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Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

October 2021


October 10, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 2: Show Compassion" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 3, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 1: Glorify God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 2021


September 19, 2021  "Gentle Wisdom, or Worldly Ways?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 12, 2021  "Prophetic Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 5, 2021  "A Vision of Our Future" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

August 2021


August 15, 2021  "Wise Living" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 2021


July 4, 2021  "Humility Over Hubris" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2021


June 27, 2021  "Faith Over Fear" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2021


May 30, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 3: :Life and Peace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 23, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 2: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 16, 2021  "The Spirit, Part I: Wisdom and Revelation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 9, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 4: Love and Christ" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

September 19, 2021

“Gentle Wisdom, or Worldly Ways?” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, September 19, 2021 Year B Pentecost 17 (Proper 20, Ordinary 25): Jeremiah 11:18-20 and Psalm 54  •  James 3:13 - 4:3, 7-8a  •  Mark 9:30-37

THEME:  .

 

I have been captivated this week by the rediscovery of an old fascination of mine:  the Shakers.  How many of you know about the Shakers?  Have any of you been to a Shaker village?   If you have, then you probably know a little bit about their history.

The Shakers were a Christian sect formed in the 1700s in northwest England.  They were an offshoot of the Quakers.  Because of their ecstatic, dancing worship they were called the Shaking Quakers. 

In England, they were persecuted.  As a result, many of them emigrated here to America not long before the Revolution.  Here in the new world, they stood apart from the main culture.  It’s not hard to see why.  They practiced celibacy, pacifism, gender equality, and charismatic worship.  

Everything about the Shakers - from their music to their architecture to their furniture - was simple and yet innovative.  It was also inherently spiritual.  Everything they did and everything they created was a reflection of their faith in God, the nearness of his kingdom, and their conviction that he spoke to them directly.

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, the Shakers experienced a religious revival.  During the fervor of those years, these spiritual manifestations reached a peak.  The Shakers called these visions "gifts" because they were gifts received from the Holy Spirit.  They took the form of drawings, messages and songs.  [Choir stands]

One of the most famous of these is a song called Simple Gifts.

[Choir sings:  Tis a Gift to Be Simple]

Around the same time that this song was written, a woman in the Hancock Massachusetts colony named Hannah Cohoon began receiving gifts from the Spirit.  Instead of a melody, her gifts were visual images.  She expressed them as folk art. 

  In her vision, Hannah saw clearly the branches, the leaves and the fruit of a tree.  She painted what she saw in bright primary colors on a plain sheet of paper.  I imagine you’ve seen it.  It’s become quite famous.  It’s called the Tree of Life.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Shakers were in a period of decline.  In the 1930s, Hannah’s drawing of the Tree of Life was discovered in a drawer.  Its rediscovery sparked a renewed interest in the Shakers that lasts to the present day.

Her drawing has appeared on the cover of magazines and books.  It’s been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.  It was even featured on a UNICEF Christmas postcard in 1974.

That simple drawing of the Tree of Life has since become the icon of Shaker culture.  To people of our day and age, it speaks of an alternative way of living marked by equality, unity and peace; a wise way of living that is very different from the way of the world around us.    

That is the same contrasting vision that James holds out to us in our reading this morning.

        James gives us a picture of the all too human behaviors that threatened the unity and cohesion of the early church.  In particular, jealousy, envy and ambition were big problems.  Inevitably, they led to conflict.  They threatened the harmony of congregational life.

That shouldn’t really surprise us.  Human nature has not changed all that much over the last 2,000 years.  Social climbing and competition for position and prestige were every bit as common in Greco-Roman society as they are in our own.  And this letter of James makes that crystal clear.

        In contrast, James holds up a very different way of being church and, indeed, a different way of living life.  It’s based on what he calls wisdom from above.  It is the opposite of the competitive, cutthroat impulses of worldly wisdom that he calls devilish.  

You can tell where this gentle, heavenly wisdom is operating because it has a distinct effect.  It changes the way we behave and interact with others.  It makes us peaceable, gentle and willing to yield.  Rather than insisting on our way and what we want, it moves us to make way for others and what they need.

James calls this the fruit of righteousness.  It is the fruit of the tree of life.  As all fruit does, when it falls on fertile soil it produces new life, new trees of life – like the ones we read about in scripture.  Which is exactly where Hannah Cohoon’s vision comes from.

