Aged Sages of Biblical Renown: Solomon – The Wisest of Them All
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 1: 7 – 12a
- Prelude – “Jesus Shall Reign,” by John Hatton; Pauline Olsen, Organist
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 2220 – “We Are God’s People,” by Bryan Jeffery Leech; Stacey Fradkin, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Special music – “I Believe,” by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, and Al Stillman; Stacey Fradkin, vocalist, Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Scripture: 2 Chronicles 1: 7 – 12a – Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Sermon – “Aged Sages of Biblical Renown: Solomon – The Wisest of Them All,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 140 – “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” by Thomas O. Chisholm; Stacey Fradkin, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Postlude – “Come, All Christians to Humble Service,” arr. Jeff Bennett; Pauline Olsen, organist
Can you imagine growing up with someone as famous as King David, the king of Israel, and being an only royal child in 1000 BCE? As an only child you’d have everything you ever wanted, probably spoiled beyond reason, hardly ever saw either your mother or father, had servants at your disposal any time day and night to your bidding. As you grew up, I can imagine that it got tougher to find any sort of normalcy. How does anyone like the son of a king have friends? They can’t. I can’t imagine how lonely it would have been, or how any of us might respond. So you really have but two or three choices. Either you choose to go inward and become a kind of recluse. You could certainly turn outward and become some rich party animal. Or, you do what Solomon did. You learn everything you can from those around you. You engage the world in which you live, search for how you fit in, and engage the other aspects of life that you really haven’t seen before. You build relationships where you can, when you can, and with whom you can. Solomon chose that.
Solomon was seen as the wisest of any Biblical character. He followed his father, David, and became the next king of a united Israel. He continued the goals of his father, surrounded himself with others smarter than he was; with those who agreed with him and with those with whom he disagreed. He listened intently to both. He believed that it was important to invite relationships with others who believed differently, thought differently, worshipped differently.
He built significant partnerships with those whose kingdoms surrounded his, and knew that without God’s guidance, he would find no success. It’s that combination that made him what he was. He truly was a sage of wisdom. He was also one who studied and understood human nature, knew what to look for in those who were healthy, up against those who weren’t. He studied humanity, all aspects of it, and out of that gained even more experience and therefore more wisdom.
Solomon believed it was God who was able to take his curiosity, his reason, his life experience, and combine it with God’s hopes and expectations. The relationship between his experiences and God’s direction provided him everything he needed; everything to do what was right, what was just, and what was appropriate. The relationship was intimate and powerful. Solomon listened intently to God and God spoke intentionally to Solomon. So when God asked him to build a Temple, Solomon agreed. When God got specific with how the Temple was to be laid out, Solomon then knew exactly what God wanted. But what God did not offer was exactly how to go about building the Temple. It was Solomon who utilized his experience, his wisdom, his understanding of human nature; combined them with his relationships all to pull off one of the great architectural accomplishments of that era. It began with a vision from God, but then became the vision of Solomon who took it on and well, the rest is history. Look at it in a little more detail.
Solomon was an obvious expert in organizational development. He knew the importance of a vision; the ability to look ahead and see what could be possible. From there he figured out exactly what would be needed to attain the vision.
He then began to put the pieces together and create a plan. As Stephen Covey would say, he began with the end in mind. He then backed it and put together the list of things he needed. Then he made a list of who had what was needed. Then he began to make the needed contacts. Then the real work began. But I’m not talking about the construction. He began with a vision that moved to negotiation; an exchange of goods and services, and then the coordination of give and take. At that point, it wasn’t about a Temple. It was about how certain needed pieces could become a win-win for both parties. Here’s what I mean.
The perfect example was his relationship with Lebanon. Lebanon was more mountainous geographically. Israel and Lebanon had become allies. Lebanon had a land filled with cedars. They had laborers who knew how to work the wood. At the same time, Lebanon had needs that Solomon could fulfill. So Solomon exchanged laborers, financial support, and resources in exchange for the cedars and builders of Lebanon. He did the same with the needed granite from Judah, and needed gems and minerals from Jordan.
The Temple became a regional project that changed the lives of thousands of people. It was one of the most significant win-wins we see in scripture, all built on God’s direction and Solomon’s life experience combined with his sage wisdom. I talked about it last week, and here is the perfect example of a scriptural story working. And now that brings us to this time and this place.
These past two weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time doing two things. The first was meeting with you in individual groups, listening to your life stories, your experiences, and yup, your sage wisdom. And what you have offered has been sage wisdom. I’ve sat with close to fifty of you, each group being a new experience. Each gathering was truly a church within the church. Each gathering was a vital piece of getting to know you and hearing of your hopes and dreams.
The other piece from the past couple of weeks was equally as important. They were multiple documents that came out of a time of strategic planning. These documents were prepared by a large group of you here at Trinity. They also represent your hopes and dreams. The combination of the story of Solomon, my time with the Neighborhood groups, and the reading of the strategic planning you did have been a powerful, eye-opening, educational gift, and inspiration. So I took all of that and began to think, study, pray, what I now see as our potential in such a time as this. Here’s how I began to unwrap it.
I literally walked around the church both inside and praying constantly for you and for God’s guidance. I looked at our facility and wondered if we are utilizing it to its fullest potential, particularly in such a time as this. At times I would stop and look, even listen. At times I would be overwhelmed. At times all I had were questions and asked them of God. Here are some of the things that came to mind.
