sermon August 19, 2018

How would you answer that question the Lord asks of Solomon – what do you ask of God today.

A cluster of references to wisdom in today’s bible readings.

King Solomon asks God for wisdom to rule well rather than for personal riches or power…  Bit like the prayer attributed sometimes to Reinhold Niebuhr “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

(Which begs the question do you already have to have some degree of wisdom to know to ask for wisdom?   Does the wise person not already know they are not wise?  Secondly, we have the famous line from Psalm 111 (which in one form or another appears a number of times in scripture) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” 

from psalm 111 the fear of God is the beginng of wisdom

And  third from Ephesians

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, Ephesians 5

Our readings today cluster around the theme of Wisdom. 

Think of someone who for you is the picture of a wise person.  Who do you think embodies wisdom.  Could be a character from a book or film, a historical person or someone you know personally.  Lets have a time of sharing about this….

It is interesting that the translators of the New Revised Standard Version have stuck with the old “fear of God” phrase. Do we need to say just one more time that when we say  “ fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”  for fear you are to think Awe, wonder, reverence, yes, a hint of danger is certainly implicit for we are in relationship with purity and holiness and let’s face it we are not all that pure or holy yet.  How shall we be treated?  Shall we be judged harshly or will we be accepted and loved and made more pure and holy?  In Jesus God answers that and when we grasp that Jesus is the wisdom of God – the outcast hung upon a cross; that which is most despised and reviled by worldly wisdom -then we realise that maybe God’s wisdom will look quite different to accepted values and wisdom. 

Next, these passages tell us that Wisdom must be personal and immediate.

You can read books of collected wisdom, read quotes.  But until wisdom walks in your shoes, flows through your blood, inhabits your flesh it will remain someone else’s wisdom and will remain an intellectual amusement.  You have got to live wisdom, not just read it. I think for that reason Wisdom becomes incarnate in our flesh  (just as Jesus became flesh).  Wisdom is personified in scripture; for instance in the first chapter of Proverbs   where she (and wisdom is always a she)moves in the market place, cries out in the street, at the busiest corner she cries out, at the entrance to the city she speaks

There are two (at least) schools of thought on Wisdom and how we come by it. Ike that play The Getting of Widsom.   Some think of Wisdom as a gift – a gift of the Spirit that you can only pray for and passively receive..  Something you can ask God for and God may or may not bestow supernaturally bestow this gift upon you.   Is it a gift of God, and if so is it “supernatural” or should we think of Wisdom as something that can be learned, absorbed, grown into?  Is it the same as what we nowadays call “emotional intelligence”? 

I don’t think the sort of wisdom we are talking about today is “supernatural”; though it is profoundly “spiritual”.

Wisdom is the capacity, the skill, the art, of making the best judgement for future living.

It is the ordinary life lived extraordinarily well.  Using the learnings of the past to guide us into the future.  The suggestion then is that you have already had enough life experience to give you access to wisdom.

To live wisely. 

I bought this photo at the Stewart Lodge art exhibition held in our church.  It is a photo of some graffitit in Stewart St just over the road from Stewart Lodge a large supported residence service in Brunswick.  The graffiti says, “It Doesn’t matter”.  Maybe a funny thing to be hanging on the wall in a minister’s study.   I bought it because it can be taken so many ways.  Some days I look at it and it urges me to move on from something that is nagging me and has a grip on me. Somewhere in my life I may be doing what I referred to last week under the heading of letting the sun go down on your anger.  And we were saying then that everytime you go to bed angry that anger rusts a bit more onto your soul, like a nut rusting onto a bolt and there will come the day you ain’t ever going to get that nut from that bolt.  On that day you no longer have a person who can get angry but an angry person. 

And the really dumb thing is that 95% of the stuff we get all fizzed up about is not worth going to bed angry about.  So it is that some Sun I stand up here and the message is, “Look, let it go, in the scheme of your life does it matter?”  Yet on the other hand  very often the Sunday message is, “Gees, this is your life, you are only going to get one shot at it; make the most of it; it matters”. Wisdom knows what the message for the day is.  I have it on my wall next to a crucifix and Madonna and Child and that puts everything in perspective.  Birth, death, relationships…does what you are preoccupied with today matter or not…. or is it something that is so vital you just must attend to it and immediately?  The Wisdom that comes from above knows such things and is also good at working out the correct timing on such matters