The Mystery of Wisdom

Proverbs 1:20-33                                                                Rally Day

Elizabeth M. Deibert                                                          13 September 2015

 

Last week we began to think about wisdom, especially about the difference between knowledge and wisdom.    We discussed how too much power, prestige, and success lured King Solomon away from wisdom, because he lost humility, a necessary character trait in one seeking wisdom.   We heard that wisdom is a gift that God wants to give us all, if only we will ask, and we heard Paul’s reflection on wisdom being the power of God combined with human weakness.   That should be an encouragement – that God can do great things with our weakness.  

 Only trouble is this – we do not like to be weak, and even more, we do not like for anyone to think we are weak.   Richard has always known that if he wants to get me to do something, all he has to do is challenge me to a contest.   And if he dares to call me a weak woman, I will beat him to the job.   I carried a sofa-bed down a flight of stairs with Richard when I was 8 and a half months pregnant because the old man, Mr. Gossett, who lived above us, said I absolutely shouldn’t do it in my condition.   I wanted to show him what a strong pregnant woman could do!   Emily was born five days early – hey, that was alright too!   We do not like to be seen as weak, but all of us must accept weakness, increasingly as we age.  Those of us who viewed Still Alice on Friday night at Faith and Film had a good discussion of the challenge of accepting weakness and a cascade of losses when one has early onset Alzheimer’s. 

 Today we hear the call of wisdom crying out to us – to discern wisely.   Wisdom picks fun at us.  Wisdom says, “You’d better choose me, or else, I’ll be laughing at you dealing with all mess your foolishness leaves you.   Wisdom warns the listener like a older sibling who promises to laugh if you get in trouble for ignoring wisdom.  Wisdom here personalized as Sophia, is the feminine Word from God, the Spirit of God, who leads us into righteousness, guides us into truth, discerning way of life.   Wisdom says, “I’m here for you.   Don’t ignore me or you’ll be sorry.   Don’t be smug.   Don’t be a know-it-all.   Take my advice.   Those who listen to me will face adversity but without fear, they will face adversity with the security of those who know.

 Wisdom shouts in the street; in the public square she raises her voice. 21 Above the noisy crowd, she calls out. At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say: 22 "How long will you clueless people love your naïveté, mockers hold their mocking dear, and fools hate knowledge? 23 You should respond when I correct you. Look, I'll pour out my spirit on you. I'll reveal my words to you. 24 I invited you, but you rejected me; I stretched out my hand to you, but you paid no attention. 25 You ignored all my advice, and you didn't want me to correct you. 26 So I'll laugh at your disaster; I'll make fun of you when dread comes over you, 27 when terror hits you like a hurricane, and your disaster comes in like a tornado, when distress and oppression overcome you. 28 Then they will call me, but I won't answer; they will seek me, but won't find me 29 because they hated knowledge and didn't choose the fear of the LORD. 30 They didn't want my advice; they rejected all my corrections. 31 They will eat from the fruit of their way, and they'll be full of their own schemes. 32 The immature will die because they turn away; smugness will destroy fools. 33 Those who obey me will dwell securely, untroubled by the dread of harm." (CEB) 

 

As I sing, I invite you to ponder the ways wisdom may be calling you to dare to do more of what is right and true.

 

Come and seek the ways of Wisdom,

she who danced, when earth was new.

Follow closely what she teaches,

for her words are right and true.

Wisdom clears the path to justice,

showing us what love must do.

 

 Listen to the voice of Wisdom,

crying in the market-place.

Hear the Word made flesh among us,

full of glory, truth and grace.

When the word takes root and ripens,

peace and righteousness embrace.

 

Sister Wisdom, come, assist us;

nurture all who seek rebirth.

Spirit-guide and close companion,

bring to light our sacred worth.

Free us to become your people,

holy friends of God and earth.

 

 Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, but knowing the difference between right and almost right.”    Sometimes we are content with almost right.   We try to get by without the real ingredients for a life of clear discernment.   Henri Nouwen says, “Discernment grows out of a life of faith rooted in community.   To want to know God’s plan and purpose without regular prayer and engagement with scripture and God’s people is trying to bake [bread] without assembling the various ingredients.”   Richard makes our communion bread weekly, and because of his regular weekly practice, he no longer needs a recipe.   He knows that he needs 3 cups of flour, one TB of butter, 1.5 tsps of salt, 3 TBs of maple syrup, one and a quarter cup of milk, and 2 tsps of yeast.   Can you imagine how bad it would be if he just decided that the liquid, milk, just was not necessary?  Even worse, the yeast.

We say we want to know God’s will, but sometimes we want to leave out a key ingredient.   CEB1 Peter 2:2-3 Instead, like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of the word. Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good.

This is hard to say, because I really don’t like to offend people, but it puzzles me that many of you tell me that you don’t know much about the Bible or theology, and then we offer classes on Sunday morning, and during the week, and you seem un-interested, unwilling to engage.   Then again, I do actually understand, because I am preaching the Word every week, and I don’t study as hard as I could.   I could spend more time reading, praying, struggling with the text.   Of course, worship is the most significant thing we do together, but one more hour is worth it for growing in faith.   We’ve got 16 waking hours each day.  16 x 7 = 112.   If you give two every Sunday morning, you still have 110 hours for everything else.

If we are not offering the kind of class or Bible study/prayer group/growing group that meets your needs, then please tell us what you’d like to do because the Adult Ed team is eager to add.   I’d love to see us have space issues because we’ve got so many learning/growing groups that we cannot fit everyone.

That brings me to my next point – it’s one about groups.   Whether it is a Ministry Team (that’s what we call our committees, by the way) or whether it is a group that gets together to do mission or to do crafts or to eat or walk or whatever, I hope you are building the kinds of relationships that matter.   We are the church.    We do not just socialize.   We socialize for the purpose of becoming more like Christ.   That means you can have lunch, but make sure you are engaging in the kind of conversation that is deeply caring.   You can watch films, but please talk about faith.   Today there is a page in the bulletin which invites you to a new kind of dinner group, one that stays together for six months so that you build deeper  friendships.

What we are doing here as a church is supposed to be life-changing.   If it’s not, then we are doing something wrong.   I don’t want Wisdom making fun of me, laughing at me for the choices I made.   I want to listen to Sofia and be discerning about God’s way, to grow in wisdom.   But it’s not easy.   It takes discipline, time, and effort.   It take the right balance between solitude and community.   It takes the right balance between worship and service, giving and receiving, contemplation and action, being comforted and being challenged.   It is the slow transformation of a character.   Listen to what Henri Nouwen, one of the spiritual greats, says in his book, “Discernment” about his own personal struggle with prayer.  

“My daily hour with God is not a time of deep prayer in which I contemplate the divine mysteries or feel a special closeness to God.   On the contrary, it is full of distractions, inner restlessness, confusion, and boredom.”   He says we cannot gauge our success with devotion on how we feel.   God is greater than our senses, than our hearts and minds.   The presence of God is often subtle, quiet, and hidden.   But the wisdom of God does grow in the one who seeks God with these regular and “useless” times of devotion.  

Here’s the thing:  I don’t want Jesus saying to me like he said to Peter when he thought it should be easier, “Get behind me, Satan!”  I don’t want him saying to me, “Why did you waste your time on things that do not matter?”

Hear the Gospel, according to Mark 8:31-36

Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: "The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead." 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: "Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God's thoughts but human thoughts." 34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, "All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.

35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?   (CEB: Contemporary English Bible)

 Wisdom gives us the peace to face life, untroubled by fear, by fear of harm, says Proverbs.  Christ tells us if we decide to follow him, we are called to love til we die to self, til we’ve given up a need to control our own life.  This mystery called wisdom, called Sofia, called God Incarnate, Jesus, both draws us and scares us to death.  To give ourselves over to God is frightening because it asks so much of us – our very life.  Our very dying to self and rising to new life liberates us, yet we resist, retrench, and run from it.   The first surprise of heaven must surely be that our final surrender to God in dying according to God’s time-table (not ours) was actually a great thing, hard as it was, because it led us to eternal life.   Christ has shown us the way – that’s why he beckons us to follow now.   He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  He did not come to change the mind of God about humanity but to change the mind of humanity about God – to see that God is love and that love is stronger than death.   The real crux of the matter as we move through life is as Richard Rohr puts it:  “Until we learn to die before we die, we will not know how to die without fear.” (Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond) So live like you are dying because you are if you really want to live.

 Wisdom is seeing life and death from God’s perspective, seeing people and things from God’s perspective, re-orienting our life again and again, according to God’s perspective, in times of joy and sorrow, in times of sickness and health, in times of plenty and in times of want.   Wisdom is calling you.   Calling you to die to the stuff of this life and live your life for God and others, following the path that Christ has laid in sacrifice.   Are you listening or is Wisdom chuckling quietly, saying, “When will they ever learn?”