“Connecting with the Mind” (A sermon preached on June 28, 2020 for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, Part II of a series called, “ConnectAbility”)

I’ve recently discovered a treasure trove of “how to,” simpl, “do-it-yourself” videos on YouTube.  Just in the last month, I’ve watched videos providing step-by-step instructions for repairing toilets, turning off the car’s “check engine” light on my dashboard, to setting my automated sprinkler system, to replacing a broken rearview mirror.  There must be instructional videos for just about everything!

Those videos remind me of those books, that were popular a few years ago, called An Idiot’s guide to…, with simple instructions for how to do or understand seemingly difficult things.

We crave that, don’t we?  Easy answers.  Clear directions.  Step-by-step instruction.

But, it’s not always that easy, is it?  Some answers just aren’t clear or easy.  Some steps are more difficult than others.  Confession:  I watched, and understood, the video on how to fix my toilet.  I called the plumber, anyway.  I could have done it – I think – but, not without losing my religion!

While some answers, or instructions, are simple, clear, straightforward, others aren’t.  Some things are too complex, too deep, too mysterious, or too important for easy answers or quick solutions. 

Just think about our current world situation: Covid-19, recent protests over systemic injustices against African Americans, the upcoming election and debate over what kind of leadership America needs.  Clear answers?  Easy solutions?  Quick fixes?  Apparently not.

  • How cautious should we be during this pandemic – staying home, wearing masks?  Who knows?
  • Once you’ve had Covid-19, are you immune?  Maybe.  Maybe not.
  • Are we in the second wave of the pandemic, or is this still the first wave?  And, could the current spikes have been avoided?  Depends on who you ask.
  • When will we have a vaccine?  And, will it be safe?  And, who should get it first?
  • Should we defund the police? 
  • Should African Americans receive financial reparations for past injustices?
  • How do we end systemic racism and injustice?
  • How are we going to recover from this recession?
  • Should the Fall election be done by mail?
  • What leaders should we be listening to?  Doctors?  Elected officials?  Scholars?  The press?

And, let’s be honest, wouldn’t it be great if we could just open our Bibles to the imaginary books of 2nd Opinions or 1st Hesitations to find the easy answers we need?  As I hope you know, there are no books of 2nd Opinions or 1st Hesitations, nor is the Bible an easy answer book.  The purpose of the Bible isn’t to provide easy answers.  The purpose of the Bible is to make us think!  The purpose of the Bible is to engage us in ancient stories that reveal the nature of God, and how God works in our lives.  And, stories have to be told and retold, learned and relearned, in different times, contexts, and situations, for their deeper meaning and truths to be revealed.

Today is the second week of a summer-long theme, called “ConnectAbility,” based on Jesus’ Great Commandment, to, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.’” (Mark 12:30-31) Today, our focus is loving God – connecting with God – with our minds.

The Greek word for the mind, used in this passage, is “dianoia,” which mostly relates to our ability to think and comprehend ,or understand.  Isn’t that interesting?  We don’t ONLY love God with our hearts and our feelings.  We love God with our thinking, processing, understanding, and comprehension.

But, as you’re well aware, not every thought is a loving thought.  Not every thought is a godly thought.  Not every thought is true or wise.

Proverbs 5:3-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.  Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight.” (CEB)

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul talks about having the “Mind of Christ,” which is clearly something different than our own thought processes.  The Bible is clear that godly wisdom, knowledge and understanding – in other words, thinking like God – are gifts from God.

