Something Bigger 

Sunday, July 5, 2020
Intern Teleen Saunders

 Proverbs 1:1-7

Yesterday we celebrated the Fourth of July, the day on which the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence in which Thomas Jefferson famously asserts: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Now, we all know, the interpretation of this statement has evolved over time.  Civil liberties guaranteed in the US Constitution are slowly opening for those of us who are not white skinned, landowning, and male.  But this statement has been a guiding principle for the past 244 years.  The Fourth of July marks a national holiday where we usually celebrate with picnics, fireworks, and great deals on new mattresses.  But many historians point to another day March 4, 1789.  You see, on this day, John Adams was inaugurated as the second President of the United States of America.  On this day, George Washington relinquished his position of power and returned home.

This peaceful transition of power meant that our country was a true democracy.  George Washington understood that the United States Constitution was bigger than any one person and the future of our country depended upon honoring its ideals.

Our scripture reading for today follows in a similar vein.  The writers of the book of Proverbs want us to know that there is something is bigger than us.  They are inviting us to look outside of ourselves, to humble ourselves, and to acknowledge that our future, as a collected people of faith, depends on something bigger.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Now there are many people out there, maybe even you, who agree with Karl Marx calling religion “the opium of the people.” Or with one of Minnesota’s former governors who said, “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people.”[1]  I respectfully disagree, and not just because Lutherans make good coffee or have good choirs.  I disagree because when we are so preoccupied with our own ideas, thoughts, and experiences, we miss out on the wisdom of the world.  We are done.  We are limited in our understanding that something more is out there, beyond the purview of our own imagination, something bigger than us.

There are many examples of heightened ideals.  Marriage vows, codes of honor, a vow of sobriety, and even a guarantee with a handshake (although not during a pandemic) are all examples of us striving for an ideal, something bigger than ourselves.   These things should not be taken lightly as they mark our character and guide our lives.

As people of God, we are invited into a new way of understanding who we are and how live.  The Word of God is a gift given by the ultimate something bigger, the God of the Trinity, to mark our character and guide our lives.  As our scripture says,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”

What does this mean, “the fear of the LORD”?  First of all, it means realizing that God is God and we are not. “It’s acknowledging the power that called the universe into being, that scattered the stars in space, and that sustains the world every moment of every day.”[2]

It’s confessing that there is something bigger than us. And when we acknowledge something bigger, something outside of ourselves, then we are open to wisdom.  And the wisdom of God is not a weakness at all.  Rather, the wisdom of God is freeing, humbling and empowering.

God’s wisdom starts with freedom in that we are not coerced into believing.  Our all loving, all powerful God gives us freedom to engage in a faithful relationship with the Trinity, or not.  We are loved either way.  Of course, choosing not to live in the community of Christ is only denying the wisdom of scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  But it is not my place to judge another’s spiritual journey.  Which brings me to my next point.  The wisdom of God is humbling.

Some say the three hardest words to declare are, “I love you.”  I disagree.  The three hardest words for me are, “I was wrong.”  When I was a little girl in the 1970s, my parents would go out for a date night every Tuesday evening and leave my brother and I at home with a babysitter.  I think it was the easiest job because our babysitter would just sit and do homework while my brother and I watched our usual Tuesday night television lineup:  Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.  There was a character on Happy Days played by Henry Winkler affectionately named “Fonzie”.  He was really cool.  He rode a motorcycle, his hair was always perfect, and he could start the juke box with one perfect hit of his fist.   The one thing he couldn’t do was apologize.  He couldn’t humble himself to say those three words.  “I was wrong.”  I get it.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to admit that we are anything but perfect.  But when we humble ourselves to the Lord, we are saying exactly that.  There is something bigger, something better. God’s way is better than our way and God will always listen when we humbly confess that we are wrong; giving us strength and courage to try again.

Finally, the wisdom of God is empowering.  What we find when we bend our knee to the Trinity, is a paradox.  It is through our humility that God builds strength.  It is through our vulnerable brokenness that God grants guidance and power.  And it is through death that we find resurrection.  Brothers, sisters, and siblings in Christ, living into our something bigger, the sacred, the God of the universe is never a weakness.  Only fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The fear of the LORD is only the beginning of wisdom.  For the God of the Universe continually invites us into this wisdom to humbly ask, “Where will you take me today?”  We, like our Constitution are evolving.  We are a work in progress.  Let us lean into God’s almighty wisdom as we grow in knowledge, learning, and prudence.  This is true strength.  This is something bigger.



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