A Skunk In The Hen House

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. http://www.GregOlsen.com

November 20, 2022

October 14, 2018

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Mark 10:17-30

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 1You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “[b]Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Sometimes we struggle with this idea of knowledge and wisdom, and that’s what’s being addressed today in these particular scriptures. I think, too often, we make the mistake of believing that one is the same as the other. For instance, as I look over at Father John, I know that he is well-educated. He has lots of knowledge of many different subjects. But, I think Father would tell you if you ask him, with all the knowledge that he has, without the wisdom of how to use that knowledge, then the knowledge would be worthless.

Knowledge is basically just data gathered over time. Facts that we have learned through study – basically you can consider them tools that we use in our lives to do certain things. But that knowledge doesn’t do us any good without knowing how, and why, and when to use those tools the right and the wrong way.  For instance, I think everyone in here would agree that my rugged good looks have not lessened my knowledge.  (pause)  No? Oh, maybe that was just me.

Anyhow, when I was a very young lad growing up on a farm in East Texas, I had the opportunity to learn many things very early in my life. And that knowledge I gathered, I had to eventually learn how to use it. So, my Dad, when I was quite young, had to go to Wyoming and build a plant – a power plant – up there, and left me in charge of taking care of the family.

Now we had a room on our back porch – it was a screened in back porch. One morning I awoke to the wonderful odiferous scent of a skunk. Now, in my knowledge I had gathered in all of my youth, I knew that skunks came around for one reason. You see, we raised chickens so that we would have fresh eggs all the time. And skunks like chickens. They like chicken eggs. So, I knew that skunk was there for one reason. I also knew that by the door heading out into the outside, there was a .22 rifle and a headlight. And, so, with all of my youthful knowledge, I went over, put the headlight on, grabbed the .22 rifle, and headed out. And so as I entered into the hen house, which is where all the nesting was done for laying the eggs – and we also had these perches for them to stay up and off the ground – I knew that I was prepared to be able to take out the skunk so we would never have to worry about it again. So, as I walked in, there was this mother skunk with 3 kids. I knew I had enough bullets. I can see in your sad little faces that you think that I am a skunk murderer. Let – me – finish.

So, as I entered into this skunk-infested chicken house, I learned a couple of things. My wisdom began to grow with my knowledge because, did you know, that skunks are very, very protective of their personal space? OK? Did you know that skunks are also very aggressive about their personal space? I had no clue. Did you know that when a skunk turns away from you, and raises his white flag tail, it does not mean skunks surrender. (pause for laughter) I didn’t either. So, I go in, and here’s this skunk, and immediately I had invaded mother skunk’s space, and immediately, she chose not to surrender. All I know is that before I can raise the rifle, suddenly I could not breathe. I could not see. I could not breathe, and I felt I had to throw up. And did I say I couldn’t breathe? It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. Now, knowledge that I had gained in my youth did me absolutely no good there. I needed the wisdom of knowing not to go in there not prepared to take that skunk out. I also learned something else very valuable that day, and that is that my mother can find humor is other people’s distress. (laughter) Even her own favorite child – I told y’all I was her favorite, right? -Well, my brothers and sister didn’t know that either, so…so anyhow, we need to make sure, as we come back to our Scriptures today, that we understand the difference between knowledge that we have gained, and wisdom on how to apply that knowledge.

Jesus didn’t come to give the Jews more knowledge. They knew what it was that they believed. They knew it by heart – what they believed. The young man comes to Jesus, and in a very real request, he asked how can he inherit eternal life. And Jesus tells him, “You have that knowledge. You know the Commandments. You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not defraud, and honor your father and your mother. And the young man admits that he has this knowledge. And he admits that he’s been doing what Jesus said from his youth. But Jesus knows there’s something else. And so He gives him the wisdom to understand that what he’s been doing isn’t being done for the right reasons. And He says to him, “Go, sell everything that you have, and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me.” And the young man’s wealth was a barricade from him being able to do what Jesus said. He did not have that wisdom and was not willing to accept that.

Now, everyone in here has something in this life that’s very, very special to them. I don’t know what it is. I mean, it’s different for different people. But you have to ask for the wisdom of how to overcome whatever it is that may be keeping you from a real relationship with Jesus.

We need to pray for that wisdom. That’s how we get that wisdom, by spending alone time with God. Father’s talked about it in many homilies – about prayer time. You also can get a spiritual advisor, who can help you to navigate through rough times. Also, spending time with the Scriptures – it’s very, very important, because we need to know that the Holy Spirit wants to do a work in our lives.  What we have to understand is that coming to sit in your favorite pew here on Sundays, or sitting in your favorite pew on Holy Days is just garnering more knowledge. We need the wisdom of how to use that knowledge.

Our pastor is always trying to garner more wisdom. One of the things that he does is use teams and councils to advise him, to help him to move further along. He also has a very good parishioner here who gives of his time – this guy works as a coach for large corporations – but he gives his time to help Father navigate through all the noise and everything else, to ultimately get to the point where we can reach that wisdom on how to move us forward.

Knowledge without wisdom is like a boat with no rudder. It’s a journey with no clear destination. It’s a workshop full of tools, and no craftsman. We, as a parish, want to be inviting, to bring people so that we can form them into disciples. And to be able to send them into the world to transform it.

And so, we have to be willing to give ourselves over to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so that we can do this. So that we can become a tool in the hands of a Jewish carpenter, so that He can truly transform this world.

I know that all of you here have great amounts of knowledge of what it is that we believe. You come here every Sunday. You come on Holy Days. You learn constantly. Today Jesus is saying to each of us, “Look to what is holding you back. Seek the wisdom to become that disciple of Christ. Don’t go into the hen house with only knowledge. Because the next thing you know, you’re not going to be able to breathe.

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