Aged Sages of Biblical Renown: Introduction
Scripture: Proverbs 2: 1-11
- Prelude – “The Power of the Cross,” by S. Townend and K. Getty, Arr. by M. McDonald and L. Shackley; Pauline Olsen, organist; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 127 – “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” by William Williams; Cynthia Zenner, hymn leader; Terry Reitz, bells; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Special music – “Because He Lives,” by Gloria and William J. Gaither; Dr. Jerry Wright, vocalist; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Scripture – Proverbs 2: 1-11, Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Sermon – “Aged Sages of Biblical Renown: Introduction,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 500, “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart,” by George Croly; Cynthia Zenner, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, pianist
- Postlude – “Jesus is My Life,” by Todd Kendall; Pauline Olsen, organist
My Lord, we are living in a tumultuous time. Everything seems to be swirling around us. Every time we think we’ve found somewhere where we can find some level of peace, something else seems to hit us. If it’s not COVID then it’s wildfires. If not wildfires, then two hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast at the same time. If not that then it’s a shooting…and the list goes on and on – and all of that in the midst of a presidential election. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed.
I just kept thinking about how we, as the people of Trinity, might be able to find both peace and respond appropriately no matter what the situation may be. I could have continued the series on the expressions of Jesus in our time, but that focus just seemed to place pressure on folks rather than lessen it. So, as I listened to you, prayed, thought, studied, and explored, an idea began to form. What if, given who we are as a church, we examined how those of retirement age, those of us who have lived full lives, those of us with all kinds of life experiences might find peace while at the same time respond in such a time as this. I then thought about stories that can be found in scripture, hoping I might find some that can relate to us and to what’s going on around us. Then, I kept thinking about a title for a potential series, and this one just kept coming to mind. I’m calling this series, “Aged Sages of Biblical Renown.” My hope is to have it be a bit humorous. And it certainly will have some of that. But the real reason I thought it appropriate has everything to do with you.
We are a church of mostly retirees. You’ve lived your lives fully; most having experienced both good and challenging times. Now, you could have gone off into the sunset to celebrate your lifelong achievements. Many of you could have lived the retirement dream of travel, leisure, and in a way, stepping out of the world in which you lived. But you didn’t. Sure, some travel, others have found some level of security, and many have found some level of leisure, but it doesn’t end there for you.
Instead, you’ve chosen to continue to make a difference in the world. You’ve continued to work, but this time, the work doesn’t involve a paycheck. It does, however, involve others, and more often than not, you are seeking to make the lives of others better. In that regard, as you will hear, you are sages. And in as much as we might never use that term to define ourselves, there is more to it than meets the eye. Nope, not preaching about the spice although that was tempting. I’m preaching about how we who have significant life experience can combine that life experience with the power of God and do some remarkable things. So, what is a sage?
I think for some a sage is seen as that old wizened man sitting cross-legged in a cave on a mountain top, waiting for the next person to come and ask for guidance. For others it takes us back to some story we’ve read about someone who seemed beyond normal; a kind of mystical person who has abilities beyond anything mere human – someone like Merlin in the King Arthur legends, or Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books. For some of us, it could be one of our parents or grandparents, or some significant mentor in our lives. I think we often think of someone who is older and wise in ways that can help or change lives. But seldom do we see ourselves in that light. If you look up the word, a whole lot more comes to light, and I think that will help each of us understand just how “sage” we are.
A sage is someone wise, yes. But according to the wider definition, it is someone who chooses to live their lives focused beyond themselves; whose focus is more outward than inward. It also means someone who is good or virtuous. A sage, in philosophical terms, is someone who lives out an ideal that transcends the every day.
Maybe my favorite definition comes from Marcus Aurelius. He states, “A sage is one who has the knowledge that there is always a beginning and an end, and yet who places themselves continually in the midst of both with thought, life-experiences combined with reason; the kind of thought, experience and reason that allows them the ability to find order in the universe and its determinate cycles throughout time.” Look at that again.
At least for me as a Christian, I read that as a sage being someone who understands that there are God-created cycles in life, beginnings and endings, and that with careful thought, the utilization of our life experiences we can find God’s determinate plan for creation. God can and will utilize our life experiences to bring about the hopes He had at the beginning of creation. And that brings us to today’s scripture. How can God use us and our experiences? Solomon provides the beginning of an answer.
Solomon, considered the wisest of all of God’s creation, begins with the purpose of his writing. He writes, “These writings are to be used for attaining wisdom and discipline; used to gain understanding. They are words of insight, for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair. Being in awe of God is the beginning of such knowledge… “My children, if you accept my words and store up my expectations within you, turning your ear to wisdom, my wisdom, and applying your understanding and your life experiences; and if you call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding; and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure:
Then you will understand what I expect of you;
Then you will understand what I have for you;
Then you will understand how I can work through you;
Then you can understand what I seek from you;
Then you will understand how together we can change the world.
It all begins with God, combines with us, and creates in us something God will use to create something more. But again, it begins with God. And as we turn to the biblical stories, we find all kinds of examples of how it works; and how powerful it is.
In scripture we find sages of all kinds; from someone as unassuming as Gideon, to someone as overwhelming as Samson. We find men like Elijah and women like Rachel. We find those who are young, like Solomon, or old like Sarah. We find those who are Jewish and those, like Ruth and Esther, who are not.
In the New Testament we, of course, look at Jesus, but there are others who also fit Solomon’s definition. I see Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; Anna and Simeon at the Temple after Jesus is circumcised. I see Mary the mother of Jesus, and the letters of Paul as expressions of his sage wisdom. Look at what happens to Peter at Pentecost. There are even those who are overlooked like the one who gave up his own expensive tomb so that Jesus would have a place to be laid after his death; Joseph of Arimathea.
If the Bible is correct, then we can assume that sages come in all shapes and sizes; from fame or obscurity, can be overt or quiet. They can be young, but more often they are older and have gone through a multitude of life-defining experiences. They are people of faith, yes, but not all of them believe the same things. They are outwardly focused on more than inwardly focused. They are of all genders, cultures, ethnicities, and different understandings of life. They don’t all look the same, act the same, live the same, or offer themselves in the same ways; but there is one thing that ties them all together. It is a belief in a God who can take anyone and use them for a greater good. It’s a belief in the God who created a world of order, not chaos; peace not violence; even hope and balance for all people and all of creation. But it takes sages to bring it about.
So, what we’ll find in the midst of this study is that being a sage isn’t about earning something. It isn’t something that just comes naturally to all or maybe any of us. It is dependent on choices we make that can help us understand that God can take us; yup, even us, and use us for something more. Each week will bring the story of someone who was very much like us. But let’s not jump ahead. Now, to prepare, we have this sacrament. It’s my hope that today we can covenant with each other that each of us will seek to enter fully into this study and allow what we find here define who and what we are as children of God, and disciples of Jesus Christ; to seek to allow God and the power of creation to move through us, take us, mold us, make us, and use us in ways we might not expect. Let’s pray…