Sermon for July 5, 2020
When I was a child, my grandmother would occasionally come and stay with us. She was Irish and had a great sense of humor. I remember that she liked to drink a bottle of beer before she went to bed. As I get older, I have decided it helped her to sleep and that is why this story resonates with me.
98-year-old Mother Superior from Ireland was dying. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last days comfortable. They tried giving her some warm milk to drink but she refused it. One of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen and remembering a bottle of Irish whiskey received as a gift the previous Christmas. She opened it and poured a generous amount into the warm milk. Back at Mother Superior's bed, she held the glass to her lips. Mother drank a little, then a little more and before they knew it, she had drunk the whole glass down to the last drop.
"Mother," the nuns asked with earnest, "please give us some wisdom before you die.” She raised herself up in bed and said, "Don't sell that cow!” Now that is wisdom that all of us can use.
"A little girl was sitting on her grandfather’s lap as he read her a bedtime story. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally she spoke up, Grandpa, did God make you? Yes, sweetheart, he answered, God made me a long time ago. Oh, she paused, grandpa, did God make me too? Yes, indeed, honey, he said, God made you just a little while ago. Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, God’s getting better at it, isn’t he? You see, wisdom comes from the little children doesn’t it?
Today we hear about wisdom and rest; both of them can be found in Jesus. Wisdom is one of those things that we search for all of our lives and often only know when we experience it. Scripture is a good source of wisdom. My study Bible says that “the fundamental goal of the Book of Proverbs is to teach the acquisition of wisdom and the avoidance of folly”. Proverbs speaks of wisdom as a female person and speaks as if she is searching each of us out. In chapter one “Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?’”
Proverbs teaches us that wisdom provides order to chaos. In the Psalms we learn that wisdom grants us humility. (Psalm 11:12) and protects and guards us. (Psalm 4:6) Proverbs helps us to understand that wisdom comes from God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly,
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
So, when Jesus spoke about wisdom in today’s gospel lesson, he continued in the traditions of the Hebrew Scripture. The people of his time were missing what was right in front of them. People could not see the truth of John the Baptist and they judged Jesus based on the company he kept. Their perceptions of John and Jesus were clouded by what their faith leaders had taught them. Jesus wanted them to have wisdom to see through the veil of their previous understanding to realize that he was God. He wanted people to put aside their understanding of what the Messiah would do. Jesus came not to take political power but to help us find God in our everyday life. He wanted people to see that God may not do things the way we expect them to be done.
And Jesus said that God’s presence was hidden from the most intelligent, that it was the infants that could see God in Jesus. The words of Jesus are timeless. I think we can learn from the faith of children. Children often see things with an innocence that is difficult for adults. Children see things because their eyes are open to what is in front of them. Our intelligence can cause us to think we already know the answer. We may have become cynical or have too much pride to think we can learn more.
As Christians in today’s world, we seek an innocence that helps us find wisdom and truth in God. We pray that we will be guided by the Holy Spirit in our decisions. We ask God to help us follow God’s will. And we need God’s help.
Wisdom and truth are not synonyms but I think wisdom helps us find truth. Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” Being honest with ourselves may help us find wisdom. I cannot forget the words exchanged by Jesus and Pilate just before Jesus was crucified. Jesus said, “for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
I have concluded that finding the truth is a difficult thing to do these days. I say that our preconceived opinions or our wish for a certain outcome causes us to seek messages that support our expectations of the truth. In our divided culture and in this world of social media, it is easy to find writing that meets our wishes for the truth. And if there is a blog connected to a version of the truth, I promise you that you will find comments in total support and comments in total rejection of whatever truth is espoused. We just don’t agree on the truth. It seems to me that we are just as challenged to find wisdom in our day as the people of Jesus were challenged. We need the wisdom and truth to deal with so many things we face today, in our faith and in the world.
If we are ever able to find God’s wisdom then perhaps we will understand the last few verses of the gospel for today. I find the words extremely comforting. Come to me all you who labor and I will give you rest. I read that often when we pray the evening service Compline. Whenever I hear those words, I am comforted. I feel as if I can keep at peace with the world.
But I ask myself how does this passage fit with other teachings of Jesus? for he also said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In the last few weeks, we heard Jesus tell his disciples that preaching the gospel of Jesus would not be easy. They would be persecuted.
It seems to me that coming to Jesus will not save us from trials and tribulations. It won’t save us from rejection. We won’t be able to just rest in a chair and do nothing. Coming to Jesus is more about knowing that we are doing the right thing, finding peace with the things that are going on around us even those things challenge us. Coming to Jesus may mean that we have lots of work to do but the work will give us rest.
Eleanore Stump said, ‘when the person to whom you come is Christ himself, the vulnerability which openness brings with it is more than matched by the love Christ gives. In the gift of that love, everything that might be loss is turned into gift given and gift received, to be returned again in love.”
Sometimes rest is given to us through another person just as Isaac was comforted by Rebekah after his mother’s death. Paul wrote about our constant struggle in ourselves between good and evil. We do good knowing that evil is near. We realize that Jesus saves us from the death of sin. That is when we find rest.
Jesus said take my yoke upon you. A yoke brought a team of two oxen together to pull a load. When we take on the yoke of Jesus, we stay connected to him always. We pull together through the good and the bad. Sometimes, Jesus pulls the load for us. We live together with Jesus in love. Then, we will find rest. Jesus said that we will find rest for our souls.
Isn’t it interesting that when we find wisdom, we will come to Jesus and in the arms of Jesus we will find rest. Let us seek the wisdom of Jesus, let us take his yoke upon us, for when we are united with Jesus we will find rest and peace. Amen.
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