12 Pentecost Proper B15
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Proverbs 9:1-10 Sermon
August 19, 2012
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
536 "Awake My Soul, And With The Sun"
651 "Be Still My Soul"
291 "Lamp Of Our Feet Whereby We Trace"
535 "Rejoice My Heart, Be Glad And Sing"
A WORD TO THE WISE
TEXT (vs. 9-10): “9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
This morning, I'm going to share a true story with you. Some years ago, a homeowner contacted a contractor to come to his home to repair a few problems. It seems that there were various doors in his home that weren't opening and closing properly. He had tried adjusting the hinges, changing the position of the latches, and even cutting the doors so they would fit better. Nothing seemed to take care of the problem. So the frustrated homeowner decided that it was time to get some professional assistance.
When the contractor came to the house, he began looking at the doors. Sure enough, they weren't working well at all. But then he also noticed that the floor seemed rather spongy. So the contractor went down in the guy's basement to check things from that angle.
When he went down to the basement, he immediately spotted what the problem was. There were almost no poles in place to support the upstairs floor. Because of this, the floor was bowed in the middle, which threw the house completely out of plumb. So the contractor wasted no time in getting some temporary supports in place so the floor wouldn't sag any further.
What had happened, is that the homeowner bought himself a brand new pool table, and put it in the basement of his house. When he went to play pool, he discovered that he was continually hitting his cue stick against all of these poles down there. So he went to work and cut a whole bunch of them out, because he regarded them as a pesky nuisance. He had no idea as to why they were there.
After the contractor made the repairs, he reckoned that if it had been left alone and the floor had sagged another 6 to 8 inches, the whole house would have collapsed in upon itself. But as it was, the contractor was able to prevent that from happening. The contractor had to work quite a long time to get the house back in plumb the way it needed to be. And of course all of this came with a fairly hefty price tag.
When I hear stories like this, it really makes me wonder just how stupid some people can be. Common sense would dictate to all of us that there are poles in the basement of a house because the floor needs to be supported. And even if you don't have any experience in construction and carpentry, I think that most of us would know better than to start cutting out support poles in the basement.
Sadly people like this live and breed amongst us. It doesn't take too much digging to find accounts of people doing stupid stuff. There are even weekly television shows that show people doing stuff that any normal person would know better not to do. So I suppose if there's any benefit to these TV shows, we can consider them lessons to show the consequences of foolish actions.
This morning, our Scripture readings are giving words to the wise. In other words, if you're smart, you'll pay attention to what God is telling you. And there are some valuable lessons to be learned here. There is nobody any smarter or wiser than God himself.
The book of Proverbs is a great place to study the contrasting difference between wisdom and foolishness, because the two are compared and explained in terms that anybody could understand. There is a whole lot of common sense behind the way God is explaining things. God uses the metaphor of a woman to put across the idea of wisdom.
It's kind of unfortunate that our Old Testament Lesson for today ends where it does, because Proverbs chapter 9 presents both sides of the issue. I'm going to read on past our appointed reading to give you the contrasting side of folly. God also uses a metaphorical woman to put this idea across. Listen now to verses 13-18: "13 The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. 14 She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, 15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, 16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 18 But he does not know that the dead are there; that her guests are in the depths of Sheol."
So now you see wisdom and folly compared side-by-side. The way of folly goes against all forms of common sense, and we can readily see that nothing good ever comes from following that path.
Let's bring this into the realm of the New Testament. When the Apostle Paul was dealing with the congregation at Corinth, he was dealing with an intellectual bunch of people. These people valued education and learning very highly. This was according to Greek culture. This is why there were so many Greek philosophers.
So when Paul begins to minister to these people, he had to set the standard very high. He had to demonstrate that however wise the people thought they were, they were no match for God's wisdom. So we read in 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 18-25: "18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
I think the Apostle Paul states things very well here, and it gives us a good contrast between God's wisdom and man's wisdom. So when we look at the situation in our Gospel Lesson today, Jesus has to deal with exactly the same problem.
When Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Life, it was a metaphor and a concept they couldn't grasp according to the wisdom of the world. It was a complete mystery to them. This whole idea of eating and drinking of him through faith was something that just boggled their minds.
So what was their problem? Listen to what Jesus says in verses 53-56 of John 6: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."
Human wisdom would have mistakenly given them the idea of cannibalism. The picture they had in their minds would have been chewing on one of his limbs or digits, and tapping an artery. No wonder they were puzzled! So they ask the question in verse 60, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And for many of his followers, they couldn't grasp it. They insisted on following their own wisdom, which was in reality was folly. And so they up and deserted him, which would have been to their own demise.
The Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 2, says this in verses 6-8: "6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." And then in verse 14 he continues: "14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."
Verses 4-6 of our Old Testament Lesson says, 4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
The way of wisdom is the way of the Cross and the way of our Saviour Jesus Christ. That is the way of faith, and many of those early followers of Jesus rejected that based upon their own intellect and will.
As you know, the Gospel Lesson for these last few Sundays have been successive readings in John chapter 6. Jesus was involved in a dissertation of sorts with a large crowd. This crowd contained three kinds of people. The first were those who vehemently opposed Jesus and his teachings, and often argued against him. The second were those who respected Jesus as a great teacher and miracle worker, and liked him enough to follow him and listen to him teach. But these were the ones who had difficulty believing these words of Jesus and eventually fell away. The third group consisted of those who truly believed Jesus to be the Messiah; the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners, like the twelve Apostles and other committed disciples of Jesus.
So after Jesus had finished his sermon about being the true Bread from heaven, there were those who had a problem with that. They had heard enough. When the theology got a bit difficult, that's when they hit the road. They refused to learn any more about the true Bread of Life, the Saviour of the world whose bloody sacrifice on the cross would forgive all sins and should be accepted in faith.
If we look at the world today, we see so many people doing exactly that same thing. They will acknowledge Jesus as a good man, as a great moral example, as a gifted teacher, as a pillar of humanitarianism, even as a prophet. But to then accept him through faith as the one true God? That crosses the proverbial line between human wisdom and foolishness. That's more than they can handle, and so they sadly walk away.
Our text for this morning in verses 5 and 6 says: 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” Yes, leave the wisdom of the world behind and do not turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit. Come and eat and drink of your Saviour through faith. Come and experience the way he has for you, which is the way of the cross. Come and leave your sins and burdens and cares, and know the forgiveness that comes through Jesus your Saviour.
God in his wisdom sent Jesus to save the world from sin, yours and mine included. In our Gospel lesson when Jesus asks the twelve Apostles if they wanted to leave along with the others and chase after folly, Simon Peter has a response that we know all too well. Verses 68-69 read: 68... “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” That's the response of faith, and those are words we always need to remember. Regardless of how strange some of the words of Jesus may be in the world's eyes, we know that those words are words of divine wisdom, truth, and life to us.
This morning, I opened with that story about the man who cut out all the supporting poles in his basement, because according to his own wisdom, it would be easier for him to play pool. There wouldn't be any interference from those poles; but I wonder how good his pool game would have been if he would have had to aim his cue around the wreckage of his fallen house? That's when wisdom turns to folly very quickly.
In today's world, people see Christ and his Church as an inconvenience too. It interferes with their weekend, with their plans, or with their sleep on Sunday morning. They have better things to do. They feel that their time is their own to do with as they wish.
The problem is, that a person's time is not their own. The days are numbered. And when that time on earth is done, eternity continues. God's wisdom tells us to eat and drink of Jesus through faith. Jesus has the words of eternal life. There is nobody else to turn to or to run to.
Our life on this earth is not an easy one. There will be sorrow, grief, disappointment, heartache, pain, and suffering. That's the reality of human existence, and we cannot run away from it. Our only hope is to turn to Jesus, the one who will indeed see us through whatever we might face. Through faith in him, our forgiveness has been won and our eternity is guaranteed. The way of the cross is indeed the path of wisdom; and the words of our Saviour Jesus Christ are words to the wise.