January 15, 2017
The Gift of Wisdom
written by Pastor Greg McDonell
I was inspired to focus on the James passage today because of a comment my granddaughter made during a children’s sermon at her church in Houston. It seems that the pastor had gathered all the children around him and posed to them a question. He said: Does anyone know the difference between a person who is smart and one who is wise? Our Shelby raised her hand and the pastor recognized her, “Yes, Shelby, what is the difference?” She replied: “A smart person is someone who knows a lot of stuff and a wise person is one who makes good decisions.”
A reading from JAMES…………
“You say that I am repeating something I said before. I shall say it again. In order to arrive there,
to arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
YOU MUST go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
YOU MUST go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
YOU MUST go by the way of dispossession.
To arrive at what you are not
YOU MUST go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know.
And what you own is what you do not own.
And where you are is where you are not”
-T.S. Elliot. “East Coker”
If T.S. Elliot and Shelby Kallus are correct, and I sense that they are, WISDOM is a quality we are given and not something we gain. Wisdom is not how much you know, but knowing what is IMPORTANT to know as we read between the lines of our lives.
The author of James asks the question: “Who is wise and understanding among you?” And he goes on to supply his own answer: By ones good life let that person show their works in the gentleness of wisdom.” Wise people live out their gratitude for God’s gift in happiness, gentleness, and serenity. Or as Eliot would suggest: wise people know that what they do not know is worth knowing, where they have not yet been is important to be, and what they do not possess is what is important to possess. Wisdom is something accepted as a gift.
God in Christ offers us a life of purpose and meaning. God gives us wisdom that is….insight into GOD’S VISION for humankind. Our receptivity to that, our response to that, is the “GOOD LIFE” we live FOR others.
Bob is an alcoholic, a drug addict, a burglar, a thief, and con man. He is also a father of two children, a happily married man. In his book, Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Our Children and Drugs, he tells his story of how he came to accept the gift of wisdom……….He says,
“At one point I actually counted the number of times people tried to help me get off drugs…31!!! My parents tried of course and failed. Teachers were equally unsuccessful. A neighbor and friend of the family begged me with tears in his eyes to stop for the sake of my parents; I didn’t. I tried a Christian group that told me to read the bible and everything would be fine. But at that time I was so sick and my eyes were so bad that I couldn’t have read the bible if I had wanted to; which I didn’t. Christian groups failed to help me. I tried methadone. The doctors at John Hopkins thought that getting high on that bitter stuff you wash down with Tang would be better for me than heroin. I always had the impression that doctors prescribed methadone so addicts wouldn’t go out and steal their television sets. A chemical substitute for junk is certainly no solution for the addict. Methadone treatment is a bad joke.
I tried behavior modification, psychoanalysis, chemical therapy, hypnosis, confrontive therapy, and numerous other methods. My experience in rehabilitation ranged from comic to tragic to frustrating to down right bizarre….NONE WORKED. Thirty one attempts to cure me failed…BUT the thirty-second time was a different story…. - Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, p12-13
Bob goes on to tell about that 32nd time. He had begun eating lunch at the Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church across the street from Rice University where he was working on the grounds. And each day at lunch Father Charlie came by and made small talk. Bob writes:
“I had no idea what to think of the man. I wasn’t particularly interested in him, but he seemed to be interested in me. EVERY DAY he would come over to my table and talk with me while I ate. One day I was eating by myself when someone called out, ‘Phone call for Bob’. I figured it was probably a cop, so I pretended I didn’t hear. A fellow worker pointed me out, so I went and took the call. It was Father Charlie.
“I’m sorry I missed our appointment today,” he said. Appointment, I replied? We had never made an appointment. Charlie went on to apologize profusely for having been tied up. I told him that it was OK and that I would see him tomorrow.
And then just before we hung up, he added, I just wanted to say that I love you.
Very strange thing to say, I thought. I hung up the phone and walked to my table thinking, “I know he is not gay; I’ve got no money, so he’s not trying to rip me off; there is nothing a bum like me has to offer him. What does he want? Why does he say he loves me? I couldn’t figure it out. But every day I came back to that cafeteria to see Charlie. And I knew that I was coming for one reason and one reason only….I SO WANTED TO HEAR HIM SAY IT AGAIN!
And so, Bob slowly began to get his life back together again as he received and responded to the gift of acceptance from Father Charlie. His soul was strengthened and his self-esteem began to soar.
You see, my dear friends, Father Charlie gave something to Bob he had never experienced before or heard of before: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Father Charlie created an environment in which people like Bob could pull themselves up if they chose to do so. Father Charlie would have still loved Bob had Bob returned to drugs. His love was unconditional, no strings attached. He offered Bob a new definition of happiness and said, “If you want it, take it, if you don’t want it…fine.” Bob says that it took him years to understand the power of that kind of love.
Bob’s experience goes beyond those who are victims of the disease of chemical dependency. His experience under scores for all of us THAT WISDOM, like grace is something we receive, something given that is responded to, something to accept and not to waste time trying to achieve it…….God in Christ offers us a better way of life. God GIVES us Christ and invites us to partake. God encourages each of us to receive and respond to such loved offered and given freely…There it is! Take it! It’s your life! Enjoy it!
So who is WISE among US? The wise truly are those who know and live their life believing that God loves them unconditionally. The most basic need of life, unconditional love, is already settled. We are accepted. We do not have to earn it, achieve it, to seek and struggle to gain it. It is a given gift that each of us hold within us.
And yet still, some of us refuse to allow ourselves to be loved unconditionally. We are very uncomfortable with that kind of love. We are trained, geared, reared, and otherwise brainwashed that you don’t get anything for nothing! And so some of us go around driving ourselves and driving ourselves until we just want to quit….and all along there is our Lord standing beside us saying, “Won’t you ever learn, won’t you ever be wise enough to understand the unconditional love I have for you. While you were yet sinners I died for you…no strings attached. But like Bob we want to say, “Hey, wait a minute what’s this guy up to?”
Maybe I have missed you in today’s sermon but as for me there certainly are times when I reject such love or at least forget about it’s reality in my life. The high level of tension in which we live in this world and perhaps even in your homes where stress and depression runs wild are signs enough that we need to be simply wise enough to let go……let go of our self-defeating drive to be the best, the biggest, and the brightest. Perhaps we need to slow down, relax, enjoy one another, enjoy our life here, and have peace in our hearts. The wise among us are drawing ever closer to the One who loves them unconditionally.
There is much to do in this life of ours. But let us have the wisdom to accept it first, to enjoy it first, to be grateful for it first…to receive God’s unconditional love FIRST and then to live into a life of gentle wisdom.
Friends, God loves YOU unconditionally. Believe it! Accept it!
God bless you this day!
Posted by Princess Mononoke at 5:18 PM