Pastoral Messages | March 1, 2018

Ever since Malcolm Gladwell published his popular book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, more than a decade ago, people have been paying special homage to the benefit of “decision by instinct.” What Gladwell proposed, namely that quick decisions are often as good as cautious and deliberate ones, has been elevated for many people to a doctrine. We prize our gut judgment. Nobody likes to admit that he or she is wrong, at least not on a regular basis.

The explosion of the Internet has grown our confidence in personal wisdom. The glut of information that pops onto our screens provides us with the illusion of knowledge more than the reality of insight. But why would that keep us from feeling wise? Everybody can be a self-educated whiz these days. When everything is 24/7 available – let’s face it, we’re drowning in news and data – experts aren’t needed. In fact, experts aren’t wanted by a whole of people. To reject someone with specialized knowledge or skill can give one the feeling of a wonderful high. It’s freeing not to be tied down to someone with expertise or insight. Ignorance is a virtue, some people seem to display, especially if they have something they really want to say, and reason or fact aren’t especially important. I’d argue that a lot of populism is built on a peculiar contempt for those who have specialized or helpful knowledge. And, as we know, populism is rather popular these years.

But I wonder if we have over-gloried the concept of gut instinct and forfeited too much of the value of deep reasoning. We have a rather romantic notion of how bright we are, and how informed and literate we are on any range of subjects, from foreign policy to science.

But let’s think about this. Greater personal restraint would provide some antidote to these dilemmas. Imagine how different we’d be if we could restrain ourselves even a little bit every time a news alert shows up, prompting us to lash out with strong emotional opinion. Hitting the pause button on some quick opinions and snap judgments would go a long way toward helping us become more literate and informed people.

I sometimes think about the reticence of Jesus; how reluctant he was to say too much in so many settings. His silent stand up against Pilate is one of my favorite passages: “He [Jesus] gave him [Pilate] no answer.” Time and again, we wish Jesus would have said more on all kinds of subjects. But in his restraint, he may be encouraging us to reflect more deeply, decide more carefully, and think of others before simply hunkering down in our own wisdom.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

8 Comments on “Restraint”

  • Kathryn Graver

    March 4, 2018 at 7:39 am

    When I was a child, my dad would “say children are meant to be seen and not heard. “This used to make me mad, as I read your restraint article, I thought he might of been trying to help me learn, to listen, observe , and wait for the right moment as Jesus did. I’m sure he did not give it that much thought but I did learn to wait my turn, some of the adult talk was boring, , but some was interesting, I learned family history, politics and the ways adults acted in the early 60’s , similar to our current tread. Lessons learned from childhood.

  • Scott Kelling

    March 3, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    It is extremely difficult for me to grasp how one can conflate Jesus’ reticence with a contempt for populism.
    For 60 years the American republic has been ruled by a powerful and unchallenged elite class comprised of government elites, business elites, academic elites, media elites and elites entrenched in the administrative state. The product of that rule has been the demise of social order, the rise of anti-democratic academic intolerance, more war, greater poverty, less educational achievement, failed health care, disastrous opioid abuse, and a Middle Eastern foreign policy that created the most massive refugee crisis in human history.
    Lo the rise of populism. Now the people, the populists, are questioning the wisdom of those with the “specialized” knowledge.
    I have to wonder, if Jesus were in our midst today, how much restraint he would show. Or would he caste out of the temple the anti-populists and set afire their altar of hypocrisy?

  • David DeWit

    March 1, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Good points. I spent earlier years in churches where the was virtue in believing and professing things that did not make logical sense – the more illogical the better. As a scientist, trained to subject everything to logical scrutiny, I was sometimes accused of “thinking too much. ” To me, such a climate is populism in a religious context – insistence on homogeneity of thought and belief within a body.

  • Kathleen Hurty

    March 1, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Very insightful comments. Thank you!!

  • Kristin Post

    March 1, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    A new daily reflection.

  • Becky Morgan

    March 1, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    I recently joined a group called the Transpartisans, whose purpose is civil discourse between people whose political ideas differ. The focus is on listening, in order to understand the other’s point of view. One of the most difficult (!) and interesting groups I’ve ever experienced!

  • Stella Herzig

    March 1, 2018 at 2:01 pm


  • Tom Hebbeln

    March 1, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    I almost commented, but instead I shall be reticent.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,





He then says,



18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”