Sunday, November 17, 2019

Listening to the Voice of Wisdom!

An interesting thing happened Tuesday evening.  Well I think it’s interesting anyway…

Someone asked why we are not calling it Grandma’s table anymore?  Well it is a legitimate question. 

The flyers are cute right they say grandmas table in big bold letters and then in small subscript
A free community meal

The concept is and goes with branding.  If I am new and I see a flyer that says Grandmas table I am not reading anymore because well it is not about me…if I see a flyer that says free community meal, I know that this is for everyone…

We left the grandma image on the flyer so those who knew it as one thing can still see the related image and put the two together…

So, what was the second thing that was interesting on Tuesday?

Someone said, at the free community meal, “How is it I have been in this town for more than half my life and I do not know half the people who are here?”

What does Isaih say…For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…?

God is up to something new…

Even in the Gospel so ringing of despair there is something new and exciting happening…  The Gospel is so relatable…we all know the end of the world as we know it is coming. By the way, the end of the world as we know it, has come and gone just as what was once today is now yesterday…

It is interesting that in Luke’s Gospel the temple is basically a positive place. We see this evidenced throughout Luke’s gospel; Simeon enters the temple guided by the Spirit, the temple is a sacred space of fasting and prayer, Jesus is found, in the temple, at a young age learning and listening to the elders and people are amazed at his intellect, Jesus even sets forth to keep the temple space sacred and protected proclaiming this is a house of prayer…

So, we are supposed to be shocked when Jesus proclaims that the temple will be turned to rubble and no stone shall remain upon another. Did Jesus’ prediction come true? Technically no for the temple mount still stands. 

But I think more importantly, in spite of dire forecast and predictions Jesus continues to teach in the temple.

One scholar points out; “As revolutionary as his actions may have appeared, Jesus continues to go to the Temple daily to teach. His action was clearly meant to be more symbolic than revolutionary. Perhaps, his content here (in Luke 21) is also meant to be more symbolic. Some scholars claim that Jesus advocated for a restored temple during the time of the eschaton.
In some ways, this selection is less about the Temple’s destruction and more about how Jesus’s followers should react to persecution;
  • Be prepared to “testify” (Luke 21:13);
  • But do not prepare to testify in advance (21:14);
  • Depend on Jesus’s “wisdom” (21:15);
  • Family breakups will be part of this time (21:16);
  • But persevere (21:19).”[1]

Jesus says do not prepare your argument in advance for I will give you the words needed.

“Sing them over again to me wonderful words of Life
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life…”

Jesus speaks of trials and tribulations and the tests his followers must endure and yet he says trust upon me and I will give you the words you need…

Many of us cannot understand what the trials and tribulations might be like, or were like, or how they manifest in our future but think of it this way Jesus says families will be pitted against families…

Well now isn’t that church!  If you do not believe it, I can assure you, it has come to pass over and over again.

The book of acts speaks of it, Paul’s letters speak of it, anintegrated church speaks of it, women in the pulpit speak of it, accessibility speaks of it…anything that was new to the church …families split over.

All these dire predictions Christ predicts is part of being a living church as we change and grow there will always be conflict but we are to persevere.

“More importantly (since it will happen first; 21:12), the persecution that will come—even from family members (verse 16)—will become an opportunity to “witness.” That is key! But they should not make no preparations for this time because Jesus will grant the necessary “wisdom” (verse 15) for those moments. In Luke’s Gospel, the word “wisdom” occurs more than in the other three Gospels altogether.”[2]

And though there are dire predictions for the church as we know it

We are called to stay in the temple and teach.  Let me emphasize we… you see for others are called to sell their churches and find new and creative ways to be church, at this time, we are called to stay in the temple and proclaim God’s radical and extravagant welcome from right here.  This is our call today and this is where we will stay…today…but that does not mean the message is the same that it always was, that does not mean  that our ministries cannot grow and change, it does not mean how we structure ourselves must stay stagnant for Jesus is constantly giving us new words, new wisdom, new ways of being The Federated.

Just a few years ago the national UCC church looked at what the priorities of the denomination are.  They conducted surveys and the results of the national church compared to some things we are doing is quite interesting…

“A survey of 4,000 constituents of the church reveals that they are like-minded about what the UCC's top issues are, and what they should be going forward.

"What we learned from both surveys is that, as a denomination, we are on one accord with our future priorities and issues. These were the five areas where people said we should place our focus," said the Rev. Darrell Goodwin, who chairs the Strategic Implementation Task Force.
Climate change, racial justice and income inequality were the top three issues identified by two groups of survey respondents — the first group was primarily age 40 and under, and the second group was all ages. The other two issues were immigration justice and religious tolerance.”[3]

We seek to do our part in education and fighting climate change through our green team and their effort. Income inequality we seek out through working with the economic mission group of the NH conference and through our own mission work of the food pantry, kids’ cupboard, and our community meals to name just a few. We help in the efforts of immigration justice by partnering with the Good shepherd church in AZ and their refugee work and other opportunities are presenting themselves all the time. Religious tolerance we seek through our connection with the NH conference of churches and the parliament of world religions.

