Words out of Wisdom, Words out of Fear

12 Sep 2021 by Gail Hinton in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Welcome to worship everyone. Today is Communion Sunday so I invite you to have your own elements ready, some bread and some wine or juice.

The Call to Worship today is a responsive, so I invite you to read along with me the words in bold font.

Call to Worship

The Ways of God (based on Psalm 19 by Bruce Prewer)

The Southern Cross signals God’s glory;
the Milky Way gleams with his handiwork.

Every new day tells his story;
at night-time his skills are displayed.

All nations and tongues can understand his language;
his message saturates our planet.

Look at the merry old sun in his robes of light;
he smiles like a bridegroom on his wedding day.

Keen as an athlete at the Olympics,
he strides from Sydney to Perth.

Then he sprints the other half of the circuit,
missing no nation with his warmth. 

How complete are the ways of the Lord,
constantly restoring our humanity.

He is a dependable counsellor,
with wisdom for those who have open minds.

The Lord’s purposes are beautiful,
making pour hearts leap with joy.

His commands are clear,
bringing a new light into our eyes.

The respect he arouses is healthy,
extending forever.

His assessment of us is fair,
completely to be trusted.

His word is more valuable than a fortune,
more precious than reserves of gold.

It is sweeter than the finest confectionary,
more natural than the honey of the mallee blossom.

It keeps your servants alert and sensitive;
living by it brings us incomparable gain. 

If we should think he has made mistakes,
it’s time to check our motives.

Save your servants from self-conceit,
from the deadly reign of ego.

Then shall we live without shame,
free from the worst of all treason.

May these words tumbling from the mouth,
and the feelings surging from the heart,
be acceptable in your eyes,
dear Lord, our true strength, and our Saviour.

We will now reflect upon the glory of God in the following hymn, The Heavens Declare.
After the hymn we will hear the today’s first reading followed by a brief reflection I have called a teaching moment.
After that we will come before God in prayer.

Hymn: The Heavens Declare

Bible Reading: Proverbs 1:20-33

The Call of Wisdom

20 Wisdom cries out in the street;
    in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
    have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25 and because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm,
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel,
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
    and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure
    and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Teaching Moment: Words out of Wisdom

In today’s reading from Proverbs we meet Wisdom as if she were an actual person, a woman who cries out to all people freely offering words of truth, insight, and direction. Wisdom is on a mission to pour out her thoughts and teach us the right way to live. Where is Wisdom today? Is she still calling out?

Wisdom in the Scriptures is one of God’s divine qualities, a quality fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Christ became for us wisdom from God. Just like the scoffers and mockers in Proverbs who do not heed Wisdom’s cries, Christ too will be mocked and despised by those who fail to see him for who he truly is and in today’s second reading we will hear Christ predict his death at the hands of those who are deaf to words of wisdom.

One of the key sentences in our Proverbs reading describes people who refuse to listen to Wisdom as people who hate knowledge and choose not to fear the Lord. Fear of the Lord sounds odd to our modern-day ears, and it may seem as if we are meant to come before God shaking in our boots but that is not what Wisdom is talking about at all. In Proverbs fear of the Lord “is the beginning of wisdom” and describes a person’s overall attitude or character.

People who fear the Lord hate evil, listen to God’s instructions, are humble, loyal, and faithful. Christian writer, John Ortberg describes fear of the Lord as “reverence and awe and a healthy recognition of who God is” as well as the recognition our own brokenness.

The best bit about fearing the Lord is in the last verse of today’ reading, in which Wisdom promises us that those who turn to God will be secure and live at ease without dread of disaster. Today we live in a world in which there is an abundance of dread, and an abundance of disaster. We can choose to be fearful of so many things, we may fear Covid or the covid vaccine, we might fear for the future of this planet and its changing climate, there is always the fear of war, fear of natural disasters, fear of what will happen to our church and on and on the list goes. So is the promise we hear today in Proverbs realistic? How is it possible to live at ease, secure and unafraid?

After we hear today’s reading from Mark we will consider if it is possible to live such a life. We will also look at fear at is worst, the kind of fear we are more familiar with in contrast to fear of the Lord. Now fear is an important and vital human emotion that can alert us to danger and help us stay safe however if we allow fear to run rampant it can run and ruin our lives.

Let’s pray.

Lord we praise you for the wonders of creation
and for your wisdom.

The natural world that you lovingly care for,
operates according to the laws you wisely put in place.

