Text: Proverbs 15: 1, 13, 14, 28 & 30
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.
14 The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body.
The entire 15th chapter of Proverbs is full of interesting little sayings, or one-liners, as I like to call them sometimes and I just picked out a few of them for us to think about. This chapter of Proverbs seems to be dealing with how we feel about the world, what kind of condition our spirits are in and what our thought process is at the moment. There are some important messages here for us to consider, but I want to approach our thinking about this subject in a very unique way. I doubt you have ever experienced a sermon like the one you are about to receive. So, let’s get started.
The first thing that is unique about this particular sermon is that we are going to open with a science experiment. I have the experiment all set up and if you have a little trouble seeing, Robbin in the back is going to put a live picture on the monitors, so everybody will have a chance to see this work.
As you can see, I have constructed a make shift balance-it is very simple. There is just a dowel that I have notched in the center and have allowed the dowel to pivot on a small nail that is in this vertical support. At each end of the dowel is a paper bag and I can adjust where the bags are on the dowel and try to get the bags to balance perfectly. Once that is accomplished, we can begin our experiment.
I wanted you to witness this particular science experiment for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that it is really cool and you will enjoy seeing it work. The second reason is more to the point. That reason is that I want you to understand that things we cannot see have physical manifestations. Just because something is invisible to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact our lives in some way. Specifically, what I am talking about is the balance between what we might call the physical world and the spiritual world. This science experiment will help us understand that what happens in our spiritual world impacts our physical world and vice versa, our physical world can impact our spiritual world as well. Many people seem to think the two are not necessarily related, but they are. Unless we have a good balance between the two of them, we will be out of balance and generally unhappy. More about that later.
So we can see we have a balance set up here and what I would like for you to think about is that one of these bags, say the green one, represents our spiritual world. The other bag, the blue one, represents our physical world. At the moment we seem to have achieved balance between the two. Now obviously, if I were to put a rock into the blue bag, a physical item, it would be heavier than the green bag and the balance would tip. I don’t think I need to demonstrate that.
But what would happen if I were to put something spiritual into the green bag? Would the balance shift and the green bag become heavier? I say yes, because I believe our spiritual world and our physical world are connected and one impacts the other.
In this pitcher I have created a formula which has released some carbon dioxide into the air in the pitcher. You cannot see it, but it is there. The thing about carbon dioxide is that before it mixes with the rest of the atmosphere, it is heavier than the air around it. Because it is heavier, it will stay for a time in the lower part of this pitcher.
I would like for you to think about this carbon dioxide as a thought or a prayer or as depression or a negative comment or as a positive affirmation of some sort-you can think about it as any of those things, because they are invisible to us. We cannot see a thought or a prayer, we can only hear a comment, but we still cannot see it. It is my belief, that these thoughts and prayers and comments; those things which we cannot see, have an impact on our physical world.
I think this experiment helps us to visually understand what I mean by this. With the carbon dioxide in this pitcher, which I have told you is heavier than the atmosphere around it, what do you suppose would happen if I were to pour the co2 out of the pitcher and into our spiritual green bag?
Let’s take a look and see, shall we? You see, even though we cannot see it, even though it looks like there isn’t anything happening, even though there is no evidence anything is coming out of the pitcher, the green bag fills up and is now heavier than the blue bag, and the balance tips. Pretty cool, right? But think about what you just witnessed. Even though there is a scientific explanation, you just witnessed something invisible, something you don’t have the ability to see, moving an object in the physical world. I believe the relationship between our physical well-being and our spiritual well-being is a lot like this balance, if we simply focus on just one, we get out of balance and the other side suffers.
Right about now some of you might be thinking that I have really missed the mark. This is the fourth Sunday in Advent, Christmas is just around the corner, the sanctuary is all decorated and the organ is covered with nativity pieces; you wanted a sermon about Christmas and all I have provided was a science experiment! Well, think again. What do you think the word became flesh actually means? The word Emmanuel means God with us, is that a God we can see or not? Does God with us impact our physical world?
You see, Christmas is the one season where we actually celebrate the notion that the spiritual world can alter the physical world. We seem to forget about that the rest of the year. But there is more. I want us to understand this on a personal level, not some grand scheme full of angels and bright stars and world changing events. I want us to understand this concept on a personal level.
I have noticed something interesting about Christmas. It seems to me that the Christmas season impacts people one of two ways; either they love it or they actually hate it. It is hard to remain neutral about Christmas. Have you noticed that?
Here’s my theory as to why that is; there is so much spiritual energy around the season, so much stuff floating around and so many things that can impact our physical world that we simply cannot avoid the physical impact of all that energy. For some of us, we receive the positive energy, we enjoy the season, we enjoy the lights and the carols, we enjoy the gift giving and the decorating, we enjoy the spirit of cooperation that everyone seems to share. We receive the positive aspects of all that we cannot see and it impacts our physical world. We feel better, we are happier and we experience what people call getting into the Christmas spirit.
But there is a flip side. For many the Christmas season simply adds stress. They feel obligated to do things they can’t afford; they feel like there isn’t time enough to get everything done. The cards need to be sent and the shopping mall is crowded and the Christmas dinner hasn’t been planned and on and on. When we receive all that negative energy, that energy has a physical impact as well. It is just like the Christmas season pours out everything into our bags, and even though we cannot see it, we get out of balance and it drags us down.
Now here is the real point about the science experiment; we can control what goes into our spiritual bag. When a negative thought or a bad experience at the mall or a little bit of stress or depression begins to dump into your bag, here is what I want you to do. I want you to visualize this balance, and I want you to visualize your spiritual bag; in your mind I want you to simply take the bag and empty it of everything that is weighing you down. Turn it upside down and dump the negative energy out of it. When you do, your physical world will change and you can return to balance and you will feel better.
When we consider the Christmas story, we can imagine the impact on the physical world that has happened since the word became flesh and dwelt among us. But the rest of the year is coming and it will always be true that your spiritual world and your physical world are tied together and balance is something to strive for all year long. You can intentionally fill your spiritual bag when you need to and you can empty it when you need to as well. Practice this and as you do balance will be achieved and maintained, not just this Christmas season, but all year long.
Go in peace, go with God and go in balance. Amen.