Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/23/12 Sermon



How many of you ever watched the television show Get Smart?

It was actually made into a movie a few years ago for some of you are too young to remember the original TV show. 

The show was a comedic parody of the popular secret agent genres in particular the James Bond movie character. 

Maxwell Smart was clumsy, very naive and made frequent verbal gaffes.

Most of the people Smart encountered saw him as incompetent idiot who was anything but smart. 

Getting Smart was actually getting ignorance.

Of course parody’s like this show are a false imitation of what is true.

And that’s what we see James speak about in our scripture today.
He speaks to two different kinds of wisdom. One is true wisdom (the wisdom from heaven; from God) and the other is a cheap parody, the world’s way of wisdom which is a false imitation of the true wisdom.
James goes on to tell the difference between the two:
The false parody of wisdom is a wisdom that is ego-driven, self-gratifying, envious and ambitious often at the expense of others.

It’s the wisdom that the world calls us to and we often fall for; where we see wisdom as something to aspire and achieve.

The parody of true wisdom means you are smarter than others and it shows in your cleverness, and an elitist mentality. Wisdom is associated to those who have more wealth, or more talent or more power.
The world’s wisdom is hierarchical.

But in the Gospel text of today’s lectionary from Mark chapter 9, Jesus speaks to this hierarchical worldly way.

In vs. 35 Jesus told the disciples who were arguing about who was the greatest that in the kingdom of God whoever wants to be first must be last and a servant of all.
You see, this false worldly cheap imitation of true wisdom is self-centered. It covets what others have.

And of course our culture seduces us to want this kind of wisdom. It calls us to crave brand name clothing or the latest technology, cars, houses, jobs, lifestyles.

And it also calls us to prove and achieve: Individualism and self-sufficiency. The wise are independent and strong.

As a result people are busy, running around trying to prove ourselves and show our own strength, trying to show that we work harder than others.

We’ve fallen for the world’s enticement that if you don’t work extra hard then you’re ignorant and lazy. 

And as a result what we see are people who are always ready to argue and fight.

We’re like a kettle of water that’s boiling inside and we’re trying not to let it go off.

James says in chapter 4 verse 1:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. 

Evelyn Underhill in her book The Spiritual Life writes Fuss and feverishness, anxiety, intensity, intolerance, instability, pessimism and wobble, and every kind of hurry and worry--these, even on the highest levels, are signs of the self-made and self-acting soul.

At the heart of many of us is a war that is going on. We’re frustrated; consumed by dissension and impatience and a venomous attitude.

And it’s happening because we’re following after the parody; the imitation of true wisdom.

But what is the true wisdom from above. What does it mean to truly GET SMART?

Well James describes the true wisdom from heaven as deeds done in humility (vs.13), adding that true wisdom is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, willing to yield, full of mercy, and sincere.

True wisdom has a different action to it. Instead of being self-acting, it’s God-acting which means that everything we do and say is 180 degrees opposite of trying to be first, of trying to get ahead, to be great, to be better.

True wisdom is acted out selflessly not selfishly.

And when we live our lives with this God-centered purpose we find peace, gentleness, and serenity in our souls.

And this then shows in our relationships with others.
Now it’s one thing to say we need to be humble and pure, peace-loving and considerate and selfless and then actually living it out.

A lot of us are trying to do that. But again we find ourselves like the kettle of hot water that’s just ready to go off.

All of our trying and holding back our tongues and yielding and forgiving can often lead us to be a ticking time bomb.
So how do we truly live out the Smart way; the wise way of heaven?
Well James says something in the 7th and 8th verses that gives us more direction on how to Get Smart and live the ways of true wisdom.
He says Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
Now as we look at that statement we need to ask ourselves if this is the way we’re living our lives.

First of all do we submit ourselves to God? Have we yielded to his ways or are we still trying to do it our way…………

The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance.
Immediately he told his signalman to send a message" "Alter your course 10 degrees south." Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north."

The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am the captain!"

Soon another message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am seaman third class Jones."

Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a battleship." Then the reply came "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a lighthouse."

You know many of us struggle living out the truly wise way of living because we’ve not submitted our lives to God.

We’ve fallen for the false wisdom that encourages us to be self-made men and women who are determined to do it our way.
We want God to yield to us and our plans. We want to fit God in to when He’s convenient to us.

