Saturday, August 15, 2015

Seeking Wisdom: Reflections on RCL Proper 20B (Pentecost 12, 16 August 2015)

Seeking Wisdom
Reflections on RCL Proper 20B

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
16 August 2015

Vancouver BC

Click here to hear the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist on Sunday the 16th.
        This past week I had lunch with an older colleague and friend whom I have know for almost thirty years.  We get together two or three times and year for lunch, sometimes to do some church business, sometimes just because we are friends.  After each of these lunches I thank God for my friend, my wise and compassionate friend.  And I realize that I have not yet reached the maturity and the wisdom that my friend radiates.

            In today’s lectionary readings we have three perspectives on wisdom.  We are perhaps all familiar with the English phrase, ‘as wise as Solomon’.  Today we hear the origins of that phrase.  But first a little background.  Solomon has won the right to be crowned as David’s successor, even though he is the child of Bathsheba, the wife his father David stole from Uriah the Hittite.  He’s just married one of the daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Israel’s constant menace on its western border.  Solomon has even indulged in sacrificing at the ‘high places’, a pagan practice that was to have ended when the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Jerusalem.  It’s not exactly the most auspicious beginning for his reign.

            Then Solomon does the right thing.  When God appears to him in a dream and asks Solomon what he really wants as king, Solomon shows insight when he says, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3.9).  Who is wise?  The wise person is the one who looks below the surface of human existence and dares to ask questions about what things mean.  The wise person is the one who is not afraid to name the evil that he or she sees and to proclaim the good that overcomes the evil.

            Then we come to the Gospel of John.  The message of the Gospel can be summarized in the words of my teacher, James Griffiss:  “When you meet Jesus of Nazareth, you meet God.”  This is the totality of the good news of God that we proclaim.  And today Jesus tells us that the presence of God and the fullness of life that this presence brings is not just a future hope.  It is ‘eternal’, that is to say, it is not bound by time and space.  God’s presence and life in its fullness can be experienced in the here and now.  The wise person is the one who seeks, in all times and in all places, to imitate Christ by doing justice to all people, by loving faithfully all whom God places within our embrace and by exercising stewardship of God’s creation rather than self-serving consumption.

            “Be careful then how you live,” writes the author of the Letter to the Ephesians, “not as unwise people but as wise.”  With these words we are reminded that wisdom comes through living in community, choosing to participate in the life of real people facing real challenges.  Wisdom is not some abstract contemplation of the music of the spheres; wisdom is the down-to-earth commitment to furthering the growth and maturity of all people.  This commitment is only possible when we “give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything”. 

            I think that one of the obstacles to wisdom is ingratitude.  If we are unwilling to acknowledge that all that we are and all that we have comes to us as gift, then wisdom will elude us.  Ingratitude leads to envy, jealousy and even despair.  I do not deny that injustice and tragedy, that inequity and cruelty exist.  What I affirm is that wisdom, compassionate, inquiring, patient wisdom, is how we confront the injustice and tragedy, the inequity and cruelty of our times.  But our road to wisdom is blocked if we cannot acknowledge that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.  Thanksgiving releases God’s power to work in us and through us.

            Just some thoughts as we come to end of our summer.  I hope my friend would approve of them.


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