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Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

June 16, 2019

“The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, June 16, 2019, Year C / Trinity Sunday – Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and Psalm 8  •  Romans 5:1-5  •  John 16:12-15

 

THEME:  We need one another to discern the Spirit’s guidance as it reminds us to love God and neighbor.

 

        When I was an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, the field of computer science was in its infancy, but growing quickly.

In 1981, my freshman year, IBM launched the PC.  Three years later, Apple launched the first Macintosh computer.  By the time I graduated, the Department of Defense had made public a network called ARPANET, which was the basis for the Internet.

Naturally, with so much fanfare, I was curious.  So, I took my one and only course in computer programming.  It was like learning a series of foreign languages.  We learned how to write code in FORTRAN, BASIC and COBAL.  It made my head spin.

Since then, of course, computers run much more sophisticated languages.  But the basis of all of them, including the language that the machine itself runs on, is the same mathematical principle.  It’s a system called Boolean Logic.

The circuit board in every computer operates by assigning one of two values to every electronic impulse that comes through it.  When you tap a key on your keyboard, the circuit assigns that impulse a value of either true or false.  It’s either one or the other.  There is nothing in between the two.

This system has worked well for a long time.  As far back as the 1930s it was used to operate telephone switches.  It was simple and effective.

But, more recently, computer programmers have recognized that this binary, two-value system has serious limitations, especially when it comes to interacting with human beings.

That’s because our responses frequently go beyond yes and no.  We say things like “almost” and “sort of”. 

Further, we tend to make decisions based on incomplete, imprecise information.  We factor in subjective, non-numeric information which doesn’t suit the black-and-white algorithm of Boolean logic.

As computers are increasingly being asked to interact with human beings, that’s become a real problem.  So, computer programmers have begun using a more nuanced and complicated system called Fuzzy Logic.  The reason is simple:  Fuzzy Logic operates a lot like our own brains.  

Fuzzy Logic allows us to aggregate a series of partial truths and then analyze them to arrive at a higher truth.  For example, instead of determining that Don is either young or old, it can factor in things like bone density, muscle strength and memory function.  And so it determines that Don is neither young nor old.  Rather, he is middle-aged – or so they tell me.

This transition from the simplistic binary certainty of Boolean Logic to the more complicated reasoning of Fuzzy Logic has made possible huge advances, especially in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

That is exactly the kind of leap that Jesus is asking his disciples to make.

Up until now, he’s always been physically with them.  He’s spoken to them as one human being speaks to another.  His teaching has been direct, even if they didn’t always grasp its meaning.  Either he said something, or he didn’t.

But now, he’s leaving them.  We can well imagine their grief, anxiety and fear as they wonder “what will become of us without our teacher, leader and friend?” 

A few generations later, when John’s audience of Jewish Christians hears this message, they’re feeling that same mixture of grief, anxiety and fear.

That’s because they, too, are experiencing a crisis.  They profess Jesus as the Messiah, their Lord and Savior.  As a result, their fellow Jews, who regard this is heresy, have expelled them from the synagogues, which are the very heart and soul of Jewish life and community.

To put that in perspective for you and me, that’s the equivalent of being expelled from both church and school, and being shunned by family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and customers alike. 

John is encouraging them to rely on the same promise Jesus made to his apostles: the continuing presence of God in the Holy Spirit. 

In Jesus’ absence, they can rely on the Holy Spirit to teach and inspire them.  Just as Jesus shared with them all of God’s truth, so the Spirit will lead them into God’s truth in the uncertain days ahead.

But that is not as simple as it sounds.  Compared to the direct speech of Jesus, the Holy Spirit communicates in ways that are far more subtle. 

Friends, that is the very same challenge you and I face today.  How do we hear the Spirit speak?

The first and most important way is through scripture.  As our theological forebear, John Calvin, wrote 500 years ago, “(The Spirit) would speak not from himself but would suggest to (us) and instill into (our) minds what (Jesus) had handed on through the Word.”

In other words, as Calvin went on to say, the function of the Spirit is not “inventing new and unheard-of revelations, or forging a new kind of doctrine. . . but sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel.”  Which is to say that the Spirit will never contradict Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor.

The second way we hear the Spirit speak is in our prayer life.  Most of us, when we pray, are used to simply asking God for what we want for ourselves and others.  But, our praying ought to involve as much listening as petitioning. 

As Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, writes, “If, as we are meditating or praying, an abundance of good thoughts comes to us, we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is better than a thousand of our prayers.”

And there are other ways we hear the Spirit speak:  in the events of our lives, in our dreams and visions – and, dare I hope, in a sermon?  In all of these, sometimes the Spirit speaks directly, loud and clear.  But, in my experience, more often than not, it gives us only a general feeling, a gentle nudge or a quiet whisper.

That puts us in a conundrum.  What do we do with such vague, partial, and sometimes contradictory guidance?  Binary, yes-no, black-white logic isn’t going to help us here!

What we need is a system of Fuzzy Logic to help us sort out all the incomplete and unclear messages we get.  We need a way to aggregate them and clarify them in order to arrive at a higher-level truth on which we can act, confident that it’s God’s God’s will – not just our own egos serving our own interests.

And that, friends, is where the church comes in.

We gather together as a family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ who worship God together, study scripture together, pray together and serve together. 

And, together, we help one another discern God’s will and become more accountable for doing it, not just as a congregation but as individual Christian disciples.

And so, when someone like Kyle Anderson or Matthew Robinson begins to hear what they think may be a call to ministry, we take them under the care of our Session to help them discern that call. 

When our Nominating Committee sees the gifts and passions that one of our members has for teaching or caring for others, they bring that to the attention of that person and reflect back to them a call to ministry as a Sunday School Teacher, Youth Leader or Deacon.

And our committees do the same in choosing their members.  Their joint judgment helps prospective committee members discern a call to use their gifts to serve God by serving the church in a specific capacity. 

The same is true of our mission trips to Maine, West Virginia, Florida, Harrisburg and South Africa.  Folks whom we ask to consider going on these missions may or may not have realized this calling on their own, but I assure you that, more often than not, they’ve had an inkling that they are meant to serve Christ in a new way.  And the invitation from others serves to clarify and confirm that calling.

In all of these cases, the process of our communal discernment is the system of Fuzzy Logic that is necessary to discern God’s will.

So, how might God be calling you?  

Have you been feeling a vague but persistent nudge to better use your gifts to serve God by serving others? 

If so, you’re in the right place.  Here in the midst of this church family, that’s what we do with and for one another.  We listen for the Holy Spirit to speak.  We help one another hear it, and we help one another do it. 

The logic of discernment may be a little fuzzy, but when it comes to hearing what the Spirit is speaking, we listen better together.

May it be so. 

 

Last Published: June 18, 2019 11:58 AM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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