The message for today, Sunday, August 16, 2015 used the following scriptures I Kings 2:1012 & 3:3-14 and John 6:41-59. The title was “In Quest of Wisdom from God.” It is as follows.
I will start this morning by telling you a little about our trip last weekend. Some of you have heard this story already, but you can either plug your ears or hear it again. On Sunday Victoria invited us to go to church with them in Dickinson. They have started going to the UCC church there and though it is a huge brick building, I am not sure that their summer attendance is much greater than ours. (And the secret to that might be that they don’t have air conditioning, and it was hot.) A couple of stories from that trip, first we were mugged during the children’s sermon. Literally, they gave each of us a mug to remember our visit with them.
Also, after church at their coffee time a woman told me she was originally from Eureka, her mother went to church here, Erva Neuharth. And, the minister gave me some information about some classes they run in the Northern Plains Conference that might just work for me. Between the two of us, we will be checking out if this is something I can begin attending. I was excited about that, but also I was excited to sit in the pew again and listen to someone else’s perspective on the scripture of the day. And I was glad that we decided to get out of bed even though it was vacation and to brave the warm building.
I tell you these stories as starters this morning because today I would like you to take a walk with me through my mental process this week. It started at that Sunday church service, and moved to Monday back here for Ervin’s funeral where we talked about passing on from this life to the next and how we will be reunited with those loved ones in the future. Then on Wednesday it was to the EHCC, Toni went along for that. I borrowed from the Sunday morning message Dickinson’s Pastor Janel Kohlar for the story there. She had talked about the difference between telling the harsh truth and offering a loving truth to someone. Her example was how a husband could answer his wife if she asks him, “Does this dress make me look fat?” And the dress really is unflattering, but he answers that she is such a lovely woman who it doesn’t matter what she wears.
So that gets us half way through the week and now it is Thursday and Victoria calls with a story about her daycare and a comment made by the 10-year-old boy she has there. I think it will be good for both her and the young boy that school is starting soon, and he will be challenging his teacher on certain things. Without getting into too many details, I will tell you that he brought up a Biblical topic and was very literal about it. I hope we can see from the gospel lesson today that not all stories in the Bible are completely literal. Victoria called me to discuss the whole thing not that she wanted to question him or challenge his beliefs, but that his ideas were different enough from our understanding of things, that she was concerned about his influence on her own children in terms of Biblical understandings. And it reinforced for me the idea of learning things about God in your own home and your own church.
And then on Friday, I reread the internet prompt from our denomination’s office and I found something that I want to share with you before we go deeply into the scriptures today. This is a paragraph that I copied and pasted, borrow in essence from The Rev. Kathryn Matthews (Huey) who serves as dean of Amistad Chapel at the national offices of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.
She writes: “Today we live in a society that, unlike ancient Israel, claims to be built upon the separation of church and state but often brings religious beliefs and claims of authority into the political arena, if not our shared public life. For example, we may argue vehemently about putting the Ten Commandments on a courthouse wall as a mark of our religious faithfulness (or hang it in her classroom as one teacher did in Montpelier) or expect political candidates to speak fervently of their faith life. Yet, so many of us fail to make sure that all of God’s children have the basic goods of life – in other words, we neglect “the widow, the poor, and the foreigner in our midst” – those most vulnerable and in need. Wasn’t this exactly what God expected in both the Old and New Testaments? Aren’t justice and compassion the “gospel” values preached and embodied by Jesus, the one whose wisdom we desire? Would Jesus have much to say about engraving Commandments in stone when the heart of God’s law is broken all around us?” This was Taken from: http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_august_16_2015.
So here we are now this morning trying to figure out how this all works together, and honestly I am still stuck on this separation thing. See, I really want to go back and redo this week and leave that conversation on Thursday out of the mix. I read that prompt earlier in the week before that conversation with Victoria, and I didn’t notice that paragraph. I didn’t really see it or read it before Friday night. It never hit me until I had all of that other stuff in my head.
