Pentecost 8, Proper 12 July 30, 2017
Church of the Good Shepherd, Silver City, NM Rev. Paul Moore
The Pursuit of Wisdom
I have been going to Honduras every year save one since 1993. I have dear friends there. I have a god-daughter and compadres there. I know the area pretty well by now, and I know what kinds of things to expect on a trip like this. Yet every year I get surprised by something. Something happens, someone says something, someone does something or goes somewhere, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is evident in ways I didn’t expect. Every year I watch for the same thing, and it never fails to astound me when I see it, even though I’ve seen it a hundred times if once. People come back from Honduras with a certain light in their eyes that wasn’t there before. They “get it.” They understand how being poor is a relative term that applies to themselves as well as the Hondurans. They understand how the Gospel preaches good news to the poor, and what their role is in sharing it. They know that they will live differently from that point on in their lives, and I stand amazed at the way the Spirit works in peoples’ lives.
Today’s readings have a theme that runs through them. They all deal with the pursuit of wisdom. In the first one Solomon is being crowned king of Israel. Unlike his father, he grew up in the palace. He grew up in luxury, used to power, but at this initial moment he is a bit scared. In spite of his upbringing he doesn’t really feel adequate to the job. The future of Israel would have taken a very different route had he remembered the fear later in life, but for this moment he is wise—and he chooses wisdom.
In the second one Paul speaks to a church facing challenges from all sides. They were contentious and divisive within, and they faced a hostile community without. Paul traces the troubles through earlier portions of this book, and then puts them all in perspective: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, not the local authorities, not spiritual powers, not even our own inner doubts and tribulations. God has us and will not let us go. Wisdom flowers in context. Paul is teaching a vital lesson in practical wisdom. When we know where we are we know where to go.
In the Gospel lesson Jesus teaches a bunch of stuff in parables. Parables are more powerful teachers than lectures. Think back. Which of your professors’ lectures do you remember? You remember only the ones that contained stories, right? Jesus teaches in parables, and in the end the disciples are satisfied. Jesus then says something rather unexpected. “A householder brings out treasures, old and new.” The wisdom shared in these parables is both old—it builds on foundations that go back to the very beginning, and new, because they distill the wisdom of those foundations and apply it to today’s living.
Wisdom is always old and new, anchored and innovative, always building on what came before with forms that have not come before. One can say that our tradition is a wisdom tradition. I use the term in the broadest of senses: Wisdom is that set of mind that brings out our fullest humanity.
Following Christ is to pursue wisdom. Following Christ to Honduras is to pursue wisdom. Wisdom is learned in the parables we live daily. The stuff of life, when we stop and think about it, becomes the raw material of our humanity. Thinking about it, reflecting on it, listening to God about it, even airing it with others, these are the exercise of wisdom.
Following Christ is to pursue wisdom. The path you are on with Christ is a path into wisdom, but it is not an easy path. Anything worth doing is probably not going to be easy. It requires the death of the rule of the ego that one might learn to live in spirit. It requires the abandonment of one’s self-focus and surrender to a relationship with Jesus’ people. It demands that one turn one’s back on one’s self-constructed world and reach out to build the world hand in hand with others.
It leads to your own fullest humanity. The wise person has a large heart. The aches and pains of being human as well as its glories are not lost to them. They find creative ways of being with people in joy and pain. They don’t think they have to be wrong for another to be right.
The wise person has a clear mind. Well-grounded, they can choose their battles, focusing on what is important and not beating the wind. Well-aware of the wiles of the overblown ego, they know how to silence it when necessary. Compassion drives their choices about the creation.
The wise person is courageous in what really matters. They commit themselves to doing what is good, right and loving, avoiding the distractions of the overblown ego. They are generous of heart and hand, easily giving of their resources when the purpose is right. In all things they seek to be as loving as the God they worship.
This is not new wisdom, this is ancient. All true spiritual traditions teach this in their own way. Our Christian way is a valid and worthy one of many. Yet it is new, for each of us must learn it anew every day, as we learn to live wisely moment by moment.
May God make us all wise, compassionate, and full of vital life.