and protection that God desires we receive. We can become people who live with hope and not disappointment, with peace and not anxiety, with joy and not sorrow. Second is allows us to enjoy the gifts that God gives us. We can enjoy the Lions without being depressed when they do not win the Super Bowl. We can enjoy our relationships, our tech and our travels for what they are, knowing that we are not dependent on them to make us whole.
My challenge to you then is twofold this week. First, I ask you to make a personal inventory of your life, looking for those things that you might have made into the primary object of your devotion and when you find them, remind yourself that they are gifts and not the giver. Second, it is to daily look up; to look up to God throughout the day, reminding yourself that it is in this giver alone that we can find meaning, purpose and protection.
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
March 3, 2019
Ecclesiastes 1:12-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
This morning I want to test a hypothesis of mine, but to do so I need some polling data. So I want to begin this morning by asking you about some popular television shows. How many of you watch Dancing with the Stars? The Voice? Project Runway? Jeopardy? America’s Got Talent? American Ninja Warrior? Your answers confirm my hypothesis that Americans love competition. We love to watch as people compete to be the best in whatever area in life it is in which they excel. What we need to realize though is that this is not only not just an American phenomenon, but it is a world-wide phenomenon. I say this because most of these shows have counterparts in other places in the world. What we also need to realize is that this is not a modern phenomenon. Almost all societies have had forms of competition in which people try and prove themselves to be best, including in the time of Paul in the Roman Empire. And if they had named one of the most popular competitions it would have been called “Who’s Got Wisdom.” It was a show in which philosophers from across the Empire tried to demonstrate that they were the ones who had more wisdom than anyone else.
What was wisdom? It was the ability to discern the fundamental nature of reality and to show people how they ought to live in harmony with that reality. Let me say that again. Wisdom is the ability to discern the fundamental nature of reality and to show people how they ought to live in harmony with that reality. In this game there were Stoics, Epicureans, Platonists, Pythagoreans and others who attempted to convince their audiences that their conception of the fundamental nature of reality was the correct one. They did so with incredible eloquence. They did so with erudite arguments. They did so through particular forms of argument. They did so at great length. Which is why, the Christians were in trouble. They were in trouble because it would be more than two centuries before they had someone who could compete, on Who’s Got Wisdom. What about Paul, you might ask. Well, unfortunately his lack of conventional wisdom and ability to express it was leading the Corinthians to not only vote him off the show, but out of their lives. This Corinthian church, as we discover in this letter, which he had started, was looking for new leaders with a new message who would do more than, “preach Christ and him crucified.”
The Apostle could have walked away and allowed them to abandon their faith, but he refused, and instead, made the argument, even if it was in a very sarcastic manner, that he, and not the arrogant Corinthians, or the local philosophers had true wisdom. This is how Paul puts it. “God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” What Paul is saying is that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection demonstrated the fundamental nature of the universe. And that fundamental nature, as the Apostle will go on to say, was God loves the world. In other words, God’s sending of Jesus demonstrated that there was a loving God who so desired the restoration of creation that this God sent the only Son, in order that humanity could live in right relationship with God and each other as renewed human beings who are free from the power of sin. This is what he means by righteousness, sanctification and redemption. This world-wide transformation then would allow humanity to live together peacefully, as a single community, regardless of any differences in worldly conditions. And it would allow them to do so in peace and harmony. This was real wisdom.
If we were to continue reading this letter, we would see that Paul does not stop with the first half of the wisdom equation. He continues by telling them how they were to live in harmony with this fundamental reality of the universe, God’s love for the world. The way in which they were to do so was to respond with love of God and of neighbor. I realize that we spend a great deal of time talking about this love of God and neighbor, but its importance cannot be over stated, because it mattered to the Corinthians as it matters to us. It mattered to them because the Corinthians were a community divide by wealth, social station, education, freedom, religious background and citizenship. Each of these differences diminished the church’s ability to live wisely; to live in harmony with fundamental nature of the universe by loving one another. And this inability meant that the members of this divided community could not experience life in all its fullness. They would be less than the God of the universe designed them to be. This my friends, I would argue, is where we find ourselves. We find ourselves in families, communities and a nation divided in the same way. We live in a time in which the wisdom of God is not transforming us or the world. Thus, this is a moment when true wisdom from God is needed more than ever. The question is, will we listen to and be instructed by it.
My friends, we have been given a gift, true wisdom. We have been given the insight that true wisdom from God is the willingness to be loved by God and to love in God’s name. These two realities are what will allow this world to live fully into its potential as a recreated world. The challenge that I want to give you this morning is this, as you partake of the elements, ask yourselves, how am I living wisely such that I might help my family, my community and my nation live in harmony with God’s love for the world in and through Jesus Christ?