For St Peter’s Lutheran Church
1 Kings 3:4-15
O God, we give you thanks because,
in the carnation of the Word,
a new light has dawned upon the world,
that all the nations and peoples may be brought out of darkness
to see the radiance of your glory. Amen.
Happy New Year to my St Peter’s family! It is lovely to be with you this morning from across the pond. Would have been lovelier if I had actually been able to be with you in person as I had hoped up until a few weeks ago!
None of us can be too certain about what 2021 holds – we are only three days in after all. On New Year’s Day 2020 I posted this quote from Beth Moore on Facebook: ‘We have no idea what the coming year holds but this I can promise you based on the unsurpassed authority of Scripture: our God’s going to be faithful. He’s going to be good. He’s going to love us and be our light in the darkness. He’s going to keep His word. He cannot do otherwise.’
This is still very much true as we head into 2021. Many of us have no idea what is coming. I have decided to only use a pencil when putting things on the calendar! We can be sure that God will be faithful, He is going to love us, He will be our light and He will keep his word. Amen!
So where do we start at the beginning of this new and uncertain year? Let’s start with the basics. Many people have learned a lot over the past year, we have learned new ways of doing things, new technology, what we can and can’t live without. We might have learned where our limits are – so many people have been pushed right to the edge of theirs. Some people have never been busier in their lives, others have never been so bored. Some have discovered new activities and hobbies; others have barely made it through each live long day. Some haven’t made it at all.
We need to do something with all this learning. There are a few golden threads running through the readings this morning and we will pull on a few of them. Wisdom is the overarching theme; where and how do we get it? I suggest this morning that we Be like Solomon, Be like Jesus and Be like Mary.
Be like Solomon! Thank you to Pastor Paul for his excellent summary of 1 Kings from his reading. Wisdom comes through asking. As one favourite preacher of mine puts it ‘Go to the throne before you go to the phone. Or Facebook, Twitter, Insta, etc. Much bad advice abounds! I fondly remember a young homeless man when I lived in London. He would sit on the floor in the Tube station on a pile of old sleeping bags. He held up a cardboard sign that said ‘£1 for bad advice’. It was funny and he made some good money, but it was undeniably sad too. Bad advice abounds.
Solomon had it all, he came from a good family, he was likely attractive, rich, intelligent, established a kingdom. Yet, he was smart enough to know what he was lacking. Solomon had been given immense responsibility and power, well beyond his great ability. Solomon wanted an understanding mind to govern his people. Now you might be tempted to think, ‘Oh, if only our politicians had God-given, understanding minds!’ Before you go about calling the kettle black – honestly – how much God-given understanding do you currently have?
In asking for an understanding mind, God blessed Solomon with much more. Solomon sought God, he didn’t go to his advisors, or military leaders. He went to the source of all knowledge and understanding. Solomon went to the throne before he went to the phone.
I had a call from a woman recently who wanted to meet up to talk, let’s called her Sarah. Over the last three years, Sarah has made some unwise life decisions based on some poor advice she was given. The source of the poor advice is her husband. Sarah has a Christian faith and attends a local church when she can. At the end of our first session, I asked her, if at any point she had invited God into her situation? The look on her face spoke volumes. She hadn’t. Sarah had closed this particular compartment of her life to God and was paying a price for that. We ended that first session by praying that she would ask God into her situation, seek his wisdom for the way forward. Her situation is not resolved and likely won’t be for a long-time, but her outlook is different, she has included God, and this is making a difference.
Seek God’s wisdom first, invite him into your situations where you need wisdom. Not the wisdom of the world or heaven help us, social media or even the news. Even the people we love the most and should be the closest can give bad advice. Use God’s wisdom to interpret these other things. Wisdom plays the long game, we build it up, it is collected and gathered along the journey. If you read further on into 1 Kings, Solomon starts well but he goes off course – it would be remiss of me not to tell you that. Had Solomon continued to seek God’s wisdom, the outcome may have been different.
Be like Solomon and keep asking for wisdom, for a discerning mind and heart for whatever tasks lie ahead for you this year.
Be like Jesus in the Temple! This is one of the only stories of Jesus’ childhood in the New Testament. Very little is known other than the flight to Egypt in Matthew and his Presentation in the Temple also in Luke. It is often thought that Mary was one of Luke’s sources for his gospel which makes sense given the detail of this story. As only a mother could tell!
