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A Right Time To Speak Up

Sermon - 5/15/11
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

Ecclesiastes 9:13-18

I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed important to me. 14There was a little city with few people in it. A great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege-works against it. 15Now there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heeded.’
17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
   than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
   but one bungler destroys much good.

We know this proverb – one bad apple spoils the bunch.

Oh I’m certain this sermon could go any number of ways – if this were a lectionary passage, it would be fascinating to compare what all the guest preachers (and Eliza is guest preaching in Springfield this morning) all the preachers would do with this proverb.   

NRSV says:  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, 
   But one bungler destroys much good.

Oh the bungler.  The bungler, always making you shake your head at their ineptness or throw up a fist in frustration with the clumsy, stupid.  Michael Scott is a bungler. The guy from the Office (you know Steve Carell…).   This guy has got great heart, wants to help others, and every time he talks you just instinctively brace yourself because he is a fool.  With a megaphone. 

But that is my point it would be too easy, and I mean too easy to pick out any number of bunglers, hotheads in this world today and use it to inspire you to action:

Instead I would rather inspire you to action, by thinking for yourself, and to speaking for yourself- for your loved ones, and for your home on Earth.  Wisdom is better than warheads.  Quiet words of the wise are more effective than the shouts of a ruler of fools. 

In our world everyone is talking most of the time. Most of our talking is documented, quotable from a blog, comment, voicemail, e-mail, an edit to a Wikipedia page, an amazon.com transaction, you tube videos.  It’s all there.  Forever.  I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to write the perfectly articulated well-crafted sentence as an online response to some knucklehead I knew in high school who is spouting racist slurs on a Saturday night.  God be with me as write this sentence.  I don’t want to be misunderstood.  There is much noise in our world now – it’s hard to make & hear the wisdom among all the nonsense. 

BUT!  Think of how the internet this year has built solidarity for causes like the non-violent resistance in Egypt - or how news story or petitions can be shared quickly, one step, connecting to all the people you can be to share some wisdom, spread the word.  Dutch Brothers did it last week to raise money for Officer Kilcullen?   When wisdom is spoken it is easier than ever to spread it.

But regardless of its ease or convenience in our bones we live another proverb:  It is best to think before you speak.   I mean what’s the number one rule of carpentry?  Measure twice and cut once. And you know who started out as a carpenter?  Harrison Ford.  Kidding.

But hear this from Ecclesiastes – even the weakest of voices can save the whole city.  You may be poor in spirit, poor in education, poor financially but you can still speak and save the city.  There is a time to speak up and when you speak, do so from the heart, with passion and sincerity. 

You have got to speak it – I know.  That shiver up your spine, that feeling of repulsion most of you now have, that deep anxiety – I know that.  We all know that.  (The ones that don’t know this anxiety will never hush up.)  

The anxiety you feel at being asked to speak your wisdom, to tell your story, to lead us in prayer, that is The anxiety I have in preparing a message for Sunday morning .

What if I get it wrong?  What if I make a mistake?  Someone will hear me and all the good work I’ve been building toward will be lost.  And that may happen.  It wouldn’t be the first time. 

But the teacher told us last week –there is hope -  “by yourself you are unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.”

Knowing you are not alone, that others will speak with you – are you ready to speak up? There is a community here listening.  There are fifty other people here who want to speak up too but are too nervous to do it alone.  Can you put yourself out there?  Can you take a hand as you do so?  That is what Jesus is asking us, what Jesus asks Peter in John 21 – Do you love me?  Then Feed my sheep.  Do you love me?  Love my sheep.  When you speak up (and it is time to speak up) on behalf of our children, when you speak up for justice, when you speak up for the protection, conservation, of the Earth, you are not just giving your wisdom to the world – echoing the prophets in the Old Testament, the apostles in the New Testament – you also discover who is there to stand with you – catch you when you fall, help you back up should you make that mistake, when you are the bungler you so despise.  And that makes us stronger.

Last weekend, the youth of Eugene took that risk and spoke up.  The I matter march was sponsored by Spencer Butte Middle School here in Eugene but there were sister marches all over the country, It was on Mother’s day – and more than 1 million youth and children with parents, teachers, friends, marched in cities for climate change.  This event was organized by youth, supported by adults, but motivated by the youth to send a message to the “ruling generation”, send a message that is so powerful that it actually causes a real shift in our world.  (Pull up website) – Look at the theme at the top of the site:  Our Climate. Our Future.  Our Revolution.  (check it out at www.imattermarch.org)  There is more to do – you can help them by visiting the site. 

The marches are only one aspect – the education another.  But these teens are suing the government for not protecting their future and for allowing climate change policies to serve the corporations and threaten the security and health of the Earth. 

These youth don’t have enough money to play the game of corporations, they are not even able to vote, and they know that politicians don’t necessarily listen to one voice, let alone one that can’t vote,  but they are asking all the little voices to stand up together.  And asking the parents who do vote to stand up with them. 

We can’t leave them there alone – it is the right time to speak up.  These young citizens are trying to change the way we all think – about our daily consumption and energy use yes – but also the way we think of ourselves.  Pass it on -  Your voice matters.  You can speak up and we will stand beside you. 

There is also a right time to listen – it is just as valuable as speaking up – to listen to one another, grow because of one another.

I said when we started the series that I was leading up to an event on May 22 – The Million Letter March – and I’d like to invite Phyllis Weare up to speak her wisdom with us.  Phyllis is the chair of the Power and Light Committee, who is organizing this event.   

Phyllis will share her personal motivations and inspirations for speaking up for the Earth.  She will advocate for each person to think of their personal reasons for speaking up.

Let’s watch this video about the Million Letter March.  (4 minutes)  link can be found at: www.millionlettermarch.org

You know with all our connectedness – for the ease we have in communicating to our congressmen, our president, our mayor.  It is in fact too easy apparently and so a personal letter is what it will take –  To date there are 1315 letters submitted – we want to add yours. 

Our Future matters and it is right to speak up. 


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