The planets follow their course,
the waters of the earth follow a cycle,
the plants know when to bloom and when to set seed
and birds and animals on land and sea
fit into a web of life both stunningly beautiful and intricate.

Yet we humans Lord, seem to go off track,
to set ourselves a course that leads nowhere.

We fail to hear the call of wisdom.

We fail to trust you and your ways.

We think we are wise enough to run the show,
to make all our own decisions and ignore your word
and because of that we get caught up in a web of worries.

Forgive us for our ignorance,
for our complacency,
for our stubbornness and hard heartedness.

May your Wisdom call out to us again and again
so that we may know what it means to fear the Lord
and to live according to your commands and wise counsel.

In Christ we see your wisdom revealed
and in Christ we hear the assurance that,
our sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Hymn: O love that will not let me go

Bible Reading: Mark 8:27-38

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Sermon: Words out of Wisdom, Words out of Fear

Over the next few minutes I am going to talk a bit about the normal, everyday, sense of fear, worry and anxiety that we all experience from time to time, however, if you or someone you know does not seem to be coping with these emotions please reach out to a friend, your GP, Lifeline, your Pastoral Partner or contact me. Depending on how you are coping there is often a need for Medical Professionals need to step in to assist in God’s healing ways. I am particularly conscious of how many people are suffering from the effects of lockdown at this time and pray that we will all be alert to the signs of clinical anxiety and depression. So now to today’s reading from Mark.

I feel sorry for the apostle Peter because sometimes he gets it so right and sometimes he gets it so wrong. Within just a few verses he is first the star pupil, the one who identifies Jesus as the Messiah and then he is the one who is rebuked by Jesus and sharply put back into his place, but can we blame him for rebuking Jesus? Imagine being in Peter’s shoes, how would it strike you to hear the person you have loved and given your life to tell you that they are going to a die? Commentators suggest that besides being emotionally torn apart by Jesus prediction, Peter is also confused, disappointed, and dismayed. Peter is probably wondering why the journey, he has been on with Jesus and the other disciples can end so badly, so tragically and without fanfare, without success, without the nation of Israel being restored to glory. We cannot know for sure but perhaps Peter’s idea of the Messiah was that of a victorious leader or a revolutionary who would topple the ruling powers and claim the title of King.

I also think there is a level of fear going on inside Peter’s thinking, fear of losing someone he loves dearly and fear about what the future will hold if Jesus is no longer with him and the other disciples. It is interesting to note that Peter makes no comment about Jesus’ prediction of rising again in three days, I don’t think he could have been truly listening, fear of the unknown had clouded his thinking. If he had he been listening instead of reacting out of fear perhaps his next move may have been to ask Jesus exactly what he meant, after all resurrection is hardly an everyday event.

Jesus sums up Peter’s thinking perfectly in saying that his “mind (was) not on divine things but on human things.” Fear is a very human thing, and it can sneak up on us in the disguise of its less obvious cousins, worry and anxiety. Let me give you an example of how sneaky fear can be. I have had a really big week, not so much in everything I had to accomplish but in the fact that on Friday I had one of the most important interviews of my life. After three years of Formation at the Centre for Ministry I was ready to be assessed by my Formation Panel and be affirmed as ready for ministry or not. Even though I approached this meeting with confidence it cast a shadow over everything else I needed to get done and I began to feel that familiar feeling in my tummy, anxiety was starting to build. How on earth would I get things done? How on earth could I concentrate on the tasks at hand?

As I began researching today’s readings it dawned on me, I just like Peter had put my mind to human things. I had started to wonder how I, me, on my own would manage my week and instead of putting my mind to divine things and turning to the One who strengthens us in all things, I forgot all about God’s promises. So with the phrase ‘practice what you preach’ in the back of my mind I turned everything over to God our true strength. I prayed, and I put my trust in God’s Spirit to get me through the week and miraculously in one of the most important and potentially stressful weeks of my life, my anxiety vanished. So in answer to the question I posed earlier in this service, is it possible to live at ease, secure and unafraid, well yes, if we give ourselves and our concerns completely over to God.

In this we are denying ourselves, because we give up the right to be in control over our own lives and we deny ourselves the habit of worry. Just like Peter who ends up putting his foot in his mouth and speaking too quickly, worry pushes us away from God.

