Wisdom Sermon, 13th Sunday after Pentecost
by The Reverend Jeffrey C. Johnson
1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4 “You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
In the three years I have been the pastor at FELC, I’ve been dedicated to cracking open scripture in new ways. It is wonderful that in that scripture, which is so ancient, it constantly renews itself. In these three years I’ve also experienced, like a lot of congregations, our knowledge of scripture is somewhat, and I’m going to use an unflattering word, Limited. But you’re not alone. Most church folks know a few scattered verses here and there, John 3:!6, Psalm 23, The Lord’s Prayer.
But to go into Scripture like you’re problem solving…and going into the the heart of not only the ancient Hebrews and early Christians AND to include God’s heart too is tough stuff. Scripture is the history of a people, a timeline, a mythology, and most importantly the revealed word of God. It reveals itself to us as to how we’re supposed to relate to each other and more importantly, God. I find it interesting that many people can tell me of the mythology of Star Wars but cannot tell me of Scripture. If you think about it, the Star Wars mythos has many similarities to Scripture.
Today’s OT lesson comes from Proverbs…one of those quaint OT books that you memorized as coming after the Psalms in Confirmation. It has 31 chapters so I challenge all of us to read a chapter of Proverbs every day for a month. You’ll get it done. But more importantly, it comes from that part of the OT that we call Wisdom Literature…the collected verses, books that we believe were written at the time of King Solomon’s reign. During Solomon’s time, Israel experienced great prosperity, much like postwar America. The temple was rebuilt and Israel really established itself as an institution. Israel also got lazy and thought that it would be this way always and by Jeremiah, they’re off to being slaves to the Babylonians. So, a word to the wise when we are not observant of the world around us.
Proverbs is exactly as it sounds. It is a collection of collected wise sayings from a practical standpoint. However, like most proverbial language, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise,” there’s more than meets the eye.
In this passage of Proverbs, Wisdom with a capital “W” is addressed. As I’ve said from this pulpit many times, Wisdom in the ancient world is ALWAYS female. Its Greek name is Sophia and if you ever go to Istanbul and visit the Hagia Sophia, one of the world’s great churches, you are visiting the Holy Wisdom Cathedral. Imagine a church named after a Biblical attribute.
I have to back up one chapter to Proverbs 8 and read to you one thing:
22 The Lord created me at the beginning[b] of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
So, this may surprise you all today, but there is more than one creation story…indeed. We know Genesis I and yes, Genesis II, but here’s one you didn’t know about I bet. Wisdom. So, Wisdom, Sophia, was created by God at the beginning of time. Before light was created, before the world, animals, and human beings, Wisdom was created. Created and was God’s companion. Obviously, God needs Wisdom or why would he create her?
And frankly, we do too.
In our Proverbs Chapter 9 lesson today, Lady Wisdom has a feast. Much like the Pastor’s Aid society can throw a party, there is a party here. There are two women invited: a Wise Woman and a Foolish Woman. The story is easily predictable: great things happens to the wise woman, but the foolish woman ends up in hell or so we find out later in verse 18!
However, Lady Wisdom, sets a feast for these women…a feast of the finest foods and wines…something to be enjoyed slowly and deliberately. This is not fast food. This is not an experience of easy, quick fix answers or dramatic, emotional experience. Lady Wisdom wants these two to sit down and enjoy. As a parting show in verse 6, Lady Wisdom offers a parting shot of advice: “Lay down immaturity, live, and walk in the way of insight.” Amazing.
How many of us follow Lady Wisdom’s advice? Put down our childishness, LIVE, and walk in the way of truth, revelation, whatever you want to call it? One of my biggest challenges and complaints that I encounter with the Christian community and myself is our spiritual childishness, our adult infancy, our resistance to grow up as Christians. The Apostle Paul speaks to those early Christian converts as feeding on the milk of Christ. Paul does not want us to feed on the milk of Christ when we’re 50 years old after a life time of being Christians. So, friends it’s time to grow up. We may be children of God but we are called to adult responsibility. To grow up in the knowledge and fear of the Lord.
We have many challenges facing us as a community in the next year: finances, infrastructure, identity, and the concept of welcome. We have many great opportunities to live and walk in insight. Or would we prefer to be babies the rest of our lives? I think you know the answer to that.
Jesus says in the gospel today that is he the bread of life. If you want to live, you must feed upon him in this meal. Lady Wisdom set this feast for us before the beginning of time. A heavenly banquet. So, when we come to communion today, please let us lay down our immaturity, while embracing maturity, let’s live rather than die, and let’s walk in God’s insight and not our selfish stubbornness.