Day Thirty One: Other-Wise

Psalm 148
Proverbs 1:1-7
James 3:13-18

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings which distil God’s truth for good living. Short, insightful, and often humorous, they cover every aspect of human experience – from marriage and parenting to government and economics to lifestyle and habits – presenting the choice that is ever before us:

to act (and react) wisely, OR foolishly.

These sayings (attributed often to Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s kings),
were written down
so that we know how to live right and well;
so that we can get a firm handle on what is right
and just and fair;
so that we (and our young people) can get a grasp on reality;
and those already well-schooled in the ways of the world can find that they have yet something valuable to learn
(Proverbs 1:1-6).

Yet they are not the only proverbs on offer. The English language is strewn with wise-sounding sayings like:
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“Fortune favours the bold.”
“God helps those who help themselves”
(which many people mistakenly believe is in the Bible).

Self-help books, empowerment seminars, business gurus, and marketing moguls have added to these an assortment of slogans, catch phrases and positive affirmations that influence – sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously – our values, perceptions and responses:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“I embrace my power.”
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

“Start small – finish big.”

List any proverbs, quotes, affirmations and/or sayings that you catch yourself saying or that you think may have an influence on how you think, speak, act, spend, live. 

With so many powerful, positive, wise-sounding “proverbs” shaping our subconscious mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to discern which words to pay attention to and which to discard.

The mark of true wisdom that keeps us on track for right living, however, is that it gives life – not only to us, but to others! – for it springs from the mind and the will of the living God:

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.” 

(Proverbs 1:7, The Message).

In our reading from James 3, we find four marks of a wisdom that begins in and blossoms through God:

1. Godly wisdom is meek and humble: it does not lead to boasting or bitter jealously or selfish ambition ….

2. Godly wisdom is authentic: no cunning, no conniving, no twisting the truth, no two-faced friendships – what is said matches perfectly with what is done ….

3. Godly wisdom is open and conciliatory: impartial and sincere, it helps to build a healthy and robust community and encourages us to do the hard work of getting along, of treating each with dignity and honour.

4. Godly wisdom is pure and peaceable, seeking good – for me, for my family, for my neighbour, for my community, for my colleagues, for my friends, for the stranger on my street, for my so-called enemy, for my country, for my continent, for my planet ….

Look back over your list.
Which of the words or phrases are of a worldly wisdom?
Which reflect the wisdom of God?    

Pray for the wisdom – not only to live well, but in your right living to be a life-giver to those searching for wisdom and their way in the world.

Affirming servant leaders

This past Sunday we had the opportunity to celebrate and affirm those who offer their gifts in leadership and service of our community. The Scripture readings I had chosen for the occasion were Matthew 3:13-17 (the baptism of Jesus) and John 13:1-17 (Jesus washes the disciples’ feet).

Below are the vows and affirmations written for this special moment:

Minister/worship leader:
We are all God’s children:
made in God’s image,
cleansed by Christ’s blood,
full of God’s Holy Spirit.

We are all called to be servants of this Good News,
and all gifted in order to become a blessing
to one another and the world around us.

This day we celebrate those in our midst who have heard the call
and responded with outstretched hands and open hearts
to serve God within our Calvary community:
in prayer and preaching,
welcoming and praising,
cleaning and cooking,
counselling and healing,
mission and outreaching,
typing and counting,
teaching and leading,
gardening and building,
staffing and saving.

*leaders and servants of the community come forward*

Leaders/servants:
I do not stand before you as a master but a servant.
I do not stand before you to gain but to give.
I do not stand before you out of pride but obedience.
I do not stand before you in my strength but by the power of the Spirit.

Congregation:
We give thanks to God who has named you and saved you.
We give thanks to God who has called you and equipped you.
We give thanks to God who will strengthen and sustain you.
We give thanks to God for the gift that you are.

Leaders/servants:
I stand before you for my gifts are not my own.
I stand before you because of God’s great love.
I stand before you because faith needs to find expression.
I stand before you because I am willing to serve – you and God.

Congregation:
We affirm that your obedience is not without cost.
We affirm that in serving you bring glory and pleasure to God.
We affirm that you are a precious blessing to this Body.
We affirm that in serving you bring joy to us.

Leaders/servants:
I promise to celebrate and share God’s embracing love with the world.
I promise to follow the pattern of Christ who was not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
I promise to seek to grow my gifts through prayer, and study, and training.
I promise to walk closely with God that I might serve you better and love God more.

Congregation:
We promise to partner with you in God’s love and work:
to seek to find our own calling and gifting,
to affirm the things that bring us joy,
to pray for you and love you.

*a time for the laying on of hands by members of the congregation and congregational prayers for those who have offered to serve*