(1 Corinthians 2: 6-16)
Teresa and I enjoy watching the tv program The Waltons. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s about the life and trials of a 1930s and 40s Virginia mountain family through the financial depression and World War II. Zeb is the kindly and wise grandfather full of sage advice and wisdom. Esther is the matriarchal grandmother who is vey rigid in her ways and rarely misses an opportunity to express her opinion. Libby is the mother of the seven children and is the glue that holds the family together. John Boy is the oldest and is an aspiring writer who sees the deeper meaning in everything. Mary Ellen is the bossy oldest daughter who tries to mother-smother all the other kids. Jason is the next oldest and seems to have a good head on his shoulders seeing things with clarity. Erin is the next oldest girl and possesses a good moral conscience and firm sense of right and wrong. Then we have Ben and Jim Bob. Ben is everyone’s friend, a person you can count on to help out in a pinch. Jim Bob is goofy and a dreamer who dreams of racing cars and flying airplanes, a glass half-full guy. Elizabeth is the youngest with a child-like curiosity and asks the tough questions everyone else avoids asking. That leaves John Walton, the father who works very hard to support the family. One of the points of contention is that the whole family goes to church every Sunday with the exception of John. He was raised in church and you can bet his mother, Ester, made sure he never missed a Sunday. And you can tell it bothers Libby, his wife, that he stays home on Sunday mornings and I’m sure the kids have asked her on numerous occasions why they have to go to church when daddy doesn’t. John has basically told his family that church just doesn’t do anything for him and that he connects with God on the mountain. For a lot of pastors, this is like saying you had a bad experience with church once and aren’t into organized religion. An excuse, a cop-out. But we never know what he does on Sunday mornings as the family goes to church. Well you can bet he’s not reading the paper or watching football. I’d be willing to bet he goes out for a walk in the woods to his favorite spot where he just sits and enjoys the peace and quiet, something he probably doesn’t get when the other ten family members are home. He sits under the bright blue sky, feels the warmth of the sun on his face and breathes in the clear, pure mountain air and thanks God for just being and counts his many blessings who are all in church singing four-part harmony.
And that’s where I think we are in our scripture reading for this morning. The Apostle Paul is talking about a wisdom revealed to us by God. He says, we speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, he says, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. He says that none of the rulers of this age understand it because, if they did, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory. Paul tells us that this knowledge, this wisdom, has been revealed to us by his Spirit. He says that the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. He tells us that no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. It’s through this Spirit of God that we may understand what God has freely given us. Paul explains; This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. This is what John Walton was searching for on the mountain. Not that wisdom taught by human words, but that wisdom taught by the Spirit expressed in spiritual truths and in spiritual words, quietly and intimately.
So, the issue is spirituality, how do we get it, and how do we help others obtain it? Spirituality is connecting with God. Again, you’ve heard people say they’ve tried church and it just didn’t work for them, and they got more out of alone time where they connected to God. Without argument, many of us make that connection on Sunday morning when we gather to worship and praise God. We try to create a worshipful environment where people feel comfortable letting their guard down opening themselves up to receiving the Holy Spirit in the fellowship of believers.
So, what people are describing when they say they connect with God in their quiet place is called “Resting in God.” It’s where you allow your mind to empty of thoughts so you can enter your own resounding silence, a state from which you gain deep refreshment. For me, it’s my chair by the fire, reading the Upper Room, watching the sun rise and enjoying the hummingbirds as they buzz around the feeder getting their breakfast. And, other times, its when I first get to work and sit in the dark quiet of the sanctuary. On Monday mornings you can still feel the excitement of the previous day. You just empty your mind and don’t say a thing. You don’t even pray. You just sit quietly and let God in. Experiencing the silence within is like opening a hidden door to the soul where you let go of the things that block communication with God. You let go and let God. Even Jesus treasured his quiet time. When he was troubled, he didn’t go to the temple or the synagogue. In Matthew 14, after he fed the 5,000, he dismissed the crowd and went up on a mountainside to pray. In Luke 22, he went to the garden on the Mount of Olives as was his usual practice. And in Mark 14, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane where he lamented that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death as his trial and crucifixion neared.
A book I’m currently reading; Walking a Sacred Path, describes two kinds of people walking the earth, the tourist and the pilgrim. A tourist takes pictures where a pilgrim may also take pictures, but they go farther, they sit and meditate, some kneel in prayer, some light candles. The pilgrim participates where the tourist observes. The tourist comes with an interested eye, the pilgrim comes with a searching heart, which makes all the difference in the world. So, what are modern-day pilgrims searching for? We’re searching for healing. We want to be co-creators with Divine forces, and we want self-knowledge. The author says that spiritual restlessness is rampant because many of us feel that we are not using our gifts. We long to contribute creatively to our society, to help heal the planet. There is a desire within each person to create and contribute in a way that gives satisfaction. Our mission effort and how we positively impact our community immediately comes to my mind. This is the longing for co-creation, the search for wholeness through service. This is the essence of spiritual transformation where our work in the world, in our community, becomes a Holy Act. The modern pilgrim seeks a passionate connection to his or her individual gifts, and the grace to use them to better human kind.
The author reminds us that the path of life is not easy, and we do make mistakes. But few, if any, are beyond the mercy of God. This is probably one of the many conversations John Walton had on the mountain with God when he talked about how hard it was raising a family during the Great Depression because it was tough and he probably worried about making mistakes that would hurt his family, but God assured him it was alright. We have to remember that losing our way in life is not only a possibility, it is an experience that is part of the spiritual path. We often do not realize that the way of God is generous, and error is part of this journey. As soon as we become conscious that we are lost, we have found our way again. This is what that quiet time does for us. It centers us and gets us back on an even keel.
God’s plan, however, is still hidden to unbelievers because they either refuse to accept it, choose to ignore it, or simply haven’t heard about it. For us, knowing the wonderful and eternal future that awaits us gives us the hope and courage to press on in this life, to endure hardship, and to avoid giving in to temptation. The world is not all there is. The best is yet to come.
The spiritual discernment we get from our quiet times with the Spirit enables us to draw conclusions based on God’s perspective, make wise decisions in difficult circumstances, and recognize the activities of God’s spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we can begin to know God’s thoughts, talk with him, and expect his answers to our prayers. Are you spending enough time with Christ to have his very mind in you? That intimate relationship with Christ comes only from spending time consistently in his presence and in his Word. Ask God to give you his discernment as you serve him. Let that discernment guide you in your daily walk after you have spent your quiet time on your own Walton’s mountain connecting with God and knowing Him as He would have you know Him.
Let us pray.
Most gracious and loving God, come to us in our times of quiet and silence. Speak to us through your Spirit who walks with us and talks with us as we search for the meaning in our lives as we strive to live lives of meaning and purpose. Open our ears so we may hear the voice that discloses to us the wisdom that is hidden from those who live in the world, that wisdom you destined for our glory before time began. Open our minds and our hearts to receive the wisdom of the spirit expressed in spiritual truths and spiritual words. Move us as your people to carry your spirit to those who are seeking and searching for the peace of mind that a life in you brings. In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.