Proverbs 2:6-10 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”

Speaking of the Cross, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:21-25, “In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”

Listen to that again: “(God) determined that the world would NOT come to know him through ITS wisdom.”  He says the message of the cross was scandalous to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.  Why?  Most Jews couldn’t possibly imagine God’s Messiah dying, and in such a terrible, shameful way.  Greeks couldn’t imagine a savior being less than the great, famed, respected philosophers: like Aristotle, or Plato.  How could the savior be a common, uneducated, Jewish man from Nazareth, arrested and killed by the Romans?  “This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”

Let’s be honest.  How many of us would have devised such a plan for saving the world?  Incarnation?  Crucifixion?  Not many, I suspect.  C.S. Lewis explains it like this: “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all… these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

Loving God with our minds is actively seeking the mind of Christ.  Loving God with our minds is actively, purposefully seeking God’s wisdom and knowledge.  Loving God with our minds is submitting our thoughts and ideas to God, and asking God to reveal God’s thoughts and ideas.  This includes our…

  • Moral/ethical decisions
  • Politics
  • Values
  • Economics
  • And more…

Let me ask you a question:  Where do your thoughts and ideas originate?  All thinking begins with our families of origin, and their influence on us – nothing shapes our mindsets as much!  We may come to disagree with our families, or not. But, that comes later. 

Some thoughts come from our culture.  Some from our education.  Some from our circle of friends, coworkers, acquaintances. Some from our spouse.  Some from the news we watch or read.  Some from experience.  And, hopefully, faith, spirituality, and religion have a part.

Let me ask you another question:  What influences your thoughts and opinions the MOST?  Most of us would like to say it’s our faith.  But, often, that really isn’t the case.  Often, our “faith” is shaped by our other values, philosophies, or politics, rather than vice-a-versa.  People of faith, like us, are called to seek the mind of Christ first, critiquing our worldly wisdom, and submitting it to God’s ways. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. 

Dallas Willard writes, “The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.”

When you think about all of the many different influences, vying for your attention – the news, your family, your co-worker’s opinions, social media, your education – how much time is given to worldly opinions, versus godly wisdom?  We’ve all heard the expression, “Garbage in.  Garbage out.”  The problem is, we aren’t always good at recognizing garbage for what it is.  If we want godly thoughts, and the mind of Christ, then we have to increase our consumption of good godly data – which includes Bible study, Christian books, Christian podcasts, sermons, theological discussions, etc.  It doesn’t “just” happen.  It requires effort and intent.

Obviously, loving God with our minds includes belief, trust, and faith.  Loving God with our minds means processing these “Truths,” accepting them, and applying them to our lives.

And, as I said earlier, thinking is more than simply seeking and accepting easy answers, and regurgitating what you’ve been told when the need arises.  Loving God with our minds means seeking, studying, learning, and wrestling with ideas about who God is, and what God is calling us to be and do.

In the book of Genesis, we’re introduced to a family, chosen by God to birth a new nation:  Israel.  God chose a very old couple – Abraham and Sarah – unable to have children, to be the patriarchs of a new family.  Miraculously, Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac.  Isaac had twin sons: Esau and Jacob.  Jacob became the father of 12 sons, who became the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. 

One night, as Jacob was sleeping, a “man” attacked him, and they wrestled all night long.  As morning came, the stranger (actually God), gave Jacob a new name: Israel, which means “Wrestles with God.”  And, “Israel” became the name of God’s chosen people.  The New Testament says we’re the “New Israel.”

Think about this.  God could’ve named his chosen people anything.  They could have been called Abrahamites, or Sarahites, or Isaacites, or Jacobites.  Afterall, many others tribes of people were named for their patriarch.  But, God named us Israel, declaring to the whole world, “Here are people who have and will wrestle with me.”  Jacob wrestled with God physically.  But, they wrestled in others ways, too.  Most of us will never have a physical wrestling match with God.  But, all of us will wrestle with God.

And, personally, I think that’s a good thing.  I think God intends it.

Have you every wrestled with a new idea, you hadn’t considered before?

Have you ever wrestled with a problem, in search of a solution?

Have you ever wrestled with something you don’t understand, seeking comprehension?

Have you ever wrestled with a disappointment, depression, doubt? 

Have you ever wrestled with a big decision?

Have you ever wrestled with whether or not to take a stand?

We all have.  The question is, who or what were you wrestling with?  Were you seeking answers using worldly wisdom, or God’s wisdom?

One thought on ““Connecting with the Mind” (A sermon preached on June 28, 2020 for the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, Part II of a series called, “ConnectAbility”)

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