The very first Tree of Life is described in the opening pages of the Bible, in Genesis.  Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden not only because they had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but because they might also eat of the tree of life.  That would have given them immortality, before they were ever ready to handle it.

        We also hear about the Tree of Life in the very last verse of the Bible, in Revelation.  There the Tree of life is like one of those giant sequoia trees you see out in California.  It’s so large that a river can pass through its massive roots.  That river is the river of life, which flows from Christ’s throne down Main Street of the new Jerusalem, God’s Kingdom on earth.

        So, we weren’t ready for the tree of life at creation, but at the end of the age we will all gather under its leaves when Christ ushers in his kingdom and we live with him there for all eternity.  

        But what about now?  What about these in-between times?  How and where do we find trees of life in these difficult days?

The Shakers may have something to teach us here.  For them, a tree of life was connected to living with gentle wisdom from above.  A tree of life grew and bore fruit whenever and wherever they lived in peace, harmony and unity with one another.  

It was also visible in the exquisite things they made with their hands:  the tables and chairs, the boxes and bookshelves, the barns and houses. The Shakers understood the connection between God’s wisdom and life-giving, God-honoring work.  When it came to manufacturing things, the Shakers’ motto was “Hands to work, hearts to God.”  

Today, a century and a half later, the simple beauty of their products and the peaceful unity of their lives stand as beacons for a world hungry for harmony and exhausted by the jealousy, ambition and envy which are part and parcel of the fruitless chase of earthly wisdom.  The Shakers remind us of the power of God’s gentle wisdom to create trees of life that bring new life to us and those arounds us.

But, like the Shakers themselves, who never numbered more than about 6,000 even at the height of their popularity, the people in our world who follow God’s gentle wisdom are greatly out-numberd by those who follow the world’s wisdom.

You can see that in our popular media.  When you go home, try searching the Internet for gentle movie heroes.  You won’t find very many.  Apparently, there isn’t much of an audience for stories about those who seek peace and unity by helping others and putting the needs of others ahead of personal ambition. 

What does that say about us and our culture, I wonder?  Nothing good, I suspect.

But there is still one place where you can find heroes who live peaceably and gently, willing to yield to the needs and desires of others:  that place is the world of children’s cartoons.   

Remember Arthur, the animated show about an Aardvark who shows kids how to solve problems together and get along with others of all ages?  How about Phineas and Ferb?  Or Sponge Bob Square Pants?  Even on the Simpsons, Lisa Simpson is a character whose kindhearted gentleness is not all that far from the sort of wisdom from above that James is talking about.

But the best and most popular of all the animated heroes who show us what gentle wisdom looks like in action is Winnie the Pooh.  Now, you would never mistake this lovable, cuddly old bear for a brilliant scientist or a hard worker, but when it comes to caring for his friends and neighbors and what they need, there are few more inspirational examples than Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh’s concern is for everyone who shares the hundred-acre wood with him:  Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, Rabbit and Roo, and of course, Christopher Robin.  They’re all a bit quirky, some are even difficult.  But Pooh cares about them all and he goes out of his way to make sure that they can all live together in peace, harmony and unity.

This may surprise you, but last month Winnie the Pooh turned 100 years old.  But the lessons he helps us learn are timeless.  Boy, do we ever need them.

Friends, what would this world be like if we all bought into this wisdom from above and did the same?   How much more unified and effective would the global church be?

What new life might blossom in Harrisburg and right here in Mechanicsburg if, rather than insisting on our own way and our own priorities, we made a more concerted effort to find out what others need and want in order to live life fully?

I don’t know, but I can tell you this.  We wouldn’t just have a tree of life.  We’d have a forest. 

That’s what God wants for us. 

May it be so.

 

 

 

 

Last Published: September 21, 2021 3:31 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

October 2021


October 10, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 2: Show Compassion" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 3, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 1: Glorify God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 2021


September 19, 2021  "Gentle Wisdom, or Worldly Ways?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 12, 2021  "Prophetic Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 5, 2021  "A Vision of Our Future" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

August 2021


August 15, 2021  "Wise Living" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 2021


July 4, 2021  "Humility Over Hubris" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2021


June 27, 2021  "Faith Over Fear" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2021


May 30, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 3: :Life and Peace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 23, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 2: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 16, 2021  "The Spirit, Part I: Wisdom and Revelation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 9, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 4: Love and Christ" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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