Monday, 14 May 2012 00:00

"Good Advice", May 13, 2012

“Good Advice”
Psalm 1
A sermon preached by the Rev. Douglas M. Donley
May 13, 2012
University Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN

This is Mother’s day.  We give thanks for the advice we have received from those who have loved us and made us into the people we are.

It’s also graduation time.  Students are parading in caps and gowns as we speak, poised upon the precipice of a new adventure.  So we listen to the words of speakers and wonder how we might fare in the world.

It’s a wonderful day of celebration. It’s also a day to remember some of the best (and maybe worst) advice we have received.  Sometimes we are as motivated by bad advice as we are encouraged by good advice.

What is some of the Good Advice you have received? 


Tony Garmers has some wonderful witticisms that we heard again this year at the Cabaret.

The book of Proverbs is chock full of wonderful advice. It’s written, in part to lift up Sophia, that feminine part of the Godhead known to some as Lady Wisdom.  Let’s hear what she has to say:

“Doing wrong is like a sport to a fool, but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding” (10:23)

“Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice” (12:15)

“Fools show their anger at once, but the prudent ignore and insult” (12:16)

“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”(12:18)

“The wise are cautious and turn away from evil, but the fool throws off restrain and is careless.” (14:16)

“Do you see persons wise in their own eyes?  There is more hope for fools than for them.” (26:12)

Jesus gave good advice: You have heard it said love your friends and hate your enemies, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

You have heard it said and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you, do not resist the evildoer with violence.

You have heard it said, “thou shalt not commit murder, but I say to you, don’t be angry, and don’t insult your brother or sister.

You have heard it said, don’t swear falsely, but I say to you, don’t swear at all—my mother would like that one.

Today’s psalm, the opening one of the entire book, sets the tone for our posture with the world.  “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinner tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers.”  But those who delight in God’s ways are like a watered garden.  Their leaves don’t whither, but they prosper.  The wicked are blown away like dust in the wind.  So keep your mind and heart on God and you will live.

Seems easy enough. And yet, we remember that wolves often wear sheep’s clothing.  It’s easy to be dissuaded from time to time by a good salesperson. Watch out.  Take your faith seriously. Take advice seriously and check it against your highest ethics.  The Bible has some bad advice too, like shunning or slaughtering those who don’t believe like you.

In short, take good advice and beware of bad advice.

We get advice at work, at home, in the scriptures, from TV, books, the ubiquitous “culture”.  How do you decide what is good advice and bad advice?

I did a very unscientific poll last night at dinner.  I asked my family to think of the good advice they have received.  Actually, I asked them about the bad advice, too.  Here are some of the things that came in the bad advice column:

Pull this
Trust me—trust is something you earn.  You don’t get it because someone says so.
You don’t need to study
Don’t worry so much—meaning your worries are not important, ignore them.  Worries are gateways to wisdom.
Calm down, when calmness is not warranted.
Don’t be scared—instead feel the fear and do it anyway.
We’ll talk about it later—and then never do it.
This war will pay for itself.  I guess we could also include, this stadium will pay for itself.    Give kids unlimited texting—now that’s bad advice.

Luckily, the good advice list was a bit longer.
Do one thing at a time.
Always look for the other guy on the road.
Never go to bed angry
Challenge yourself
Turn off the cell phone at a concert, or during church
Turn off the cordless mic when you go to the bathroom
Don’t light a cigarette while using oxygen
Don’t drink and drive.
Sleep when you’re tired.
Go outside your comfort zone.
Say please and thank you.
Don’t leave things to the last minute.
Dig in the garden-dirty fingernails are a viture.
Don’t talk to strangers
Keep your bodily functions to yourself
Don’t talk with your mouthful
Try something new, at least once.
Listen to your mother.
Don’t run with scissors
Don’t forget to say I love you
You’re beautiful just the way you are.
Don’t be afraid until you know you have something to be afraid of.
Don’t judge
In an argument, words can scar deeper than hands.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t forget the sunscreen
And most importantly, don’t come between Becca and her icing.

Friends, we have all received advice.  Some of it good and some of it not so good.  How do we distinguish?  I’m reminded of the words of Jesus who was always sought out for advice.  He quoted Deuteronomy and said, “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments lie all of the Law and the Prophets.” Think about it.  It you love God with all of your being, your mind, heart soul and strength, then you will remember that there is another power out there that is greater than all of us. When we go astray, that power can restore us to sanity.  And it is more powerful than any of us.  And when we grasp onto that power, then we can really start to make a change in this world.

But it’s not enough just to love God.  Plenty of people do despicable things in God’s name, out of love for God or devotion to God.  It can get mind-numbingly mind-numbing.  That’s why the second commandment is so important. Love your neighbor as yourself. So if someone encourages you to do something that causes you to do something bad to your neighbor, it’s probably not good advice. Imagine if we all lived by such simple advice.

Karen, you have taken on the waters of Baptism.  We have some advice for you today, too.  Be a servant of God.  Remember that God sets you free.  Remember that none of us have all the answers to life or faith.  So don’t take yourself too seriously. But take your faith very seriously.  God will always be there for you, even when we humans fail.  We will do our best, but sometimes we will fall short.  Remember that God always is pulling for you and has your best interest at heart.  Enjoy beauty. Be honest in your questions.  Remember that today is just a step on the journey.  We take those steps with you and encourage you on the journey.

Let me close with a poem by Maya Angelou, in honor of the many phenomenal women who gave us life, nurtured us, surprise us and push us to be better than we can imagine.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me. ---Maya Angelou

May we go into this new day, remembering that good advice.