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2013-01-20 The Pride of Intellect - by Cathy Zhang

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By Cathy Zhang
20 Jan. 2013 Sunday

 

 

 

 

Media Resources:

Sermon: The Pride of Intellect video audio ppt
doc
Worship song: Ni Ai Yong Bu Bian video audio lyric
Worship song: Draw Me Close To You video audio lyric
Worship song: Still video audio lyric
Worship song: The Gift Of Knowing You这一生最美的祝福 video audio lyric

 

 

 

Scripture Reading: Jonah 2:2-9
2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave a I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God
7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

 

 

Sermon:

 

Please join me in a short prayer:

Lord of creation, Lord of wisdom, Lord of intellect, Lord of knowing and Lord of understanding, please come, send your spirit with us so that we will be enlightened in your light and wisdom. May the words form my mouth, meditation from my heart, are all pleasing to you. In Christ name we pray! Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, I want to thank the choir for their song, Thank you Lord for the gift of knowing. Today we will keep going with the book of Jonah Chapter 2.

 

Stephen and Jessica have led us to reflect on the chapter one. We have known a little bit about this story, who Jonah was, and how he tried to flee away from God’s call, but he did not make it. He told the sailors if you wanted to stop the storm, picked me up and hurled me into the sea. The sailors did so. And God asked a big fish to swallow up Jonah. Now here come our verses: Chapter 2: 2-9, the prayer of Jonah.

 

We know the Psalms are actually the songs. They can sing, so there are poems. You see a sentence structure like  ABBA. It’s a chiastic structure. There are many chiastic structures in the Bible. So it is a very literary structured scripture. This kind of structure, actually if you know a little bit about it, pay attention to it, it’s more interesting, you will understand the scripture better.

 

What you see here now is the NRSV (new revised standard version). It’s not the NIV (new international version). It’s a little different from the scripture we have read. NRSV and NIV are two widely used English translations, especially the contemporary ones. They are the ones whose translations are not like the King James Version. They are a little bit updated with the modern language. But still NRSV and NIV, in this part, are quite different. So I will come back to NRSV in order to show that the structure is like a poem. And NIV translation is more closer to the Hebrew text.

 

In order to show this chiastic structure, you will see that so for A, You see 2 As. So you see the Lord (“called to the Lord”) and His voice (“he answered” ) in verse 2, and then in verses 9-10, when it’s finishing, you see God’s voice (“commanded the fish”) and the Lord (And the Lord”).. So that is a chiastic structure. In Chinese, we call it hui xuan shi (回响式), great echo line. So both A’s talk about similar themes and B’s focus on similar themes too. The two B’s you will find also similar words, echoing or repeating the flood surrounded me and the deep surrounded me. You will see the other. When you study carefully, you will find it. You will find that those two A’s are what Jonah is talking about “I called to God”, “God answered me”. And the B’s focus on Jonah’s distress, his miserable situation, and we will go on.

 

 


 

Let’s see verse 2 first. I called to the LORD out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol, I cried, and you heard my voice. It starts from I and finish from my, ok? Just a reminder. Verse 3, You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?'

 

Jonah here is accusing God for all the misfortunes, you threw me into the water, while he was trying to accuse God all the misfortunes, “because of you, you cast me into that depth, I’m almost going to die”. In contrast with this, he said I look again though you treat me very badly; I still look up to your holy temple. He is showing his piety, and he’s still pious.

 

Verse 4 I said, 'I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?' I’m miserable because of you but I am still pious.

 

Verse 5-7: The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. Miserable, almost die. At the root of the mountains, I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

 

Something like that, he’s still focusing on his own miserable things and his predicament. Then the last two verses 8-9, all of a sudden, he changed his target. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the LORD!  All salvations from God.

 

Here, he’s again asserting his own piety. He’s very pious. He’s offering Thanksgiving to God. He wants God to remember that and he is claiming to God that you know these other people turned away from your love, I am not. I am in the misfortunes, but I still want to thank you. And this steadfast love in Hebrew is Hesed, and this word will appear again in chapter 4 verse 2.

 

I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. “Slow to anger, abounding in love”, first appeared in Exodus 34:6, we call it the Credo. It is repeated in Old Testament showing God’s love. The scripture uses the word Hesed. Hesed means faithfulness and loyalty. But it can refer to loyalty of God, faithfulness of God, and also loyalty of human. Although Jonah is saying that God is faithful, here he is still showing his own piety, while disparaging, you know, accusing others are not faithful.


 

 

Think of that. We know in the first chapter, when all the sailors saw the storm, they knew that there was something divine, above their control, they prayed to that divine being. What was Jonah doing? Lay down on the boat and slept. He was not afraid at all. How about later, when he went to Nineveh, and told them God was going to punish them, they needed to repent. The king immediately followed and obeyed. So the sailors and the king actually are a contrast with Jonah in listening to God. And here in Chapter 4, Jonah was still showing his piety. So for me, this prayer actually shows the pride of intellect.

 

Intellect is the ability of a power of knowing and understanding. It is a gift from God. Truly without this power of knowing and understanding, we can not know God. It’s a gift from God that we can know the world better and know our God. However, there is a danger of having this pride of knowing. We think we know something, we think we know the Bible, we have the experience. Then we think we know very actually we have this pride of knowing. Because we think we know, we tend to look down upon others, tend to be impatient and tend to judge.

 

This prayer used, if we count, the first person singular 23 times as subject, object or possessive. Actually, if you read carefully, you will see a big ego of Jonah. He asserts that God has sought to destroy him that he has shown true piety in the midst of calamity, that he projects a voice of thanksgiving, and that he has been delivered from danger. But it also shows his self-centerness. Now you know all of his thanksgiving is not self-effacing at all. As for me, his arrogance peaks when he compares himself with idol others.

 

A friend of mine actually reminded me of that. She said, when she reads the Book of Jonah, she thinks that it’s a mirror for the intellectuals. We are the intellectuals. Intellectuals in Chinese is zhi shi fen zi (知识分子), those who are educated; those who think they know; those who think that they have the power of reason; those who think when they reason out everything, they will come naturally to believe in God.

 

You will then see the mirror of intellectuals through Jonah. Because he knows that God is compassionate and a loving God. God will save and give human being a chance to repent and forgive and turn back. May God will forgive the Nineveh. But Jonah refused to do so. He thought he knew. Because of this knowing, knowing the power and compassion of our God, he wanted to flee. Because he knew the compassion of God, he was not afraid of dying. Instead, he would rather die than to listen and follow God.

 

 

 

Knowing is a double-edge sword for intellectuals. It helps us to know, helps us to reason, helps us to develop, helps us to create all the wonderful vision in the world. But it also helps us to blind our mind, to be so cold-hearted. And because of this knowing that we can think, and that we are doing God justice and on behalf of God, we can take others’ lives very easily and casually. And such diversified disastrous things happened in history so many times because of this pride of intellect.

There is a famous novel, an intellectual novel named “Umberto Eco – The Name of Rose”. In that novel, there are two representatives of the pride of intellect. One is William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar, who is very, smart and who is kind of representing those intellectuals, Because it’s a story in the Middle Ages before the Enlightenment, so William of Baskerville, represented a kind of enlightened friar. He believed in reasoning and he is very good at it. Logic, so he was using, when he went to that place and found all the death. You know, he tried to solve all the problems. He was using his reason to deduct and he was the pride of intellect that he believed that there was a plot and a plan behind all the murders. .But in the end, he discovered that there was no plan but consequences. So he turned to repent for his pride of intellect.

 

The other example is a blind Dominican friar, very elderly blind Dominican Old George, who represented those conservatives, and who tried their best to preserve the tradition. He thought that he knew the truth and he thought that Aristotle’s book on Poetics that teaches people a power of love is very dangerous to the younger people and to the future destination. He thought he knew that, he tried to control, he put poison on that book, whoever read that book would die. He did not plan anything and he did not know that is going to kill so many, including one’s favorite. It’s only because he had that pride of intellect, he thought he knew.

 

Another American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short parable named “The Minister’s Black Veil”. The Minister is a kind of well-loved, but all of a sudden one day, he wore a black veil to preach and refused to remove the black veil until his death. The reason that he wanted to wear his veil was because he thought he knew a secret, he thought he knew every human being has a hidden sin in their heart. So he wanted to separate himself from this world, from other people’s sins. His black veil reminds others that you have a secret sin or kind of in your heart. But he didn’t look at his own sin of pride.

 

It’s very natural and it is very easy for us to have this pride of intellect, because we have the power to know and we are easy to be attempted by this intellectual ability.

 

Pride actually has been regarded as one of the seven deadly sins. Pride is the fountainhead of the self-love in which all other sins take root. “From pride all perdition took its beginning.” (Book of Tobit 4:14) Pride is the most dangerous of sins, because it blinds our understanding, imagining our acts to be good and virtuous when certain habits actually may be vicious. When we are blinded by pride, we do not consider our talents and abilities as God’s gifts to us, but attribute our good qualities to ourselves instead to God.

 

The pride of intellect comes with the pride of superiority, which makes us want to control the lives of others, to impose ourselves on them, to ‘domineer’ over them. It makes our will rigid and unbending when others assert authority. We do not want that challenge and it will foster our self-will .We will have no pity to our neighbors or to others who are suffering like Jonah.

 

There is a remedy for this pride of intellect. St. Augustine said, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” We all know that practice of priority will help us with pride. However, humility is quiet abstract.

 

So most practically,

1, we always remember or be aware that the intellectual pride exists in us.

2. Always remember to look up to God and trust in God’s faithfulness, love and compassion to you, to me and to others.

3. Thirdly, the ancient Greek wisdom “to knowing thyself” could help with this pride of intellect. It is a reminder to you to look back to your  heart. To have more self-discernment instead of only focusing on others. Whatever happens, focus on yourself first, try your best to look yourself, your weakness, strengthen, fear, and past. Through this kind of experience of knowing yourself, you may have a better understating of your neighbor, your colleague and others.

 

 

 

 

In  a situation of misfortune, do not complain first or complain to others first, but look back to yourself and reflect. Psychologically speaking, the person who is good at knowing thyself and reflecting thyself frequently has more power in the spirit in their hearts and is actually more healthy.

 

So I have to summarize. Jonah offered a prayer here. He described his miserable situation but he was still a very self-centered prophet. As a prophet, he needed to be the agent of God passing God’s words. However, he was so self-centered that he wanted God to stand on his side. Because he knows the power of God he knows the compassion of God. He knew the possibility of repentance, but refused to forgive others even God has forgiven him.

 

I think and I know I have this pride of intellect too. Many times in my life, a friend actually a classmate,. saw that I still did not want to call him a friend. I did not like him very much because of his behavior. Later a friend told me that he had became a Christian. I was quite angry. I do not think he deserves or I do not think he can. Very naturally I suspect his intention of being a Christian. How dare I am?

 

See I am like Jonah and I have to read the book of Jonah frequently to remind myself of this pride of intellect so I can be more patient when others disagree with me, so I can have more patience in listening and I can have more compassion to all who may be different from me.

 

May God’s words, God’s wisdom empower us, so that we may use this power of intellect, this power of knowing, this power of understanding in a correct way, instead of keeping this pride of intellect to hurt others. So that we can make and bear better witness for God. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Presider: Kitty

Thanks God for Cathy’s sermon today to remind us to always reflect on our life if we were Jonah and if we have pride and also to remind of us to be humble. Just now pastor Wu also told me that he went to America for a short visit and he was like Jonah.

 

Witness by Pastor Wu

We did not see our daughter for over 1.5 years. She was so worried and she was also desperate so my wife and I sent a prayer request to many of our friends in America and in China, and many friends told us that they promised they would pray together with us. And my wife and I prayed. Therefore It was so hard.

 

While we were waiting in the airport at Dayton, Ohio, we hoped that the snow could stop as soon as we finished the prayer, but obviously our prayer did not accomplish this goal. It kept snowing and snowing all the time. And the snow on the ground piled up, nobody could get off. My wife and I have to find a hotel outside in downtown. We both were caught up in the storm for 36 hours. It was almost the same as Jonah’s experience of staying in the belly of that big fish.

 

We were praying that Lord please send us an eagle so that we could fly all the way from Dayton through the wings of the eagles and our prayers obviously did not achieve this goal and I questioned why and I was so desperate. I wanted to see my daughter, wanted to talk to her, wanted to give her a hug, but I could not do that because of the long distance. And out of a sudden on the Sunday morning, I realized that the wing of the eagle was exactly the storm and the snow that God sent to me that I could meditate.

 

Lord you want me to understand there are trials for pastors, there are trials for Christians  everywhere in China as well as in America. So I accepted the trial and continued to pray and by the afternoon, we were on the plane. We went to Dayton. And we met our daughter.

 

It was such a good experience and I loved that. And I  also love the sermon that Cathy just shared, which  reminds me that I should share this experience with people of this church.

 

As I was visiting my daughter in Ohio,  one day when I was walking in the street of the small town where the school of my daughter is located,  I felt so calm, so peaceful. You see brothers and sisters, it is good to live in a small town that you know everybody and everybody knows you. If you go just one time to one of the corners of the street and the owner of the restaurant always remembers you, always knows your name, and  always calls you by your name. After I delivered a speech at  Cedarville University where my daughter studies, when I was walking the street, everybody greeted me pastor Wu. A student said I appreciate what you did in the school and I love what you talk about. So it is so good to live in a small town. It is so comfortable and so peaceful.

 

But the things I come away from that experience in the small town is that you can have a peaceful time just for yourself to be together with the holy spirit to meditate on your Christian experience and that your faith can be reinforced.

 

And another thing I appreciate so much when I visiting the university is that I was invited to deliver a short speech at the chapter of the university. Before my speech, the president of the university, Dr. Brown, invited all the athletes to come on to the stage of the chapter to dedicate the athletes, the strong guys to the Lord rather than to their own pride. That is the thing I love, that is, I think I have done the right thing in terms of sending my daughter to that school to get college education, because I know that school is founded in Christ’ teaching, that school is founded on the words of the Lord and that is something I love about that school.

 

Our church today is very fortunate because some of the professors from that school who are very good Christians and very lovely professors today  are in our church right now. After the service, if you are interested in in asking about the school, you are encouraged to talk with them, to mingle with them to ask them about your questions. May God bless you. May each one of us being in the belly of the big fish always encourages each other that we should be always with the Lord all the time in every situation. Amen.

 

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