“The Beginning of Wisdom”
August 19, 2018
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
John 6:51-58 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=400298736)
I recently read these words
From Bishop Craig Satterlee,
An Episcopal Bishop from Michigan:
“Wisdom is not knowledge to be explained or understood.
Wisdom is relationship to be trusted and embraced.”
(Bishop Craig A. Satterlee, from working preacher dot org)
Indeed, much of our development
Is focused on communicating knowledge,
Comprehending knowledge, and
Think about it this way: … teach, comprehend, test.
Knowledge is the life blood of education and
Intelligence is its primary metric.
and the transfer of knowledge
From one generation to another,
Keeps a lot of teachers, administrators, and government agencies busy.
Knowledge is a good thing.
Knowing that cooking meat contributes to the reduction or prevention
Of foodborne illnesses,
A practice that goes back as much as two million years ago,
Has significantly contributed to the development, health, and welfare of humankind.
Knowing that cooking,
A behavior unique to humankind,
Increases the digestibility of food
That would otherwise be inedible or poisonous when eaten raw,
Contributes significantly to our quality and length of life.
It also makes our recipe boxes overflow with endless menu possibilities!
Knowledge improves our lives, be it through
Science and technology, engineering and math, trials and research.
Knowledge also improves our lives through
Music and the arts, literature and history, language and philosophy.
Knowledge isn’t everything.
I know many knowledgeable people living a miserable existence.
Like pollination’s dependence upon the bee,
Knowledge is dependent upon wisdom.
Knowledge in isolation is pointless.
A balance of knowledge and wisdom together is essential for life;
Like lungs that are dependent on oxygen
And a heart that is in need of blood.
“Wisdom is relationship to be trusted and embraced.” (Ibid.)
We are social creatures
Created by a loving God;
Intentionally designed to learn and
To relate to one another
And with our God.
Relating means we collaborate,
We work together
To accomplish that which could not be done alone.
The wise work to remove barriers to collaboration and
Improve opportunities for cooperation.
We collaborate with other individuals,
With other groups or tribes,
And we collaborate with our God.
The use of wisdom results in the advancement of God’s will and kingdom.
We are meant to share; and,
In time, sharing builds trust.
Trust is everything!
We share our knowledge with one another, and humanity improves.
We share our knowledge with our God and our curious thirst for more knowledge grows.
Where does inspiration come from?
From God, of course!
Sharing builds dependence and trust,
In each other
And dependence and trust in the Lord.
The Psalmist for today, repeated in Proverbs, informs us that
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
(Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10)
Of the Lord
Is the beginning
Here, the word “fear” is not terrifying or paralyzing.
Fear leads us into deeper states of faith and awe.
William Eisenhower states it eloquently in an article in Christianity Today:
“Unfortunately, many of us presume that the world is the ultimate threat and that God's function is to offset it. How different this is from the biblical position that God is far scarier than the world …. When we assume that the world is the ultimate threat, we give it unwarranted power, for in truth, the world's threats are temporary. When we expect God to balance the stress of the world, we reduce him to the world's equal …. As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so he may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. He sits in judgment of my sin, but forgives me nevertheless. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.”
(Emphasis is mine. As found at https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/spirituallife/what-does-it-mean-to-fear-god.html)
Fear of the Lord
Elevates our God in Jesus Christ
Above the sins of the world.
It requires us to engage in petitions for forgiveness and acts of repentance.
Fear of the Lord
Lifts Christ from merely a temporal authority in this world
To an eternal authority over both heaven and earth.
Fear of the Lord
Marries together the majesty of our cosmic Creator
With the perfect love of Jesus Christ.
Fear the Lord, and praise His Holy Name!
Today’s Gospel is the fifth of six continuous readings from the sixth chapter of John.
It continues the theme that Jesus is
“the living bread,
That came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;
And the bread that I will give for the life of the world
Is my flesh.”
The perfection of knowledge and wisdom
Is found in the perfect love of Jesus Christ.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood
Have eternal life,
And I will raise them up on the last day.”
Certainly, this talk about flesh and blood point to the cross
And Christ’s loving self-sacrifice
For our eternal life.
Instead of the flesh and blood of Christ being the foundation of dogma,
Think about it as God’s gift of love,
And God’s gift of grace,
That the world may have eternal life
And be raised up on the last day.
Jesus began this narrative with providing bread to the crowd of 5,000.
Feeding people is an intimate affair.
The act of breaking bread together
Is pervasive throughout the Gospels and the Epistles.
Sharing a meal grows trust deep,
Expands wisdom, and it
Makes the community tight.
This is why our mission team to Guatemala eats together,
Breakfast, lunch and dinner;
Sharing devotions in the morning
And observations of God at work in the evening.
This is why we are intentional in the planning and conduction
Of parish fellowship dinners.
This is why we are intentionally engaged in the regular celebration of the Eucharist.
To share in the bread that comes from heaven,
And to drink the cup that is the true drink,
Draws us into an intimate relationship with each other
And with our God.
Today, Jesus declares that he IS the living bread.
To eat the bread is the means by which
Jesus comes to dwell in us
And us in him.
Taking a step beyond intimacy,
Jesus seeks a union with each of us.
Sharing the bread and cup
Makes us tight;
Indeed, one with Christ.
As is so eloquently described,
“Christ didn’t keep Passover, he was the Passover.
Christ didn’t eat the Passover meal, he was the Passover meal.”
(Preaching the New Common Lectionary, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay, Tucker, 1995)
This is exactly the foundation
Upon which we believe that the Church,
The community of disciples of Jesus,
Actually become the Body of Christ.
We are the Body of Christ.
Abide in Christ,
Even as Christ abides in you.
Living a life abiding in Christ is qualitatively different
Than living a regular human life.
For the Gospel of John,
Eternal life isn’t derived from knowledge to be comprehended.
Eternal life isn’t some future hope
For an eternal paradise in some heavenly ether.
Eternal life begins
With abiding in Christ
And allowing Christ to abide in you.
“Whoever eats me will live because of me.
… the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Eternal life starts in this life
At our Baptismal waters
When we confess belief that Jesus Christ is our Lord.
Eternal life is sustained with our daily bread.
Eternal life describes a life lived in union with Christ;
Abiding in Christ and
Christ abiding within.
Yes, eternal life is forever,
But to solely focus upon this future reality
At the expense
Of what eternal life provides for the present
Gives an incomplete view of what the Gospel of John
So eloquently attempts to communicate.
Eternal life today
Is a gift of God’s grace.
We have the ability to faithfully live by the greatest commandment:
To love God, and to love our neighbor.
We have Christ abiding within,
Offering each of us strength to right the injustices of this world.
Faithfully abiding in Christ,
Gives us the burning desire
To extend the invitation of discipleship;
To make disciples of the world,
To baptize each in the name of Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit,
And to teach the world all that Jesus has taught us.
Eternal life began with the resurrection.
It sustains us for the work of ministry today.
And it promises us a wonderful tomorrow.