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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding Wisdom--A Sermon

Finding Wisdom
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

August 29th, 2010

Gospel of Jesus 2:27-28

Jesus said:
Ask—it’ll be given to you;
seek—you’ll find;
knock—it’ll be opened for you.
Rest assured:
everyone who asks receives;
everyone who seeks finds;
and for the one who knocks it is opened.


Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, The Gospel of Jesus (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1999), p. 19. Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10; Thomas 2:1, 92:1, 94:1-2.

Is it true?

Is it true that we will find what we seek?
That doors will be opened to us if we knock and if we ask we will receive?

I suppose it might depend where we are seeking,
at which door we are knocking,
and from whom we are asking.

Not only that.
But Jesus seems coy as to what it is we are seeking,
where we want to enter,
and the specific question we are asking.

Jesus is tricky that way.
He doesn’t spell it out.

I can think of a number of examples in my own life in which doors remained closed,
questions were not answered,
and things remained lost.

I’ll bet you can as well.

So, is it true? What is Jesus really saying?
Ask—it’ll be given to you;
seek—you’ll find;

knock—it’ll be opened for you.

Rest assured:

everyone who asks receives;

everyone who seeks finds;
and for the one who knocks it is opened.

Is it true?
Let’s ask another question.

The choir sang the song What a Wonderful World.
It was originally recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1968 in the midst of racial and political tensions and the war in Vietnam.
Here are the lyrics to the first verse:
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Is it true?

We can certainly find evidence that it is not a wonderful world.
Here are some top stories from today’s headlines:
  • A volcano erupts in Indonesia.
  • Ground beef is being recalled over E. Coli fears.
  • 17 million Pakistanis have been affected by the floods.
  • Seven U.S. troops have been killed over the weekend in Afghanistan in a war that seems surreal. Who are we fighting and why again? And…
  • Glenn Beck has positioned himself as the new leader for America’s Christians.
I’ll stop there.
And yet the song continues:
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The song has been used in a number of films such as
Good Morning Vietnam
,
Bowling for Columbine, and
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In these films it is used ironically with the soundtrack playing under scenes of bombing, violence, and in the case of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Earth exploding.
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"
Clear Channel radio added this song to the list of songs not to be played after the events of September 11th, 2001. The concern was that there would be something inappropriate about this song at that time.

But that is the point of the song, isn’t it?


I think Louis Armstrong’s song was in the spirit of Jesus.
The settings are parallel.
In the midst of crazymaking, oppression, and fear,
Jesus spouts his almost maddening, even inappropriate optimism:
Ask—it’ll be given to you;
seek—you’ll find;
knock—it’ll be opened for you.
Rest assured:
everyone who asks receives;
everyone who seeks finds;
and for the one who knocks it is opened.
He was speaking to people who never find what they seek,
who always have the door slammed in their faces,
and who are ridiculed for their questions.
Yet Jesus says it anyway.

That is the via positiva.
It is the way of awe, wonder, and trust.
The via positiva is not a spiritual path that one travels when all is rosy.
It is the path one travels when all is uncertain.

The via positiva is not a denial of the news headlines.
It is living everyday in the midst of the headlines and noticing the rainbow anyway.

It is learning to live lightly.
It is learning to float.
It is learning to survive.

In Jesus’ lifetime he knew that changes were coming.
He was preparing his followers spiritually and psychologically for these changes.
In that respect we live in a similar time.

You have to be able to live lightly.
You have to be able to float.
You have to be able to trust your instincts.
You have to trust that you will get what you need when you need it.
If you don’t get what you need, you didn’t need it.

There is no place for what
"should" be

or for entitlement
or for a desire to cling to what is slipping away.
All that causes is panic.

Ask, seek, and knock is radical trust that we will receive what we need.
The via positiva is the most important spiritual path in terms of being able to keep your wits about you.

We need to keep our wits about us because we have role to play.
We have to be the midwives for a new era that those being born today will inherit.
They will need to learn how to float and we will need to teach them even as we have no idea what we are doing or what we should be doing.
We will know in time.

We just need to remember the trust ethic:
ask,
seek,
knock.
We need to trust that we will get what we need when we need it.

The via positiva is in the midst.

In the midst of this world,
as it teeters on the precipice of change,
we have to notice that it is a wonderful world.

In the midst of angst over our children’s future,
We ask, seek, and knock and
we sing this powerful verse of trust:
I hear babies cryin',
I watch them grow

They'll learn much more than I'll ever know

And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself,
what a wonderful world


Oh yeah
Oh yeah.

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