I kept reading our scripture for today, and I wanted to stay in the thought process that we had on Monday at the funeral. I have this thing where I would prefer to keep the scripture interpretation all about the here-after. James has a friend, well actually I think we can say we both have this friend now, he was in our wedding 33 years ago. He stayed with us last year after his and James’ class reunion and he shared a little saying with us: “Your here after depends on what you are here after.” I think of that now as we are discussing this.
When Victoria and I were having our conversation about literal verse spiritual, I told her that sometimes I get so upset about the prompts I read from the National UCC. I keep looking for them to write interpretations of the scripture lessons based on how we should repent and get our lives in order for when our lives end, but instead those prompts are all about what should be doing, now, physically to help others. Can’t we just say some prayers for the problems in this world? Besides, I have this idea this mind-set that we can’t do anything about it anyway, so why do we even bother? Learning about all of the injustice in the world just makes me depressed. Why do we even have to think about it? Sometimes I would rather not know about the horrible things that others go through. And sadly there are days when I say, my childhood wasn’t that great either, why can’t they just figure it out?
And then we get these letters and magazines coming across the desk in the office. Most of them come because we are already contributing to the organization financially. Some are even thank you letters. In fact on Wednesday when I was in the office, we even got a thank you phone call from Bread for the World. Here are a few that I saved to share at this time: Read 1. Thank you for blankets, 2. Grace Mission, 3. Bread for the world hungry children in the summer, 4. More on Bread and 5 Emerging Ministry Summit.
I will be honest. I had no intention of going to the Emerging Ministry Summit this year, but I think that this week I realized staying home is not an option. As much as I would like to spend all of our time talking about eternity and how great it will be to finally be there, I think I finally understand that as long as we are here on this earth, our life is about more than the fifth verse of Amazing Grace.
God wants more of us, a good start is right here on the floor beside the pulpit. These three boxes that will be going to the local school are a great example of the things that can be done right here in our community to help someone in need. And it doesn’t have to stop here with this. We have more to do, together.
In the gospel of John a few chapters after the one we read today, Jesus says that if we ask anything in his name he will do it. This is much like the offering that God made to Solomon when he took over as the king after David died. God told Solomon that he would give him anything he wanted. Think about that offer, what would we ask for if we were given that sort of offer? Sort of like the three wishes from a Genie.
Solomon had enough sense to ask for wisdom so he could be a good leader. Because God was pleased by the request, Solomon ended up getting much more in terms of personal gain as well as the wisdom that he asked for. He didn’t get those things because of how good he was, Solomon wasn’t perfect, you can read between the verses for today and see that. But God was pleased with him, and he was granted the wisdom to make good decisions as a leader for the people of Israel.
Jesus grants us what we ask for also, but not in terms of our own wealth or power or gain. Jesus’ words that we read today are not literally that we have to eat the human flesh of Jesus or drink of his human blood, but it is that we must humble ourselves to follow his teachings, follow his commandments to love and care for one another no matter who they are: “the widow, the poor, and the foreigner in our midst”
I can’t help but think of a commercial that is out advertising a new sit com. An African-American woman is complaining about certain kinds of people being at something she is going to and when she is questioned by a family member about where those people should go she says they can have a separate place that is equally as nice…and then she catches herself and realizes what she is saying. As much as we might want to keep our church life in church and our Monday through Saturday life outside of those doors, we don’t’ get to. As much as I might want to keep the scriptures for discussion of only spiritual things and keep the rest of my life apart from that, it doesn’t work that way.
It isn’t so much that we should get whatever we want when we ask it in Jesus name, but that we should love God enough to want only to do the will of God. “Not my will but thine be done.” Even Jesus said that in the garden before he gave himself to die for us. We too need to be able to offer ourselves to God’s will. We need to be able to ask for the wisdom to do as God wants us to do. When we do that, when we submit to the will of God then we are free to live with the peace that Christ offers to us. When we offer ourselves to do the will of God then our cup will be filled, we will be filled with the bread of heaven that Jesus offers to all who believe. Amen!