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This Week's Sermons


When the Best People Were Left Out
Matthew 21:23-32



There is a wonderful story about a group of military leaders who succeeded in building a super computer that was able to solve any problem--large or small, strategic or tactical. These military leaders assembled in front of the new machine for a demonstration. The engineer conducting the demonstration instructed these officers to feed a difficult tactical problem into it. The military leaders proceeded to describe a hypothetical situation to the computer and then asked the pivotal question: attack or retreat? This enormous super computer hummed away for an hour and then printed out its one-word answer . . . YES.

The generals looked at each other, somewhat stupefied. Finally one of them submits a second request to the computer: YES WHAT? Instantly the computer responded: YES, SIR.

The Pharisees, like these generals, were accustomed to people saying "Yes, sir" to them. They were the religious authorities. They were used to being treated as such. But there was a new teacher in town, a teacher who was threatening their authority. The Pharisees were alarmed. They feared Jesus' popularity, his ability to heal and to perform miracles. In their eyes, Jesus was preaching heresy and leading people away from the religious traditions that defined the Jews. The Pharisees wanted to expose him as a fraud.

It was in this context that Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard."

The boy immediately said, "No." Later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to his other son and said the same thing. This one answered, "O.K." but he never got out to the vineyard...

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Leonard Sweet's Sermon


Living "I Don't Know" While "In the Know"
Matthew 21:23-32

In every elementary school class, in every high school and college course, in every job, in every church, in every denomination, on every floor of every building, there seems to be a resident "know-it-all." You know the type.


As much as we despised and resented those resident know-it-alls, we love the current universal know-it-all. It's name is . . . . . Google. But even in a world where the phrase "Google It!" has become every parent's answer to every question we can't answer, we still have that suspicious feeling that Google is sometimes too eager to show off what technology "knows," and what humans don't. And no one likes a show-off.

Those "in the know" are the most respected, the most powerful, and the most influential. Knowledge offers a way to power and prestige. Portals to knowledge, like Yahoo and YouTube, wield the most authority over us and over our imagination.

Of course, whether we turn knowledge into wisdom is another matter. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) is one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived, even though in his lifetime he published only one little book, one essay, and one book review. Wittgenstein said that philosophy is "thinking about what we think how we think, and how we can think." In other words, philosophy doesn't add to our knowledge of God, only to our understanding of the forms of our thoughts about God. Sometimes knowledge can loop back on itself and never leap into wisdom, leaving us imprisoned in the details of knowledge, the data of information.

Then . . . how much knowledge is wasted and goes unused for human betterment? The French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel calls the failure of known facts to inform public opinion "connaissance inutile" or "wasted knowledge." There is a lot of "wasted knowledge" even with all our know-it-alls...

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