“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We just sang that line several times as the refrain to our Psalm, and it’s a good motto for us this morning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
This morning’s Psalm takes us through the deeds of God and the character of God, both things we constantly need to refresh our memory of to have any hope of real wisdom. This is especially true in times of grief, or crisis, or change. It’s true when a beloved parishioner dies. It’s true when there’s a fire in the attic of your church’s rectory. It’s true when you’re on the threshold of a new year of ministry. You and I constantly need to keep going back to the beginning of wisdom, to the very place the Psalm points us today -- God’s deeds, God’s character. That’s where we get both the strength to go forward and the wisdom to know where to go. We look at him and say: What has God done? What is God like?
What we’re often tempted to do, as human beings, is to look at ourselves instead. Our own shock, or our sense of loss, or our habits of self-preoccupation, may loom so large that it’s hard to look over their shoulders and see God. I know I felt like that as I drove over here on Tuesday night, long before it became clear that the fire department was going to save our building. Once I got out there, though -- standing over in West Side Park, freezing in my gym clothes, watching the first responders do their heroic work, with some of you who came by and a lot of bystanders and a lot of media -- those feelings changed. I looked over the shoulders of my fear and shock, and I saw the deeds and the character of God, and I remembered who I belong to, who Emmanuel belongs to, and who is in control of the universe.
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from
now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and
those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who
rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though
they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though
they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There was a book that I read in high school that I wouldn’t necessarily
recommend now, but was nevertheless formative for me then. It was Francis
Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? and it is that title question which has
stuck with me over the years. “How should we then live?” The question is not
a random curiosity, but comes as a response to a specific event. Something has
happened, so what do we do now ? Seriously, you can think of the entire
existence and experience of the Church across the ages as amounting to one,
big, “now what?” in light of the mystery of faith: Christ has died. Christ is
risen. Christ will come again.
“Now, O Lord, take our lips and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for You, Lord Jesus. Amen.”
Thank you for the opportunity to preach in the kick-off of the celebration of the Emmanuel’s centennial. Amy and I have been a part of this community since the late 80’s and we sometimes like to look at it as if we have been ‘on loan’ twice, most recently for a long deployment in Wisconsin. I know my bishop might look at it another way, but..
I am currently serving as the Deacon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church a small church in Watertown and at St. Francis, House the University of Wisconsin Student Ministry. Amy is supporting me in those ministries and has her own ministries at Good Shephard Episcopal Church in Sun Prairie.
When I was writing to Mother Beth about coming down to Champaign, I thanked her for the opportunity to return to our spiritual home – here. Through our experiences we have seen things greater than we could have imagined.
This community of disciples has shaped my family and me over the years and we are glad to be back to celebrate this anniversary with you.
Four words: “Once upon a time.” Once upon a time. It doesn’t even have to be those exact four words. It could be “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.” Or it could be "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Whatever the words, they signal us that an epic tale is about to begin. Once upon a time… and we’re off and running. Human beings are hardwired for stories. We have told them to each other for centuries, around campfires and at bedtime, in families and among friends. Our need for stories is so persistent that even though only about 8% of published books are fiction, fiction accounts for 23% of all book sales. Our attraction to stories is so strong that it can be exploited by misleading memes that imply some scandalous narrative that never happened. Our love for stories is such that even when we’ve read them or binge-watched them once already, we go back and do it all over again.
Welcome to the 7th day of Christmas! Personally I am so glad we have these twelve days to celebrate our Lord’s birth! Now in the church, as in the season of Advent, we are out of sync with the popular culture. For us, the season of waiting and spiritually preparing has ended and the glorious festivity that began on Dec. 25 continues. While in the culture outside of the church the celebration culminates on Christmas day, for us it does not. I hope that you have had, and are continuing to have, a nice Christmas season spent with friends, family or in quiet moments by yourself. For a brief time this morning, I ask you to reflect on what this celebration is all about. What do we remember and for what do we give thanks in these 12 days of Christmastide? What is the origin and foundation of our joy?
Now I do realize that for some of us, probably more than we might realize, the month of December also brings its moments of sadness; not everything is jovial. Life circumstances may be such that this is not a happy time and our sadness may be deepened by realizing how out of step we are with others around us. So, perhaps today some of us may be in the place to reflect on that sadness and think about the question of what is the root and origin of those feelings too? This particular holiday time holds some bittersweet memories for us all.