Wisdom of the Ages
Wisdom of the Ages
Many modern writers have commented on the state of kids these days. They have commented on how kids these days have abandoned traditional values and traditional work ethics. Here are just a few quotes from well respected writers of our day about kids these days. “[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances. They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.” “The beardless youth… does not foresee what is useful, squandering his money.” “… I find by sad Experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children, and many Children as they have played about the Streets have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and it would grieve ones Heart to hear what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the Mouths of such…” “ “The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth…”
If you haven’t caught on by now I am actually not quoting modern writers. In order here are the authors I quoted. Aristotle, in his book Rhetoric, written in the 4th century B.C. Horace, who wrote in the 1st Century B.C. A Little Book for Children and Youth – Being Good Counsel and Instructions for Your Children, Earnestly Exhorting Them to Resist the Temptation of the Devil, written by Robert Russel in 1695. Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, written by Reverend Enos Hitchcock in 1790.
I opened this sermon with a deceptively to make a point, that being that the older generations have been complaining about the generation that follows them for all of recorded history. It is not that older generations don’t have wisdom to impart to younger generations. One of the blessings of my life and career is going to visit our shut ins, listening to our older saints, and gaining from the wisdom they impart to me. The wisdom that I receive from families when I do funerals. I will keep that wisdom with me for all of my life. But the fact that Aristotle was complaining about kids these days four hundred years before Christ was born shows us that complaining about kids these days, whether valid or invalid in its points, is not a wise strategy for helping kids these days succeed. If it were it would have worked by now but it would have worked by now. But it has been two thousand years and it hasn’t worked. It has only caused generational conflict.
I am sure all of here have felt generational conflict in our families, in our churches, in our nation. We have felt how generational conflict has torn us apart. It is as old as the tower of Babel. When the people were full of pride, they built themselves a tower in the book of Genesis, thinking that they were like God. But God tore down that tower and confused their languages. But God’s solution to the curse of the tower of babel is the gift of Pentecost. In Jesus’ time Pentecost was The day the Jewish People remembered how God gave them the first five books of the Bible, pente meaning five, thus the word Pentecost, Jesus gave his people the power to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, the Promise made by the prophet Joel, the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh ,sons and daughters, young and old would prophesize. And here I see good news.
The Good News: When we accept the wisdom of the ages people shall be amazed. How do we accept the wisdom of the ages?
- We have to understand what Prophecy is.
- We have to understand that in God’s kingdom everyone can prophecy
First, to accept the wisdom of the ages we must understand what the New Testament means by Prophecy. In the Bible there are some examples of predicting the future which are called prophecy. But Paul tells us this is not the main point of New Testament prophecy. Paul tells us the true meaning of prophecy from a New Testament perspective in 1 Corinthians 4 where he says, “the one who prophesize speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” The main point of prophecy, from a New Testament perspective, is not to write new scriptures, or to give us certainty about the future, but to build us up, encourage us, and console us, so we may follow God into the future, whether we have a clear view of that future or not. Thus I would define prophecy as, “a wise word in the present meant to encourage us into the future that God has for us.” This could be preaching and teaching that speaks exactly the word you need to hear at the time you need to hear it. It could be a friend who consoles another in their grief by saying an understanding word, or perhaps by just being there and not saying anything at all. Perhaps it does mean a supernatural word of knowledge or having some sense of future events, though this is rare in my experience. Mostly prophecy is having the courage to trust that the Holy Spirit can use regular Christians of any age or background to teach and encourage one another.
Second, once we understand the nature of prophecy in the New Testament, we have to see that part of God’s plan is to have young, old, and everyone else prophecy. While some may be called specifically to teach, preach, and encourage, God’s intention is for the entire body to teach, preach, and encourage. He pours out his Spirit on all flesh so that the world may know that the church is not about any particular charismatic leader, but it is about a charismatic people, filled not with their own energy, but the power of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon one of my greatest joys is gleaning wisdom from our older members. But I also glean a lot of wisdom during children’s sermons. Though I set out to teach kids lessons in faith I find that they teach me lessons in faith. I glean wisdom from our teens who participate in the praise band and share their faith in Sunday School. In this church I am blessed that young and old prophecy, though you may think of yourselves as doing so.
