“God’s Light and Words” – 07-27-14 – Proper 12 – Cycle A

Listen to the sermon here:

Scripture – 1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33.44-52

“Let your face shine upon your servants.” Psalm 119:135 spoken by the Psalmist in praise of the word (the law) of God.

From Psalm 119: 129,130: “Your decrees are wonderful; therefore I obey them with all my heart. When your word is opened it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

God’s mercy, truth, and light are with us before we even know to ask for them. We have the choice of accepting or rejecting them. God automatically wants the best for us. The truth may seem elusive. But it is available in God’s word. We need to search and think, search and feel, and little by little the word of God becomes very real to us.

This song by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith says it well.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.
When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way, still You’re there right beside me,
And nothing will I fear as long as You are near,
Please be near me to the end.

I will not forget Your love for me, and yet my heart forever is wandering.
Jesus, be my guide and hold me to Your side, and I will love You to the end.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Word and light! There they are – together. The light of God can come to us without our reading the Word. But the light can be brighter and longer-lasting if we delve into the Word and claim understanding gradually. Before we know what is happening the light has increased upon our lives and upon our relationship with God. Understanding and wisdom are much to be desired. The Psalmist of Psalm 119 offers this confession in verse 103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119.103

Our Old Testament scripture passage today is 1 Kings 3:5-12. King Solomon is experiencing a dream in which God asks Soloman to ask God for anything. Instead of asking for riches or land or victories or long life, Soloman asked for wisdom. Here are Solomon’s words to God in this dream: I read from the Contemporary English Version.

One night while Solomon was in Gibeon, the Lord God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Solomon, ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: My father David, your servant, was honest and did what you commanded. You were always loyal to him, and you gave him a son who is now king. Lord God, I’m your servant, and you’ve made me king in my father’s place. But I’m very young and know so little about being a leader. And now I must rule your chosen people, even though there are too many of them to count. Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to rule your people. If you don’t , there is no way I could rule this great nation of yours. God said: “Solomon, I’m pleased that you asked for this. You could have asked to live a long time or to be rich. Or you could have asked for your enemies to be destroyed. Instead, you asked for wisdom to make right decisions. So I’ll make you wiser than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live. I’ll also give you what you didn’t ask for. You’ll be rich and respected as long as you live, and you’ll be greater than any other king. If you obey me and follow my commands, as your father David did, I’ll let you live a long time.”

It seems that God’s wisdom was with Solomon even before Soloman asked for it. Soloman had the wisdom to ask for wisdom. One of these circle concepts. You know – which came first the chicken or the egg. We need wisdom to ask for clearer understanding of the Word of God. We need to do more than just read words. We need to understand or it seems like a waste of time.

We have enough wisdom to know we should be opening this Book of Wisdom. When we do open the covers, we find that we were cheating ourselves all these past years when The Book was gathering dust, almost forgotten. But oh, this book is too hard to understand. So the wise action to take is to look for a sentence that makes sense. Then look for another sentence that makes sense. Then we find a sentence that is a bit puzzling but not too intimidating. We think about it as we go about our work. We work backwards and read what came before. We work forwards for clues. We ask God to enlighten our minds.

If an idea in the Bible seems to be reverse thinking, we are coached to realize that God often gives advice that is opposite to our basic nature or the way we were trained to think. Do you remember the words of Jesus admonishing us to “turn the other cheek.” That sounds a bit ridiculous. But when we remember that Jesus promoted a theology of peace and reconciliation, that seemingly silly action makes sense. Who knows how happy and shining with love our world would be if we kept all weapons in the locked armory and went forth with our hand outstretched in goodwill. Who knows! The word of the Lord Jesus is full of mercy and love for each other.

Oh, that we could bring ourselves to try that approach, that reaction! Most of the religions of the world promote peace. Most religions employ the Golden Rule which we find in Matthew from our own Word of God. I do have a list somewhere of the many different versions of the Golden Rule according to the various religions. This list is quite long. In fact, I would never have thought so many religions exist. And to think that the “Do unto others as we would have them do to us” is so widespread. Why don’t we demolish the walls separating our religions and become disciples of this philosophy: Matthew 7.12 says, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” I imagine the shining face of God if God could see all peoples gathered with this guiding, working motto.

Do our words matter to God? God’s word to us is ultra-important. Does God care how wise or how loving our words are? I think the answer is “surely;” God does care about the words that flow from our lips to him and to each other. Otherwise, why would he have made us capable of speech. We have words to praise and to pray. We have words to communicate so that people are not isolated little islands moving here and there. We have words to spread the light. We have words to speak for people who have not learned to speak.

We are warned not to use God’s name in vain. Hear this. “Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.” from Exodus 20:7. We are not to hurt each other with words. I am personally glad that our society is now bringing “bullying” into the open. Just what is bullying? Bullying, in my opinion, is anything that we do or say that makes a person feel less when our words should be lifting persons to be the best persons he and she can be; to be the persons God created him and her to be. Anything, absolutely anything, we say or do with ourselves and other people should be moving all of us to self-confidence not in ourselves but as Children of God; as the planned person in Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1. We need to watch for all people who are walking in darkness. We need to care until the light shines on each person in this world.

Fear should not be the overriding influence on anyone’s life. Fear caused by government, fear caused by human relationships, diminishes us. We cannot be focusing on work; we are in a suffocated state. We are holding our breath from fear. Our health disappears. As parents; as daughters and sons; as employees or employers; as students from nursery school through high school, and perhaps higher – our manner shrivels into a cramped ball such as a turtle or more like a snail. Going nowhere! Getting smaller, smaller, smaller. All because of words. This is darkness.

I once told my first grade students that sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us. How wrong, absolutely wrong was that advice or rather admonishment! How very, very wrong. That was before the day of enlightenment. That kind of reply because I, as a teacher, did not know how to protect, how to stop, this piercing behavior from a child who had a long way to go to become kind. Darkness!

Children and adults who have grown up with unkind parents and other adults, don’t know how else to behave. We need to be models. We need to rid ourselves of the attitude that what we are doing will not hurt anyone else. No action goes unnoticed. Good examples are what the world needs. The big world, our town, our family, our Sunday School students, our public school students need the spread of good words, the spread of kindness, gentleness, patience, looking for the good in a situation, thanking God for God’s help in the situation. This is light!

Holy God, loving God and God of wisdom and kind words and light, Help us to know and understand your word. You, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, inspire us and guide us and call us to yourself. Let us emulate Solomon when he asked for wisdom above power, wisdom above wealth, wisdom above asking for enemies to be punished. Also, may we find ourselves transformed with abundant kindness, gentleness and pure love for you and for each other.

Holy God, help us to claim the words of Isaiah 9:2: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.

May you, God of Light, shine your face upon us and grant us your peace! Amen