Sermon – Pentecost 18 – September 23, 2018
James 3:13-18 ‘God First’
CT: Jesus is God’s wisdom for us through whom we come to trust in God’s Word and are made wise for salvation.
Intro: I think most of us remember Disney’s movie, ‘Aladdin’. There was the big blue genie sporting Robin William’s voice, who would give the person holding his lamp 3 wishes. In the end Aladdin is left with only one wish and he used it to set the genie free. What would you wish for if God opened up the whole world before you and told you to take whatever you wanted, but only one thing? That could leave you trying to sort out your priorities. Would it be good health, a long life, money, or fame? Would you even think of giving it all up for the sake of another person’s need?
Understanding: Think back to King Solomon’s dilemma when God came and said, “Ask what I shall give you?” The skies the limit! But Solomon replied, “Give your servant an understanding mind to govern Your people that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this Your great people.” Solomon asked for wisdom! It wasn’t that Solomon was asking for a whole whack of information or to be an expert on many topics. You can have all the facts in the world and still make bad decisions. Wisdom is about having the discernment to sort through the information to get to the truth; to make good decisions. Like the time Solomon was asked to adjudicate between two mothers who both claimed a baby to be theirs. Solomon called for a sword and offered to cut the baby in half for them. One of the women agreed to it, but the other gave up her claim on the baby that the child might live. The real mother was revealed by her heart and actions.
Wisdom’s Beginning: Much of the ‘Wisdom Literature’ in the Bible is attributed to Solomon; ‘Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs’. And in those writings you’ll find the declaration that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. That’s first commandment stuff. “You shall have no other gods before me!” Wisdom begins with a deep understanding of who God is and what your relationship to Him is. Luther explained the 1st commandment this way: “This means we should fear, love, and trust God above all things.” The meekness of wisdom puts your relationship to God through Jesus Christ above all things.
Meekness: Our world places great stock in people who are bold, clever, and commanding, whereas the lowly and gentle of heart are so often overlooked as nobody of any importance. Many of the powerful people of the world regard religion as a sign of weakness, and faith in Jesus as believing in a myth; foolishness. Yet as James so firmly put it, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He’s quoting the Proverbs (3:34); Solomon! And the psalmist says, “Only a fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Wisdom in meekness accepts God at His word without argument, and receives His dealings with us in the same spirit for nothing happens to you or me apart from God’s purview. Yes, even the stuff we don’t like.
It is wise to draw near to God in repentance while He may be found; He will hear your prayer and draw near to you (“A contrite heart He will not despise” Psalm 51), and will purify your hearts and minds—your attitudes and actions with repentance and forgiveness. Wisdom understands your relationship to God; your dire need for His forgiveness, and from this honest, but humbling place of need, He will lift you up, renew you, and ready you for a life of service to others. This is the beginning of wisdom; it goes way beyond admitting to some general idea of God out there somewhere. It is knowing God as the God who cares, who forgives, who loves you so much to send His only Son to take away the sins of the world—to affect salvation for us, who sends the Holy Spirit to call you and keep you in faith, believing in the God who draws close to you today through Word and Sacrament.
Cross Wisdom: Such wisdom does not come naturally to us; it’s given: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Such wisdom eluded the disciples who went from being reminded that everything they were given to do was totally dependent on God, to fear and misunderstanding over Jesus’ words about His death, to arguing with each other over who was the greatest. Oh, how we too can be so unwise when it comes to how we deal with one another!
In the meekness of wisdom Jesus, true God, took on human flesh in Mary’s womb. In true meekness and service to you and me, He allowed Himself to be delivered into the hands of sinful men and was killed and rose again after 3 days. This is the wisdom of the cross that makes you and me wise unto salvation. The more you know of God’s actions for you the deeper He draws you into a relationship of love with Him, strengthening your faith, assuring you of forgiveness, and cleansing your consciences to go and live for Him.
Trust: This wisdom of the cross trusts in the promises God made to you at your Baptism; that even though you and I sin daily and disappoint God, He will not toss you aside. He has promised to never give up on you because He has claimed you as His own. Because true wisdom sees me for who I am, and how richly Christ has met my every need, I can see that every child of God, no matter how small, no matter how battered by sin, represents Jesus and the Father who sent Him. Like me you too need forgiveness; your salvation is also dependent on grace.
The bottom line is that the true wisdom comes from above bringing us into an eternal relationship with God. Such wisdom reduces all our earthly attempts at knowing God to nothing, while through the foolishness of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, He makes us wise to fear, love and trust God above all things, and to know Jesus as not only the Saviour, but my Saviour and yours.