Don’t Assume You Know It AllPosted: August 9, 2015
Don’t Assume You Know It All
SLIDE 3: ROBERT A BOY FULL OF QUESTIONS
Our grandson Robert has always been a boy full of questions. How come? Why? Where? When? Now Robert is still full of questions, but this summer we have run into a new phenomenon. He will ask a question, and then as we are offering an answer, he says, “I know that!” At one point on our drive from Pittsburgh to Huntsville, exasperated, his grandmother replied, “If you already know that, then why did you ask the question? If you are going to dismiss what I am saying with, ‘I know that,’ then I will not answer any more questions!”
SLIDE 4: A CASE OF THE KNOW IT ALLS
At the age of ten Robert has developed a case of the “know it all’s.” I think most young people go through a phase, when they are more impressed by what they know, or think they know, than what anyone else can tell them. And some of us grow out of that phase, but all too many people, remain stuck in a bad case of the “know it all’s.” Much of our schooling and our academic disciplines even encourage a “know it all perspective.” Doctors, lawyers, ministers, administrators, teachers, engineers, scientists, business people, POLITICIANS even some trades people can be especially prone to assuming that all knowledge is best understood from the perspective of their academic discipline or their profession or their line of work. We are most familiar with what we do, and so we tend to make assumptions and judgments based upon what we know best.
SLIDE 5: TRUST GOD
The author of our proverb today understood our prideful tendency to assume we know it all. “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; God’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”
SLIDE 6: SIMPLE BUT HARD TRUTHS
Our proverb offers us five simple truths. Now remember I said simple not easy. Sometimes simple is hardest of all. First, trust God. Have faith in something larger than your “self.” Putting our faith in something larger than our selves is the corner stone of all twelve step programs. Implicit in this first simple truth is humility. We are not the center of the Universe. God is God and we are not. We did not create ourselves, and we can trust that our creator loves us and provides for us. We can trust that we do not have to be responsible for everything, without our efforts the world will continue to turn. Without our worrying about it, the sun will shine, the rain will fall, the seasons will change.
SLIDE 7: WE ARE NOT ALONE
Second simple truth, we are not alone. God is with us always. As Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And in the words of the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada: “In life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone. Thanks be to God.” And not only is God always with us, but God calls us into the church, so we have a community of faith — people who will pray with us and for us and remind us of God’s abiding love. And because we are not alone, we don’t have to figure everything out by ourselves. God will help, and the good spiritual friends with whom we covenant in the life of the church are also available to help us figure out what we need to be about. They may even offer us a helping hand, if we will allow them to love us.
SLIDE 8: ALLOWING OTHER PEOPLE TO HELP US
For some of us allowing other people to help us isn’t easy either. After all we are bold self-confident individualists. We can do it all on our own. We don’t need anyone’s help. Sure! But remember: “In life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone. Thanks be to God.”
SLIDE 9: LISTEN IN PRAYER
The third simple truth is to pray and listen in prayer. We cannot hear a word from God unless we listen. So many of our prayers are about what we want, what we are feeling, how we want God to help us – sometimes even giving God a piece of our mind. And then we complain that we pray, and God never answers! But have we ever listened – really listened for more than ten minutes. Mother Teresa once told one of my seminary professors, Henri Nouwen, to never do anything you consciously know is wrong, and spend an hour a day in silence – an hour a day. Have any of us spent even a half an hour listening for God’s word, ever? We want what we want and we want it right now – instant gratification. God does not work that way.
SLIDE 10: WELL?
I am reminded of the cartoon Kudzu, and one of the characters the Rev. Will B Dunn. In the first frame Rev. Will B. Dunn fervently prays, “God give me patience.” Then in the next frame, he is looking at his watch asking, “Well?”
SLIDE 11: WAIT PATIENTLY FOR DIRECTION
Jesus encourages us to ask for what we want, and then wait patiently for direction. God does not hand out million dollar checks. God does not punish our enemies or reward our friends. What God can do is offer direction, if we are open. Problem is most people who pray for direction already know where they want to go. Most of us are simply asking God to get behind our goals and plans, rather than asking what God wants us to do. It is sort of like the problem of knowing it all. If we already know what we want God to do, how can we be open to what God wants us to do? Wait patiently. Listen. Be still and know that God is God.
SLIDE 12: DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW IT ALL
The path of the hurricane can be affected by the flap of the butterfly’s wing. Humility! Humility is essential to our survival. We think we know so much, and yet our knowledge is so fragmentary. Our physicists now believe 96%of our Universe is Dark Energy and Matter, substances they cannot even describe. If we cannot describe 96% of our Universe how can we know it all?
SLIDE 13: HUMILITY SHOULD BE OUR NATURAL ATTITUDE
Humility should be our natural attitude. And yet most of the time we proceed as if we do know it all. We approach climate change, the use of nuclear energy, and our rapidly expanding use of genetics, as if we can anticipate all consequences. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
SLIDE 14: SUBMIT TO DISCIPLINE
The fifth simple truth is to submit to discipline in humility. “But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under her loving correction. It’s the child she loves that God corrects; a parent’s delight is behind all this.” Everything we do has consequences — good consequences and bad consequences. In life there are no rewards and punishments, just consequences. The key is to learn from our experiences. The definition of crazy is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. If we pay close attention, and we humbly listen in prayer, we can learn from our consequences.
SLIDE 15: DISCIPLINE ISN’T FUN, BUT IT PAYS OFF
The discipline of physical therapy is a real pain, but unless I submit to that discipline, I will end up crippled. The Letter to the Hebrews says the same thing about our spiritual lives. “At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it is the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”
SLIDE 16: FRENETIC ACTIVITY WITHOUT PRAYER
Before I bring this sermon to a close allow me to suggest that one of the problems in the life of the church is frenetic activity without prayer. As attendance and participation in churches drops we become so anxious about the future of the church, we start planning and organizing, and initiating programs without praying. Oh we may offer a perfunctory prayer at the beginnings of our meetings, but we seldom enter into extended prayerful discernment. God loves the church even though I am sure God is often exasperated by our behavior. God will offer us direction, if we stop acting as if we “know it all” and stop and listen prayerfully.
SLIDE 17: WE ARE NOT ALONE – THE LARGER CHURCH
And sometimes we can actually consult with people beyond our local church for wisdom and understanding. In the past our congregation has tended to dismiss or even demonize the larger church. One of the gifts of being part of the wider church is that we are not alone. We don’t have to figure it all out on our own. There are people who will help, if we ask and listen!
So listen to the proverb and learn: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; God’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”