Follow Me: Biblical Practices for Faithful Living
Practice Generosity – “Share Wisdom”
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
October 9, 2022
Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Acts 18:1-4, 24-28
Our Old Testament reading from Deuteronomy is called the Shema, which means “hear” or “listen”.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The grass will wither and the flower will fade, but the Word of the Lord will stand forever.
Our New Testament reading offers insight into the first century church, into the role of Paul and other early church leaders, like Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Hear the Word of God from Acts 18:1-4,24-28
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks…
Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
We are reminded by Holy Scripture to share the commandments of God, the wisdom of God, to our children and our grandchildren, to talk about them when we are at home and when you are away, when we go to bed at night and when we wake up in the morning.
The Deuteronomist knew that faith in God, that knowledge of God’s commandments, would always be only one generation away from extinction. All it takes is one generation failing to share the next generation the ways of God, the commandments of faith, and we risk the well-being of generations to come.
What could be more important than talking about the commandments of God to our children?
My mom is well-known among her family and her friends for her refrigerator. Mom and Dad’s refrigerator is almost entirely covered with all sorts of wonderful things. There are pictures of grandkids, magnets from places they have visited all over the world, smiling dogs, and, perhaps most alluring, there are a number of quotable quotes, wise sayings that she has posted over the years upon her refrigerator.
One of them that has been there for years is: “Marriage is not so much about finding the right person as about being the right person.”
Another is a shortened version of I Corinthians 13. Often practical wisdom comes from the scriptures.
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love never fails.”
A third has been a daily inspiration to my parents, who know all too well the challenges of aging.
“Aging is not a choice”, the quote claims. “Your response to it is.”
A more recent posting on the refrigerator came from one of my sermons. I was honored that a quote I shared one Sunday morning found space on Mom’s crowded refrigerator. The quote is ”Less of me; more of you, O God.”
This is a mantra I use sometimes on the way to the hospital or visiting with a grieving family. Mom probably received the appreciation of quotes from her grandfather. My great grandfather, Sterling Payne McDonald, published a small book of quotes during the 1920’s that he had collected over the years. I was handed down a copy of the small brown booklet, a little book full of the wit and wisdom of the ages.
So I too inherited this love of wise quotes. I even found a web application that will send you a fresh quote a few times a week. It’s called Passiton.com. You can sign up to receive regular emails of wise quotations.
The theme for this week is “listening” and the quote from Friday reads: “Listen carefully. The answers to our deepest questions are often whispered.” (Wayne Trotman)
To collect some of these quotes, I created an album on my phone. Occasionally, I will text one of these quotes with a family member or friend. A quote I came across recently from Leo Buscaglia is: “Never underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word… All of which have the power to turn a life around.”
Here’s another one worth remembering. “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”
I love wise quotes that worth sharing, but I am even more grateful for those wise people who take the time, the energy, the intentionality to share their wisdom. Who in your life generously took their time to share some nugget of wisdom with you?
One of our Faithful Living class members on Wednesday spoke about an uncle who came alongside him while his father was away for several years during World War II. This uncle not only taught him how to use the basic tools of a toolbox, but also taught him how to fish. During the time when his own father was away, this uncle would take the young boy on adventures and share with him with words of wisdom.
Another person talked about sitting at her grandmother’s feet, listening to her grandmother’s advice and stories. Big Mama she was called, And Big Mama became known throughout the Bronx for her wit and wisdom.
Still another talked about a Sunday school teacher, someone who prepared well, who listened carefully, who shared generously. That period of time in life, going to weekly Sunday School, was, because of that volunteer teacher, an important time of growth and understanding in faith.
In the book of Acts, we read about a character named Apollos. Apollos is from north Africa, from Alexandria, where the largest library in the world had been. Described as eloquent and well-versed, he was a man who spoke boldly about Jesus with “burning enthusiasm.” He was obviously bright and gifted, if not fully informed. He would have an important ministry to share with the early church, but he needed further instruction.
Notice the way that the early church leaders, Priscilla and Aquila, handled Apollos. Priscilla and Aquila did what today’s seminaries do. They took Apollos aside, privately, and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. Remember the old phrase public praise and private criticism?
When we have something to share with another that may involve constructive criticism, it is wise to do so in private. When we want to offer praise, then tell the whole world. Let everyone know how wonderful someone is.
And we should give the enthusiastic Apollos some credit in this situation. Though he was well-versed and eloquent and had already received some measure of instruction, still, he was open to listening. Apollos was open to receiving constructive criticism and he learned from it. He realized that he did not know it all, that he had more to learn. When Priscilla and Aquila generously and intentionally took Apollos aside, They not only deepened his faith, but they made an impact on all who were going to hear Apollos speak in the future.
At the dinner table at Wednesday night supper, we were given the question to discuss, what is wisdom? Our table collaborated on an answer that seemed fairly satisfactory to us. Wisdom = knowledge + experience + understanding. Picture three intersecting circles, knowledge, experience, understanding. Wisdom is at the center, where these three overlap. Many football coaches have plenty of knowledge and experience, but they do not always have the understanding that leads to wisdom. Or they may have understanding and experience, but little knowledge of the other team’s players or strategy.
Certainly, wisdom is more than knowledge. There are plenty of booksmart people who do not seem very wise. Wisdom is more than experience. There are plenty of people who have had all kinds of life experiences, but who do not necessarily seem wise in the choices that they make.
Understanding may be the key. The gift of understanding of people, of context, of concepts, combined with deep knowledge and experience, just may result in wise counsel or guidance.
Sharing wisdom takes time, effort, intentionality. There are numerous ways that you could share your wisdom with others. As I look around this room, I am aware of a deep treasure store of wisdom. You have so much that you can share. Some of you may be called to teach Sunday school classes or to lead Bible studies. Others may be called to just show up to Bible studies and share in the discussions what you have learned.
Others may be called to come alongside a friend or family member in order to share something of the wisdom you have gained from life experience. Still others do meaningful work when you gather a grief group or a caregiver group, in order to share the wisdom of how to survive and even thrive during difficult times.
I love hearing stories from our confirmation classes, when the young confirmands talk about how much they have appreciated their mentors. Simple life lessons shared with a younger person may not seem all that wise, but to that younger person, those conversations just might be life-transforming.
Going forward, consider one person or one group with whom you could share some measure of your knowledge, experience and understanding. You don’t even have to call it wisdom. But each of you can share a bit of what you have learned in life, with a grandchild perhaps, or with a grown child, or perhaps with a coworker, or a neighbor who needs a friend. You can share a book that was meaningful to you or take someone to a particular place that taught you something important in life.
Perhaps you have noticed a younger person in church who seems like they may need someone to come alongside. And who might you invite to worship or to your small group? In the gospel of John, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit paracletos, the advocate, literally, “the one who comes alongside”.
Jesus says “when the Spirit comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth.” Sometimes, we are the human vessels, the “clay jars”, as Paul calls us, who have the great privilege of speaking and even embodying the truth of God, by what we say and don’t say, by what we do and choose not to do.
In closing, Proverbs 3 claims: Blessed are those who find wisdom, And those who gain understanding, for her income is better than silver, And her revenue better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, And nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her, Those who hold her fast are called happy.”
Friends, in whatever ways you are able, with energy and intentionality and effort, share your wisdom. Share generously what you have learned and received and heard, with boldness and courage, through words and actions, so that, as the Deuteronomist wrote so long ago, our days may be long, so that it may go well with us and well with our children, and with our children’s children after them.
Amen, and amen.
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
October 9, 2022