I looked at the grassy areas on the west and south sides of the building and wondered if we might begin to offer, weather permitting, areas for lawn chairs so that anyone who would like could sit on those lawns during the parking lot worship. Yup, it would take more work, but I wonder if it might help some of us worship.
I wondered about creating something more in this concrete space; that outdoor space where we play and read and preach on Sunday mornings, and I wondered if we might create something that reflects that this is our outdoor area of worship; something that kind of sets it apart like the chancel, the cross and the altar in the sanctuary.
I thought about the property in back, around and behind the David White Building, and wondered if we could put up a huge tent with multiple propane heaters and move worship into a space like that as the weather begins to change.
I wondered how we might be able to sing together again, knowing that we can’t in the sanctuary but we can, if done carefully and creatively, outside. Those are but a few things that came to mind that were specific to us.
At the same time, the words from one of the neighborhood gatherings came to mind. What if God is seeking something more from us than worshipping in the sanctuary? What if God is calling us to think outside the sanctuary; not just the parking lot, and not just because the Bishop says we have to, but because God is looking for something more creative from us. And again, I thought about Solomon. And again, I prayed for you and for the community.
Then, I watched the set up from last Wednesday and the partnership that has been developed between us, the city, the CERT teams, the school district, and a few other organizations. It made me wonder if once a month on Sunday morning, instead of doing worship in the parking lot, we instead moved into the community to serve – and I don’t mean standing on “protest corner” waving a sign. I mean doing something for someone else that can help them know of God’s love and ours. Maybe it’s standing in the middle grassy courtyard, just outside the decks at 5th Ave, social distancing, and singing for them. Maybe it’s doing yard work for someone who is unable to do it themselves. Maybe it’s a group of us taking the addresses of those who are homebound and sending them cards or offering them window visits. Maybe it’s making phone calls to some of those with whom we share our neighborhood just to check in – church member or not – and with no other agenda in mind. Maybe it’s offering tutoring to some of those kids who are really struggling with remote schooling. The list goes on and on, but do any of these fit into the vision of Trinity? I believe they do.
Here are a few more things I gleaned from you sharing your stories, and by reading your strategic planning work. And without exception, these are things we could do and all of them outside of the sanctuary.
You’ve already offered water to the skaters at the skate park. I’m not sure very many of them know it’s there on the back of the building, so maybe there is a way to be more radically invitational. And remember, they are not all teenagers. There are children and families who utilize the skate park at certain times of the day and it can get hot and dusty over there. Here are a few more ideas.
Almost every sunny day, as I drive to or from the church I see one or two or four or ten people sitting in the shade on the church property. I love seeing that but wonder if we could offer them more comfort. You know, things like more picnic tables or built-in chairs, or other things in those shady areas on the side closest to the park. I’ve seen motorhomes and trailers over there, wheelchair-bound folks, and a few aged sages seeking a quiet place to read.
I keep wondering if we could offer something to dozens who play pickle-ball at the courts. Gator Aid coolers, snacks, or maybe a cooling tent off of David White. Yes, even with chairs and tables. Instead of being frustrated by them, what if we went out of our way to engage them. Community engagement is in every piece of the Trinity strategic plan. Well, here we are, next door to Carrie Blake Park and six pickleball courts, a skate park, and a dog park along with the Discovery Trail. Might those be opportunities to get us out of our sanctuary and more deeply into the community? Even the Japanese Garden seems to be in need of some attention. Might we adopt a few of those kinds of projects? But wait, there’s more.
At The Mariner Cafe last Sunday, I saw and heard someone speaking there in the parking lot in a kind of roped off area. People were socially distanced and obviously engaged. What if we offered more than a Sunday morning parking lot service utilizing the FM receiver? What if we offer a few socially distanced community forums, or educational opportunities? What if we offered concerts? I mean, the list goes on. And, by the way, each is a way to come together as a church while opening up the opportunity to the community, something you’ve done since this building was built.
The concrete area where I preach can turn into a concert hall. We just have to get a little more creative. I even wondered about somehow offering a drive-in movie where some could stay in their cars while others brought lawn chairs. Again, the protocols would be in place but what if we reestablished ourselves as the place the community comes for fun or music or other kinds of entertainment or education. We can. We have the folks who can do it. Are we willing?
In addition, I kept realizing how important it is to keep going with the Neighborhood gatherings. It has been amazing watching the connections, the sharing of stories, the realizations, the deepening of relationships, the sharing of gifts and so much more.
How about gathering as neighborhoods once a month? Friends, we can’t be in the sanctuary but we can still be a place of peace and worship and connection and community. Solomon figured it out and didn’t just provide a Temple for God. He found a way to become a central place for connecting people. Might we be called to doing the same? And again, we have everything we need right here. So as I said at the end of the outdoor service last week…let’s dream. But let’s do more than dream…let’s do. I’m excited about the possibilities, even if we choose one or three or five of them to begin. I mean, what unites us is a belief in a God of possibilities. So shoot me some emails or notes or calls and let’s dream together. I have one more favor to ask. Don’t tell me why we can’t. Please let’s talk about how we can. God and our combined wisdom will guide us. Let’s begin with prayer…