March 24, 2019

“Wisdom Cries Out in the Street!”


Proverbs 1:20-23; Mark 12:28-34


We begin today’s sermon by focusing upon the Proverbs passage- 1:20-23. Early Christians called this book “Wisdom or “all Virtuous Wisdom.” This text seems to be independent of the proceeding text. Wisdom is personified as female, which seem unusual in a patriarchic society. Why is wisdom female?


There are at least three possibilities for this:

  1. Woman Wisdom is an extension of God’s wisdom and takes on a differentiated life of its own. Wisdom as an aspect of God effectively becomes “woman wisdom.”
  2. Woman Wisdom is an influence from Egypt and the goddess traditions. The goddess Maat stood for justice and cosmic order, and was an important figure in Egyptian wisdom teachings. She is depicted with an ankh in one hand and a scepter in the other. Further, into Proverbs in chapter 3, Woman wisdom is depicted with long life in one hand and riches and honor in the other.
  3. Woman Wisdom is an Israelite woman. Theologian Claudia V. Camp argues in her book, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs, that after the return from exile in Babylon, there was a social crisis, which led to women in the culture becoming mediators, and replacing kings as mediator for those who sought to understand God’s ways and wisdom.


So we aren’t exactly certain why wisdom is personified and is female, but we do know that she is frustrated. The people of God are not paying attention to Her wisdom, but instead, are going their own way. She cries out in the streets in the market, at the city gates, on top of the walls- a gathering place with lots of people going in and out, hoping to get people’s attention. I Have been in my office when someone has yelled, cried out while walking down Siskiyou Blvd., and it certainly grabs my attention!


Wisdom does not content herself in being at home. She seeks us out in everyday lives. Wisdom desires to teach! She cries, “How long O simple ones will you love being simple? How long will scoffers(someone insensible to moral truth) delight in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my truth. I will pour out my thoughts to you.” The rest of the book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings. Proverbs is a great source for wisdom.


And yet, there is wisdom for living from many sources these days. Type in “wisdom” on Google and you’ll get thousands of possibilities all at your finger touch in less than one second. Some of it is scriptural, some human, some a mixture, and some not worth looking at.


Human wisdom has taught me a lot over my own life- My parents had plenty of wisdom for me.


My mother- A watched pot never boils”- which isn’t true but has to do with patience and waiting for water to boil. Then there was “ boards of play”, which apparently was a cribbage term. When my mother uttered it while we were playing some game together, it meant, “You can’t change your move, pick up a different card, etc.” Once I touched a piece or card, I had to play it, no exceptions. The one she quoted to me most often was, “Two wrongs do not make a right,”  which I interpreted to mean, “If someone harms you or is mean to you, responding in kind doesn’t make the world any better.”


My father often said, “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t let your limitations limit what you do.” Those words of wisdom had to do with Dad’s hand, which had been severely disfigured in a hunting accident with a shotgun when he was a teenager. As a result, Dad had very limited use of his left arm, hand, and fingers. But that didn’t stop him from being a pitcher in a city league team in southern Ca., playing golf, becoming an auto mechanic or aerospace engineer. Bot of my parents greatly influenced me with their wisdom.


QUESTION-Who can remember hearing someone tell them something wise? What did they say to you?


Human wisdom is wise, but according to Paul in 1 Cor 1:25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…”- Is God’s wisdom superior to human wisdom? If we consider ourselves to be created from the Creator, that does make sense, and a quote I’ll share later on from Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber supports that view. For me personally, I have learned profound things from human wisdom. I have also learned profound things from God’s wisdom, and I hold more weight with wisdom from God because it is my belief system, how I frame my world view, and I believe I am a creation of the Creator.


What does God’s wisdom consist of? Proverbs 11:2 gives us a clue. “With humility comes wisdom.”-Humility is a component of God’s wisdom.


In our discussion from last week’s Bible Study, we spent some time on Psalm 19:9, which says, “The fear of God is pure.” Regarding the translation of that word, “Fear,” the author of the study believes that word in Hebrew, “yare” is better translated as “reverence.” So then, the reverence, as the dictionary defines it, “A feeling of profound awe and respect” is pure. What does this have to do with wisdom? Psalm 111:10 says that “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”  So then Reverence for, a feeling of profound respect and awe of God is the beginning of wisdom. To me that in part is the understanding that we are the created beings of the Creator of all things. I find awe and profound respect in that knowledge.