Jesus is found in the temple, sitting and listening and then asked questions. Please notice the order in which Jesus did these things.
He sat, he listened, he asked questions.
We live in a world of noise, so much information comes at us all the time. The platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, Tik Tok, Snap Chat, What’s App, etc give everyone an opportunity to have a voice. Fair enough, we have the right to free speech. Let’s not confuse free speech with cheap speech. Rights come with responsibilities. Use your voice and your thumbs wisely. Even a small amount of time online highlights that so many people are incapable of either of these things. I hope that we have not lost the art of conversation and good disagreement permanently.
When was the last time you just sat and listened? Try it! It is good for the soul. New Year’s challenge – set a timer for 10 minutes once a day, every day this week. Sit down and invite God to speak to you. Listen for his voice. There is no magic, just a bit a discipline.
Be like Jesus at home with Mary & Joseph!
There has always been much debate over how much Jesus knew about himself. Jesus knew that day that he had to be in his Father’s house – as much as this answer confused Mary & Joseph. Jesus then went home to Nazareth and was obedient to them. As Elaine talked about in the children’s story, Jesus grew up and did things that would set him up for his later ministry.
I am not sure what your reaction is when you hear the word obedience or obey. I suspect it is not too popular. Especially in our current world situation with constantly changing rules and opinions. What and who are we to obey? Obey can have negative connotations for many people, especially if it was meant as a form of control or abuse: do as I say, not as I do.
I see obedience to God like the way I see an umbrella. I live in England and it rains a lot, year-round. A good umbrella is an essential tool of living over here. On a rainy day, when my umbrella is up, I stay dry, I can see where I am going as my head is held up, I can see the way ahead of me and walk with confidence.
Under the umbrella of obedience to God, I am protected, I have enough space to live freely within the limits of that umbrella, I don’t worry about getting wet or losing my way and I know that I am loved.
On the same rainy day, I can decide to not put the umbrella up or leave it at home. I will get wet, instinctively my head will drop to keep the rain off my face and out of my eyes. I will not fully see the way ahead. I am not protected from the rain or the wind as I have removed myself from the benefits of protection given by the umbrella.
If I decide to remove myself, either consciously or unconsciously, from the under the umbrella of obedience, I am no longer guaranteed God’s protection or blessing.
God has not moved, I have. My problem is that I don’t always want to stay under the umbrella! Even though I know it is better under it than outside of it. I used this analogy with Sarah who I mentioned earlier, and she very kindly gave me these umbrella socks for Christmas!
Are you operating under or outside the umbrella of obedience? Jesus’ obedience to his parents led to an ‘increase in wisdom and years, and in divine and human favour.’ Forget five minutes of Facebook fame or infamy in most cases, go for divine favour, human favour of the right kind.
Be like Jesus – sit, listen ask and obey.
Finally, Be like Mary! Mary is a great one for pondering and treasuring ‘all these things in her heart.’ Maybe for many 2021 will be a rebuilding year. Some things will have to be left behind and ‘going back to normal’ – whatever that means – might not happen the way we want it to or ever. Treasure what is good, leave out the rubbish that clutters up our lives – whether that is physical, emotional or mental clutter. Pondering means thinking, thinking deeply. It is a form of discipline – think and listening before we speak. Not everything we think needs to go directly from our brains to our tongues and thumbs. Don’t bypass the heart! We are going to need more heart in 2021, more wisdom, more love, more understanding, more gentleness for ourselves and each other. Ponder before you pontificate!
I will end as I began: ‘We have no idea what the coming year holds but this I can promise you based on the unsurpassed authority of Scripture: our God’s going to be faithful. He’s going to be good. He’s going to love us and be our light in the darkness. He’s going to keep His word. He cannot do otherwise.’
My prayer is that we will be like Solomon and seek God’s wisdom first; go the throne before we go to the phone.
Be like Jesus and sit, listen and then ask questions – in that order.
Be like Jesus and operate under the umbrella of obedience to God, stay dry and keep our heads up!
Be like Mary, ponder and treasure that which is good and let go of the clutter that distracts. His words are sweeter than honey.
Happy New Year! Go well and wisely into this year.