And as a result we have this division within us; this battle as James says and it shows in our relationships with others.

So ask yourself today if you’ve completely submitted yourself to him.

To truly Get Smart we need to live a life where God is ALWAYS in charge, where His will is our will. When that happens there is a peace in our soul and that peace flows out to others around us.

Now the second thing James said is that we need to resist the devil.
Now as we discussed last week James talks a lot about the power of the tongue and how it can be a restless evil full of poison.
He reminds us of our responsibility to restrain it and control it.
So often our tongues cause damage in our normal everyday conversations.

There are always those temptations to express evil thoughts, or to be self-serving in our words.

Under the cloak of good-will there seeps in condemnation and judging.

And at the root of this is again buying into the world’s way of wisdom where we are trying to rise over others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his famous book Life Together says that we scrutinize, judge, condemn and put people in their place so that we can gain ascendency over them. 

But when we Get Smart and live for true wisdom we resist this temptation by learning to restrain our speech, or even better, we turn our words into words of mercy and grace.

In doing so we are free from thinking that God made people for us to trash and ascend over and instead look for the goodness of the Creator within them.

Have you ever noticed that when you’ve either spoken bad about someone or been a part of it with another that afterwards you feel less than pure?

But when we resist and turn away from this we maintain a pureness that James says we are to seek first.

So ask yourself, am I resisting the temptation of the devil to be wiser and better than others in how I speak and how I act? Am I maintaining purity by always looking for the goodness in others?

When we truly learn to Get Smart we seek purity in our soul and as a result we are transformed into peace-loving, considerate and merciful people filled with the grace we’ve been given………………..

Now this last thing that James says in verse 8 is also a very important part in being truly wise.

Again James says we need to come near to God and He will come near to us.

You know many of us are living unwisely because we’re so busy that we don’t make drawing near to God a priority.

Again we’re too busy self-acting instead of putting God and God’s ways first in our lives.

And as a result we’re like the tea kettle ready to explode on others at any moment.

I myself can get so busy doing things, relying on my own strength, not saying no to others that I put off spending time with God first and foremost.
And when that happens I get frustrated and impatient with people.
And that’s my fault; not theirs.

But when we intentionally put coming near to God as the top priority in our life daily, we find that God will heal us and give us peace and serenity.

When we take this time first and foremost we are opening a space for God to come and give us the salve of serenity and peace.
I recently read an article from the Weavings publication that Howard Keeley shared with me that was titled “Natural Medicine written by Gayle Boss.

In the article, Gayle spoke about the need for us to not only spend time in scripture and in prayer but also to spend time with God in Nature.

She referred to a poem written by Mary Oliver titled Terns---- terns are of course a type of sea bird.
In the poem Oliver says that when one is watching the terns with great devotion, that it may not be the perfect prayer but it must be close.

She says that when you watch them, the sorrow whose name is doubt is subdued and not thru the weaponry of reason but of pure submission.

She adds that as you watch them you find that for hours you cannot even remember the questions that weigh so in your mind.

Boss says that in this kind of submission, we are opening up a space for God to deliver a comfort pure and simple; a medicine that is absorbed by the senses that bypasses our intellect and goes straight to the wound in heart and soul.

When you and I truly Get Smart, we put drawing close to God at the top priority in our lives.

Because as we do, God comes to us and fills us with serenity and peace; a pureness and a grace that is patient and gentle with ourselves and with others.
So ask yourself today, Am I coming close to God as a top priority each day that He may close to me?

Am I receiving that natural medicine, that salve of grace that stills the battle inside of us and transforms us into people of mercy?

If you want to be truly wise, you will not put it off---you will draw near to God.
In closing this morning, we’re being reminded that there are two kinds of wisdom. One is true and the other is a parody. We have a choice.  

The wise are those who submit to God, who resist temptations and who draw near to God that He might draw near to them.

Today James is calling you and me to commit our lives to be truly wise by having a deeper discipleship with God in order that our discipleship then changes the world in ways that are kind, generous, and good.

So today let’s submit ourselves to God----let’s let God have us.

Let’s draw near to Him that that He might make us pure and give us peace and grace to see goodness in all the people we come in contact with each and every day.
There is a wiser way to live. It is a way that you will find great joy and great peace
The question to all of us is whether we want to Get Smart.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen