Not too long after we started dating I said something to Julia, I don’t remember what, and she replied, “Jeff you don’t need to give me an idiot lesson.” I didn’t know I’d given her an idiot lesson. I didn’t even know what an idiot lesson was. It didn’t make sense to me – who would want to take lessons to be an idiot? I’m not even sure anyone even needs idiot lessons. I see lots of people I think are idiots on Facebook or Twitter – they seem to come by it naturally.
Julia set me straight. A side note – this happened back when we were dating, so it was way before the Internet was a thing. I googled “idiot lesson” The main responses were about guitar lessons for a Green Day song called “American Idiot” and lots of things where it said something like “I was an idiot. Lesson learned.” The actual phrase “idiot lesson” in the context in which Julia used it wasn’t there.
Anyway – according to Julia, an idiot lesson is when someone tells you something so obvious that you’d have to be an idiot not to know it. If Julia is driving and she says, “I wish we could go faster” and I say, “Why not press on the accelerator?” that’s an idiot lesson. A more current version of the same thing might be if someone said something and you replied “Thanks, Captain Obvious.” The Hotels.com chain is running a series of commercials featuring Captain Obvious. One of them says, “Whatever the temperature is in your hotel room, it’s room temperature.” Anyway, you get the idea, right?
When we start out with our scripture reading from Ephesians, Paul sounds like he’s giving us an idiot lesson. “Don’t live like ignorant people, but live like wise people.” Doesn’t that sound like it might be an idiot lesson? I was having soooo much trouble which was better, to be stupid or to be smart. I just couldn’t figure it out. I appreciate your help, Apostle Obvious.
It’s actually not that obvious. Paul didn’t say what I did – Paul didn’t say “stupid people” and “smart people.” Paul didn’t say “dumb people” and “brainy people.” Paul says not to live like ignorant people, but to live like wise people.
I hope I’m not giving you an idiot lesson, but “ignorant” is not the same as dumb or stupid. “Ignorant” means that you just don’t know. I’ve been to school, I’ve got a Bachelor’s degree, I’ve got a Master’s degree, I’ve read a lot, I’ve been published – I’m not dumb. But when it comes to physics, or to chemistry, or to science in general, I’m ignorant. I just don’t know it. I have a friend who’s retired from the Army. He’s an IT guy – very bright, very intelligent, knows computers backwards and forwards. He’s not a sports fan. Doesn’t know the first thing about baseball. He may not even know what the Washington baseball team is called. He’s not dumb. He’s not stupid. He just doesn’t know. He’s ignorant of it.
So to be ignorant is not to be stupid or to be dumb. To be ignorant of something just means that you don’t know that particular subject or thing. You just haven’t had to learn it. Maybe you’ve never really needed to know, maybe you’ve never been interested, but for whatever reason you are ignorant of it.
On the other hand, being wise isn’t the same as being smart. My grandfather did not have a lot of book learning, but he was one of the wisest men I ever knew. He taught me a lot of things about life, and faith, and living. He was not an educated man, but he was very wise.
So Paul is not giving us an idiot lesson. He’s not saying, “Don’t be stupid.” Paul’s saying, “Don’t be ignorant.” Don’t ignore the knowledge that you need to have. Learn the important stuff. Educate yourself. Not just book learning, but the stuff that really matters. Live like people who are wise. Live like people who know what they need to know.
So what do we need to know? What are the things that Paul wants us to learn? How do we become wise? Here in the scripture reading we’ve got finding God’s will, being filled with the Spirit, singing and praising with God in our hearts, and always giving thanks for everything to God. Finding God’s will – another way to say that is looking for God’s leading. Being filled with the Spirit and praising with God in our hearts – that could be looking for God within. Always giving thanks to God – maybe that’s looking for God’s activity around you. Looking for God’s leading, looking for God within, looking for God around you.
In short, Paul is saying that wise people are people who are always looking for God. Ignorant people are people who just aren’t paying attention. If you want to be ignorant, just go your own way and don’t worry about it but if you want to be wise, you’ve got to look for God.
I do not want to be ignorant. I want to be wise. I hope you do too. I invite you to join me in an effort to become wiser. I want to look for God, and I want you to help me. I am inviting each person here, young or old, male or female, member or regular attender of this congregation or a visitor for the first time – whoever you are I am inviting you to join me in looking for God. I’m inviting you to come with me on a God hunt.
Maybe you’ve never been on a God hunt. That’s okay. When I was at camp years ago I got sent on a few snipe hunts, but this is different. Maybe some of you remember a camp song called “Goin’ on a Lion Hunt.” “I’m goin’ on a lion hunt (congregation repeats) but I’m not afraid (congregation repeats.) Do any of you know that song? This is different than that too.
This is an important thing for me because I admit it, I sometimes take God for granted. I sometimes kind of go through the day kind of vaguely knowing that God’s around, but not really giving God credit for anything, not thanking God for the many good things in my life. I think we all can and sometimes do take God for granted. A God hunt, then, is where we’re paying attention to what God does, it’s where we’re seeing things and saying, “Yes! That’s God in my life. Yes! That’s God’s Spirit, that’s God’s presence.” A God hunt can keep us from taking God for granted.
It’s also important for me because, I confess again, I don’t always feel like God is there. I sometimes feel like I’m far away from God. If I’m on a God hunt, though, if I’m looking for evidence of God’s care, if I’ve got a list of the kinds of things that I’ve already seen that God has done, then I can’t really feel as far away from God.
When you get a letter from a friend, or nowadays an e-mail or even a meme, you can feel closer to that friend. At least you can while you’re sitting there reading the letter or the e-mail, while you’re reading your friend’s words and thinking about your friend’s life. If I’m on a God hunt and I’ve got a list in my pocket or in my hand or on my smartphone of the things that God has done today and yesterday and the day before, it’ll be much easier to feel closer to God.
When you’re on a God hunt, you won’t be ignorant. You won’t be ignorant of God’s presence in your life because you’ll be actively looking for that presence and trust me, when you honestly look for God you will find God.
I used to work in radio and one of the stations I worked at was a Christian station, WFCV. One of our programs was Chapel of the Air, and this was originally their idea. There are four God hunt categories. The first – an obvious answer to prayer. God doesn’t always answer prayer exactly as we want or as we expect, but God does answer prayer. The second category – unexpected evidence of God’s care. We sometimes get sick, we sometimes have accidents, but sometimes there are also little miracles of protection – like when you miss the traffic pileup because you forgot your wallet and went back home for it.
The third God hunt category is unusual linkage or timing. You may discover that God led a person to pray for you at the very moment that you were in trouble or you needed it – and vice versa. These mini-miracles are more common than you might think. And the fourth category – help to do God’s work in the world. Maybe you’ve just read something about the grieving process – and you get a call from a friend who’s upset about a death. You can use what you just read to help talk with your friend. God provides the resources that we need to do the work of the Kingdom, even if we don’t always realize it.
So those are the four types of God hunt sighting – an obvious answer to prayer, unexpected evidence of God’s care, unusual linkage or timing, and help or resources to do God’s work. Let me tell you a God hunt sighting, and you tell me the category.
Julia and I were once at a stoplight getting off the interstate. A couple of cars had pulled over across the way and the two drivers had gotten out of their cars and were physically fighting. This was back before cell phones and they were across the way so there wasn’t anyone to call or anything to do. Julia kept saying over and over, “Please God make them stop. Please God make them stop.” And they did! By the time the light changed and we were leaving they were getting back in their cars and driving away too.
So – obvious answer to prayer, unexpected evidence of God’s care, unusual linkage or timing, or help and resources to do God’s work. Which one is that? I think there could be two categories. Obvious answer to prayer is one, but also unusual linkage or timing. We just happened to come along at just the moment this thing was going on. If we’d not been there at that moment, who knows? Someone might have been hurt. It was an obvious answer to prayer, and the timing was just right.
Now let me tell you a couple of things about a sighting. First, it doesn’t have to be something that dramatic. That was an unusual example, for me anyway. Second, the key is your attitude. You’ve got to be looking for God and when you do see something, you’ve got to believe that God is in it.
I’m looking for a parking place. I’ve been around the block three times. I’m getting ready for my fourth trip, and I pray. “God, I’m going to be late for my appointment and I’m going to be in trouble. Help me God, I need a parking place.”
Just then a car pulls out of the space just ahead of me, right next to the entrance of the building where I have the appointment. I pull into the space, look up, and say, “Never mind, God – I found a space.”
Attitude is important. A God hunt sighting is a time when God works in or touches our daily lives and we choose to recognize it to be God. How you see it really matters.
So join me on a God hunt the next few weeks. Try to remember to write down or make a note of your sightings every day. If you want to post them on my Facebook wall or send them in an e-mail that’s fine, or on the church’s wall too. I won’t be preaching in two weeks but I will probably be here, and I will try to remember to ask us to share a little bit. Once you start doing this, it’s kind of fun.
It’s fun, but it’s also important. It’s important because you’re looking for God. When you look for God, and start to see God more often you begin to realize how close God is to you at all times. And when you know God is close, when you are fully aware of God, that is the end of ignorance and the beginning of wisdom. And that is not an idiot lesson.
I’m goin’ on a God hunt. And I’m not afraid. Come with me. Amen.