Kids these days. Kids these days, we go to get over get over complaining about kids these days, because it has never worked. And the generations need us to step up and encourage them during such a time as this. Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series, tries to capture the awkwardness of being in Middle School with jokes, simple writing, and comic strip illustrations. As of 2015 the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has sold 150 million copies. So it is a safe bet that your children or grandchildren have read and connected with these books. To quote the back of the book, “ Being a kid can really stink. And no one knows this better than Greg Heffley, who finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving.” Greg comments about his Middle School predicament by saying this, “ Let me just say for the record that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. You got kids like me who haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day. And then they wonder why bullying is such a big problem in middle school.” (Kinney, pg 3)
In the first Diary of a Wimpy kid, Greg navigates the perils of middle school with his best friend Rowley. One of the many perils that Greg and Rowley have to avoid in middle school is what they call the “cheese touch”. Greg tells us how the cheese touch got started on page pg 8 of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. To quote Greg, “Today we had Phys ED, so the first thing I did was sneak off to the basketball court to see if the cheese was still there. And sure enough, it was. That piece of cheese has been sitting on the black top since last spring. I guess it must’ve dropped out of someone’s sandwich or something. After a couple of days, the Cheese started getting all moldy and nasty. Nobody would play basketball on the court where the cheese was, even though that was the only court that had a hoop with a net. Then one day, this kid named Darren Walsh touched the Cheese with his finger, and that’s what started this thing called the Cheese Touch. It’s basically like the Cooties. If you get the Cheese Touch, you’re stuck with it until you pass it on to someone else. The only way to protect yourself from the Cheese Touch is to cross your fingers. But it’s not that easy remembering to keep your fingers crossed every moment of the day. I ended up taping mine together so they’d stay crossed all the time. I got a D in handwriting, but it was totally worth it.” (Kinney, pg 10). Whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can give thanks that none of us have to deal with the cheese touch. Greg and Rowley certainly have their work cut out for them avoiding such perils.
Greg and Rowley are normal middle school friends. They spend most of their time playing video games and complaining about how their parents force them to do things they don’t want to do. In one particular memorable scene Greg and Rowley go trick or treating. Greg dresses up as a pirate. Rowley dresses up as a Knight, though Rowley’s mom had added padding and other safety improvements to Rowley’s costume so you couldn’t even tell he was a knight anymore. After, trick or treating, Greg and Rowley are walking home, when a truck full of high school kids approaches them. One of the high school kids pulls out a fire extinguisher and blasts Greg and Rowley with it. Greg threatens to call the police so the high school kids chase Greg and Rowley into a bunch of bushes. In this and other experiences in the book Greg and Rowley have each other’s backs.
Yet, as happens in Middle School, and in life in general, Greg and Rowley have a falling out with their friendship, the details of which are complicated and humorous. Their friendship is restored when Greg and Rowley once again run into the teenagers from Halloween. The teenagers are still angry about the Halloween incident so they force Rowley to eat the rotten cheese on the basketball court. The next day all the kids in school see that the cheese is gone. To save Rowley of being accused of the dreaded cheese touch, Greg lies and tells that he through the cheese away, thus bringing the cheese touch curse upon himself. Greg and Rowley’s relationship is restored and they go back to playing video games.
Why has the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series sold 150 million copies around the world? Bryan Caplan in his article, Why Do Parents Forget What’s It’s Like to Be a Kid? Tries to explain to adults why this series is so popular with kids;
“Lately my twins and I have been enjoying the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Mr and Mrs. Heffley, the mom and dad in these stories, seem totally clueless. My kids occasionally ask me if the Heffley parents are “bad.” My response: “They’re not exactly bad. They just don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid.”
In the story, the result of this oddly familiar amnesia is twofold.
First, the Heffley parents pointlessly alienate their kids by pushing them into activities that aggravate parent and child alike. The dad forces his reluctant son to join the swim team. The result: the son freezes, and the dad is humiliated before his fellow dads. The mom forces her pleading son to join the school play. The result: the son loathes the whole experience, pelts the star with an apple during the performance, and mortifies his mom.
Second, the Heffley parents largely ignore all sorts of kid-on-kid abuse, leaving their older sons in a brutal Hobbesian jungle. When they do respond, it’s awfully arbitrary – and not in a clever Beckerian way.
The power of the Wimpy Kid series is that it feels real. Many parents really do forget what’s it’s like to be a kid. (Another reason why I think responsible kidults make the best parents!)
Note: This doesn’t mean that parents should let their kids do as they please. What it means, rather, is that remembering your childhood is useful parental heuristic. It helps you figure out when you should leave well enough alone – and when to lay down the law.”
The Bible has much to say about the wisdom that comes in our older years. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor. It is attained in the way of righteousness.” Yet, Pentecost reveals to us that God can express His wisdom through people of any age or background if we are willing to humble ourselves and learn the language of those who are different from us. Perhaps there is a diary of a wimpy kid for every age group. A book that catches our experience and our complaints. A book that we can empathize with and say finally someone who speaks my language. Yet, the glory of Pentecost is not that the disciples spoke their own language, but they speak the language of those they don’t know. So maybe we should follow the words St. Francis of Assisi who hundreds of years ago said this prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May these words of wisdom overcome the cheese touches in our own lives. Those differences that just don’t smell good to us, that we flee from, even though the only working basketball hoop is on that court. May we be willing to overcome our own cheese touches, that we may be bound together by one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism, that we may receive the wisdom of the ages.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.