Dear beloved of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ, Amen.
As I was working my way through today’s text from the book of Ephesians, two words stood out to me: Wisdom and revelation.
A number of years ago, I think when I was still in seminary, I was invited to preach at my home congregation. I was fresh out of the first or second year of preaching courses, so I’d had maybe preached a total of four sermons. Anyway, I was in the back of the sanctuary after worship, greeting people as pastors do, and a retired pastor who was a member of the congregation came up to me and said, “You’re going to be a good preacher someday.”
Now, in retrospect, I think he was trying to offer words of encouragement, as someone who had been where I was going. But at the time all I heard was, wow you’ve got a long way to go kid.
If recollection serves me, I’m pretty sure I looked at him and said, “thanks for the backhanded compliment.” It wasn’t my best moment.
Wisdom can manifest itself in a variety of ways. But the wise person is usually able to figure out what is really going on. Through a mix of experience, knowledge and sound judgment, the wise person is usually able to discern what the right choice is in any situation and act accordingly.
The longer I’ve been at this preaching and pastoring thing, the clearer it becomes how little I knew when I started and how much I still have to learn.
Which is why I find it so fascinating that the author of this letter to the Ephesians prays that would grant this community a spirit of wisdom and revelation. To be in relationship with this God who is at work in Jesus Christ demands that we are both conversant in what has come before us, the powerful ways in which God has acted in the past, and that we must be open to the new ways that God is continuing to reveal God’s own self to us even today.
Wisdom and revelation are essential partners that both ground us in who we are and help move us into God’s future. At Bethlehem, we’ve articulated the way that we’ve been rooted in God’s wisdom through our values. These God-given values have shaped and formed our work together for 125 years.
There are three core values that guide our work together. First, we have unity in Christ. Though there are many things in this life that threaten to divide us, though we disagree and argue about important issues, we believe that we are bound together in Jesus. We believe that we exist for others in need. We are called to care for those who are vulnerable and who suffer.
This has informed the way this congregation has participated in our community both locally and globally. It has motivated the people of this congregation to do things like start hospitals here in the Twin Cities, support children and schools in India, and begin to imagine ways that the church can support those who are living with mental illness.
We are also committed to sharing the gospel in a variety of contexts. We recognize that we’ve been entrusted with an amazing gift, the story and the life of Jesus. We believe that when we enter into meaningful relationships in a variety of contexts that story becomes a more complete picture of the life that God intends for all of us. When we share in life together, we are truly sharing the fullness of the gospel.
These values, unity in Christ, caring for others in need, and sharing the gospel in a variety of contexts, are the deep well of wisdom that God has blessed this congregation with. But God is calling us to bring that wisdom into conversation with the new ways that God is revealing God’s self to be at work in this world right now.
We are living through a divisive time. How’s that for an understatement? We talk about enemies more than we used to. The gulf between people who disagree is ever-expanding. People and countries who used to collaborate are now combative. What do we as a church, who believe that we belong together and that God’s love is for all people, have to say to the world we are living in?
What do we as a church, who have continually found new ways to care for those in need, do when the world is experiencing a crisis of displaced people? What do we as a church when more people than ever are looking for a safe place to call home? What do we as a church do when the planet that we’ve been given to steward and care for is hurting.
How will we respond to the needs of this place that God has entrusted to our care?
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
It’s together, and only together, that we can draw on the deep wisdom of God to address the challenges of today.
It’s together, and only together, that we be the body of Christ in this world, God’s very presence among us, now and forever. Amen.