In the New Testament, James 3:17 lists some of the attributes of Godly wisdom. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.”


Where do we find God’s wisdom? Scripture is, of course, our main source, which we will get to in just a bit. Human beings and their experiences of God can also give us Godly wisdom. While doing a Bible study last year on forgiveness, I clearly remember some words of wisdom from Gail Johnson, who said she tried to live by this wisdom, “Think before you speak. Pray before you act.”


I have found profound wisdom in the writings of Anne Lamott. One of many quotes I try to keep in my brain Rolodex is, “You can safely assume that you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people as you do.” One of my favorite theologians in seminary was Karl Barth. One of the many things he wrote which impacted my faith had to do with prayer. “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” More recently, in fact from just two days ago at Friday night’s lecture from Rev. Nadia Bolz-Webber, one of the many things she said which was wise-She was being asked about author and theologian Richard Rohr and his belief that rather than there being a Trinity of the Godhead there is in his mind a “Tetrad of God”, which includes the divinity of humanity. She said as best as I can remember, “When we elevate human beings too high, too lofty, that is when our shadow side starts lifting weights.”


QUESTION-Who are some of your favorite Christian authors or faithful friends and what wisdom have you gleaned from them?


As I mentioned earlier, scripture can be a gold mine of finding wisdom from God, and from those who have lived their faith in God. Through the power of the Spirit, we can learn a lot of wisdom. Here are just a few of the passages of wisdom that are important for me.


Micah 6:8 “God has shown you, o mortal what is good, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” I first learned that piece of scripture in a song at a Christian camp. Very rapidly it became a part of my faith steering wheel. It is one of those passages of scripture that boils the word of God all down to a memorable way to live.


Its cousin is in the New Testament, and is our second scripture passage for the day. We are, “to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength…and our neighbor, just as we love ourselves.” Jesus boiled down the whole of scripture with this passage. Imagine how the world would be if we all lived just by this one passage of scripture! For me, it is an ideal to work for and a source of God’s wisdom to try to live by daily. And yes, it is so hard…


Psalm 33:17 says, “The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.” This reminds me to work for peace, and not to put my hope in military strength, something this nations relies far too heavily upon. Psalm 34:14 is another piece of scripture I try to hold on to. “Seek peace and pursue it,” which suggests peace is moving target and one must work for peace in order to have it.


Isaiah 40:31 I first learned as a song, taught to me by Rev. Hugh Stewart while I was a teenager in his congregation in Vallejo, Ca. “Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall mount upon wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary they shall walk and not faint.” That passage reminds me to trust in God’s strength when I am feeling weak, defeated or exhausted.


In the New Testament, I find much wisdom in Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus teaches about his return and a time of judgment between those who help the least of these and those who do not. “Whatever you do, or do not do, you do or do not do to me,” says Jesus. This means, even though it is at times excruciatingly hard to do so, we are called to see the face of Christ in the unhoused, and those who are in dire need. This is a passage I try to keep with me especially at work during the week, when folks often come to Susan or me asking for help.


One of my favorite passages of God’s wisdom came to me at a time of great difficulty and loss, in the death of our first child. Jesus told the disciples as he prepared to go to the cross in John’s gospel, “So now you are sad. But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and your joy, no one will take from you.” (John 16:22) This passage reminds me that one day, we will have a time of great reunion with those who have died before us, a great day full of joy. That knowledge sustains me when I am in the valley of the shadow.


That passage is connected to me with Romans 8:18, where Paul says, “I consider the sufferings of this present time worth nothing to the glory that will one day be revealed to us.” Suffering, loss, pain- all of them come to us in this life and are oat times overwhelming. But one day, suffering will be no more. One day, loss and mourning will be a distant memory. One day, we will see the glory of God and it will shine brighter than any of those painful experiences we went through upon this planet. One day… and so I hold onto hope.


These are just some of my favorite nuggets of God’s wisdom.


QUESTION-Perhaps there are passages of wisdom that you hold dear, that are part of your faith steering wheel? If so, I would invite you to share them.


May those wise words uttered from friends and family help us as we try to live, remembering them. May faithful wisdom of God’s followers help us understand more about who we are and whose we are, and may the wisdom of God guide us in our faith journeys this day, and all the days ahead. Amen


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