“Be opened!” Jesus prayed for a man who was deaf, so deaf he could not hear words, and so he could not speak; he like the button on the remote was mute; but Jesus raised a healing cry for this man living in Sidon, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a lake that separated Jews from Gentiles, the world beyond Hebrew Law and the Hebrews’ Book of wise sayings, and up until then, beyond the teaching, healing ministry of Jesus.
“Be opened!” cried out Jesus to a man living in the world Jews labeled “unclean,” to be opened to “speak clearly” of the Scriptures Jesus was inviting him, a Gentle, to use to shape his life and his work, on “the other side’ –
the world beyond the synagogues and Temple of the Hebrew people…the world we live in today.
On this Labor Day Sunday we hear Jesus’ Gospel charge, “Be opened!” “Be opened!” to Scripture’s words being read to us and receive them as His call to practice their “Wisdom in the Workplace.”
The call to practice the wisdom of justice heard coming to us through the Letter of James that asks,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Edie Rasell, PhD, who is staff for Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, updates those lacking daily food with statistics. A sampling reads:
- Among the 10,000 people working as car washers in Los Angeles, roughly one-fourth are (illegally) paid only in tips while those who do get a paycheck are paid very little.
- Among the poor age 18 to 64, just over one-third is not available to work because they are retired, going to school, or disabled. Among the other two-thirds who could work, 74% are either working (at a job that keeps them poor) or looking for work.
- A study by the Federal Reserve Board found that 47% of households could not cover an unexpected expense costing $400 without borrowing money or selling something . ( from http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_september_6_2015)
Just a sampling of the call for “wisdom” to be practiced as justice in the workplace.
And, as raised in the same letter, the call to practice the wisdom of compassion heard coming to us in the words:
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,…“Brother or sister” – the world as seen through the eyes of Jesus, healing a deaf and mute Gentile, to hear His call to follow Him and be His servant in the service of compassion and to do it in that world beyond synagogue and Temple.
The same call carried forward in John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem we sing as a hymn: (NCH #533)
Children of God, reach out to one another!... to worship rightly is to love each other,
each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.
Follow with reverent steps the great example
of him whose holy work was doing good;…
An online weekly email that prints reflections on the Scripture, and therefore, preachers who look to Sunday often click on it, referred to Universal’s 2014 film The Theory of Everything” based on “the life of Stephen and Jane Hawking when they first met in Cambridge in 1964, through Stephen’s academic successes and his
increasing disability. At the age of 21 he was diagnosed with motor–neuron disease (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and was not expected to live past 25. Born in 1942, he is now 73 years old and uses a motorized wheelchair and “speaks” through a computer–driven voice” (which by now is activated by one muscle in his cheek).
The writer of the posting noted, “He was able to find a ‘way out’ of the prison his disease and body put him in.”
(Adapted from firstname.lastname@example.org for Sept. 6, 2-10)
As I read those words intended to be a present day “Be opened” story, I thought of the unnamed persons who were moved with compassion to direct their skills and time into designing the computer that gave Stephen Hawking a voice for his mind to speak phenomenal thoughts.
A sampling of others’ “wisdom” practiced as compassion in the workplace.
One more thought is that of practicing the wisdom of common sense, heard as a call coming to us through one of many simple, down-to-earth proverbs school children used to commit to memory:
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, is better than silver or gold.
A “good name” acquired by someone who is respected for using common sense to solve problems; a person like Harry who never moved beyond the road that bears his last name, .left school after eighth grade to work at what some would say was menial labor, and spend his free time farming a few acres and caring for his wife’s horses.
When she added a Icelandic horse to their stable, the horse, with the reputation of being disease-free and long living, started to be lethargic and bloated. His wife, her equestrian friends, and veterinarians didn’t know what to do other than watch the horse slowly, slowly, die.
But the horse didn’t! Gradually health returned and lived up to the reputation of a long life. It was then that Harry spoke up, “It was the diet.”
Using the wisdom of common sense, he researched what kind of diet would prevent the problem, and found it was one of carrots and oats.
Harry’s kind of wisdom that is so much needed in the workplace, yet often dismissed when the person giving it doesn’t hold impressive degrees and draw a huge salary.
When Harry died, those who knew him remarked, “What a wise old owl he was.” – recalling the child’s rhyme:
A wise old owl sat in an oak, The more he heard, the less he spoke; The less he spoke, the more he heard; Why aren't we all like that wise old bird? Author: Unknown
Harry, the “wise, old owl” whose actions were a sampling of “wisdom” practiced as common sense in the workplace. And so, the owl that appeared at the beginning of our service returns at the end of this Labor Day sermon to remind us of another adage:“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
Today it is to hear to us as the first act of wisdom to be silent enough to hear Jesus’ Gospel cry: “Be opened!” “Be opened” to the letter and proverb’s wise words and then to hear them as the Gospel call to practice justice, compassion, and common sense.
“Be opened” to practicing them as “Wisdom in and for the Workplace.”