These are just a few things we do, there is so much more and it is layered among Individual, congregational, denominational work and outreach. This is that voice of wisdom that Luke speaks of…there is no way that the over 4000 people could possibly have agreed on the same things otherwise…

“Luke’s primary distinction (from the other Gospels)—in the second half of the story—occurs in verse 15 (“I will give you a mouth and wisdom” unable to be contradicted). As in Israel’s tradition, Wisdom has her “children” (Luke 7:35), an allusion to John the Baptist and Jesus, the latter of which was, as a child, one who “grew in wisdom” and “divine favor” (2:40, 52). Only within the Gospel of Luke is the “Wisdom of God” a speaking agent (11:49) and, so, in this way, God’s “wisdom” will allow the persecuted followers of Jesus to speak when the time comes (21:15). Jesus says that he will provide that wisdom during that time, a wisdom—in the Lukan tradition—that is even greater than Solomon’s (11:31).

We find more evidence of Wisdom’s role in Luke’s sequel (Acts), an important “commentary” (so to speak) on Luke’s Gospel. In Acts, Stephen is one who spoke with “wisdom and spirit” and he remained unchallenged by representatives from the Synagogue of the Formerly Enslaved (see Acts 6:10). Furthermore, Stephen’s speech provides additional examples—Joseph and Moses—of those who expressed God’s “wisdom” and received favor from rulers (like Pharaoh; Acts 7:10) and the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). Wisdom, indeed, has her children.”[4]

I believe that we can see, with a clear vision, God’s wisdom at play in the Christian church today and I believe this congregation has known and still knows how to listen for that voice of wisdom.

I believe it is essential that we continue to move in this contemporary world where to this day temples fall, families are torn apart, all in the name of Jesus. Sometimes it can be almost humorous if it wasn’t so painful. For we stand in opposition to many churches and many of the faithful... Our mission and our values stand in opposition to those who make the biggest noise and claim to be Christian…

But wait I was taught this passage was about the wrath of God…

“Whenever a disaster strikes, it doesn’t take long for some prominent Christians to blame it on the secularization or moral permissiveness of society.

On a September 13, 2001, appearance on The 700 Club, Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on certain groups and organizations he characterized as promoting “an alternative lifestyle” and trying to “secularize America.”1 Austrian priest Rev. Gerhard Wagner wrote in a 2005 parish newsletter that Hurricane Katrina resulted from the indescribable amoral conditions of New Orleans.2 Recently, the Westboro Baptist Church has attained notoriety for this line of thinking.

Anyone who wants to justify their belief that God uses wars and natural disasters to punish people for “attacking” Christianity can find material in Luke 21:5-19 to support this view. This passage presents Jesus predicting the Jerusalem temple’s destruction (vv. 5-6) as well as more general catastrophes (vv. 7-10) that are preceded by an intense persecution of Christians (vv. 12-19).”[5] 

This is the dangerous thing about scripture…if one is not listening for that voice of wisdom…and if one is not speaking love then most likely well…they are not following Jesus’ teaching…If you were taught that because there is a disaster God is angry and God’s wrath is falling upon us. That is not Christian teaching we have grown, we have moved, we have chosen to listen to the voice of wisdom and lead with Love first…

If you read the acts of the apostles. If you read the lives of the saints…if you look at how we choose to respond to our community’s needs…we must lead with love first, for love is the voice of wisdom. Love is the core message of Christ and love is the core lead of the church.

So, what I have been saying is everything Jesus predicts here is not the core message remember Jesus says you will always have floods and famine and war yet I will be with you…

“That assurance of God’s faithfulness to us in the face of difficult times is the real concern of this passage is confirmed by Luke 21:12-19. Jesus details the persecution that his followers can expect to face: arrests; persecution; trials before government authorities; betrayal by family and friends; hatred on account of Jesus’ name; and even execution. Throughout his Gospel, Luke depicts Jesus as a prophetic figure who risks rejection and death as a result of his prophetic message (see especially Luke 4:16-30). Anyone who follows Jesus can expect the same hostility that Jesus and Israel’s great prophets endured. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles (written by the same author who wrote Luke’s Gospel) provides numerous examples of early Christian leaders facing precisely the sort of troubles that Jesus describes in 21:12-19.4
But does Jesus in Luke 21:12-19 tell his audience they should lay blame on a particular person or group of people, on their society, or even on their enemies, for such treatment? No. He says that persecution is “an opportunity to testify” (21:13)”[6]

It is through our ministries, our connection to the community. heck it is how we support each other…and this church does that so well…this church does so much so well. I believe it is truly because we listen to the voice of wisdom, we lead with love, and we act upon it then we share it…

They will know we are Christians by our love by our love…and they do!

[2] Ditto
[4] Ditto
[6] ditto

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