When Jesus asks us to deny ourselves and carry our own cross in order to follow him, we are presented with a brutally honest description of what it means to call ourselves a Christian.  Marks’ first audience many hundreds of years ago would have heard this as a call to literally lay down their lives for Jesus’ sake and the gospel because many of them faced persecution, imprisonment, and execution. According to church tradition all but one of Jesus’ twelve disciples was martyred, killed for faithfully following Jesus, so these verses have particular meaning for not only Jesus first followers but to those Christians who still face persecution in our world today. But what about us?

Our challenges may be quite different to Mark’s original audience but every time we rely on our own human strength and power to save us, or allow fear, worry or anxiety to consume us you could say we have more or less dropped our cross; instead of following Jesus we end up following our human ego and our own thoughts take over. According to woman wisdom this leads to panic, distress, and anguish, not a pretty picture is it? In stark contrast to that unfortunate outcome, woman wisdom also provides us with a beautiful description of what life can be like if we give ourselves completely to God; in the perfect love of God, a love that casts out fear, we can live without dread of disasters, despite what life may throw at us. In the Lord, our true strength and Saviour we can rest easy, secure in God’s promise to save us and the world our Lord loves so dearly.


Hymn: God is our strength and our refuge.

Offering Prayer

Lord and giver of everything good thing,
We partake in the joyful feast of Christ
through your gracious gift of bread and wine.

Bless the gifts we bring before you so that they may be
transformed through you grace and love,
made known in Jesus Christ our Saviour.


Prayers of Intercession

Let us bring before you God, our prayers of intercession.

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here.
Wherever we are, come, bow before him now, with reverence and fear.
In Him, no sin is found. We stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord is shining all around.

Shepherd of your people, hear us as you have given us a place for prayer, and give us hearts to pray.
May we, in faith, receive your word and in faith, present our prayers.

Creator God, we thank you for Jesus the light of the world.
We thank you for those in every generation who has faithfully pointed to him, and who have spread his light in even the darkest times.
Lord Jesus, may we find the courage to point to the hope and comfort and peace you offer. Especially in times of difficulty and sorrow.
May we witness to your love and your goodness, your presence and your compassion.

There are so much wrong in the world God, most of it is our doing most is because of our choices.
Most suffering and injustice is a result of human unkindness.
Yet some is not. Disease and misfortune, strike faithful and faithless.
The world so often is not how you would have it. And life is so often not as we would have it.

We offer thanks for the family of God's people meeting throughout the world this day, all of us gathered only to aware of our faults and our limitations.
But knowing too that you Lord Jesus can take the tiniest spark and fan it into a raging fire.
Give us the courage and the desire to seek to serve you as best we can. And in that service, may we reflect the life you lived.

We pray too for places in the world where conflict and violence are rife, for places where nature has been harsh, and where we have been thoughtless in caring for God's creation.
Grant us greatest concern for one another, and an even greater willingness to do whatever we can for each other, and for the world itself.

We lift up to you all those responsible for decision making regarding this pandemic.
Premiers, Prime Ministers, Governments, Health Departments, and those who make decisions, lead them by your spirit.

We pray for those who are vulnerable and marginalized.
For those whose lives have been profoundly disrupted through this crisis without work, missing families feeling depressed, may each one feel your loving calming arms surrounding them.
We pray for those who are lonely, knowing that some of us are lonely, and we pray for the heartbroken ones, knowing that some of us are heartbroken for various reasons.

We pray for all our church members who are in care for those members that are feeling strained with their health, and those who struggle in the environment of the lockdown we are living.

Loving God, bring your comfort. Fill us with your strength and the strength to trust you, even on our lowest days. Grant us your peace.

We are at an important Crossroads as a church with the COVID-19 crisis.
Churches being presented in a very different way - Online Services, zoom Bible study zoom meetings.
But we have been given this opportunity moment for the church to rethink who it is and who we engage with as a community.
We pray for future discussions by our church council as we move forward, to find our future at Carlingford.
So may we work with you loving God, to make this world, the world you intended it to be.
A world where people care and love and laugh.
A world where justice reigns and peace is evident and where all know they belong.

These prayers be offered to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Hymn: Feed us now bread of life


May God bless us and make us pure and holy in His sight.

May the peace of God abound in us.

May He instruct us with the Word of Wisdom and inform us with the Gospel of Salvation,
and may His guiding Spirit enrich us and cast out all fear,
in and through the love of Christ.

Next Week: 19 September 2021
Proverbs 31: 10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13-4: 3,7 -8a and Mark 9:30-37
Lectionary Readings:
Proverbs 31: 10-31, Psalm 1, James 3:13-4: 3,7 -8a and Mark 9:30-37