Wisdom – Sunday Sermon 14 September 2003

I was listening to the coverage of the second anniversary of September 11 [2000] this week and a word jumped out at me which is what I want to focus o­n this morning. Someone was praying in New York and asking God the Creator to grant wisdom to the nations to know how to act and how to be.

Wisdom. Holy Wisdom is the focus this morning. Both the first reading from Proverbs and the reading we used in place of a psalm this morning, from the book of Wisdom take us directly to this strange, godly figure who appears all over the place in the Biblical texts. The words of the book of James seem to me to be words which the side of wisdom which deals in holy common sense. And the words of the Gospel show us Peter dealing with the sudden revelation that he knows who Jesus is. (Which is a true moment of wisdom for anyone).

We seem to be able to pray for wisdom without thinking that much about who or what Wisdom is. This morning I want us to pause and to breath in wisdom.

The figure of Wisdom strides through the bible from beginning to end. Always moving and never still. Wisdom is rarely at the centre of the frame yet either present or called upon. The lack of wisdom is typified by chaos. Wisdom is a characterization, a personification of God’s own self at work. Wisdom called creation into being (the Creative act of God), wisdom is involved in Christ’s saving presence on earth and wisdom is very much related to (if not the same as) the person of the Holy Spirit.

So, who, or what is wisdom?

The first thing to note about Wisdom is that she is becoming popular all over again. I say she because she is always a female figure in the bible. The greek word is Sophia – still a proper name now.

As I said, Wisdom is becoming popular all over again. It is a little strange that Wisdom has been ignored for so long. Yet somehow this seems to be her time. The idea that Wisdom is an attractive metaphor for some of the activities of God is very modern; very current, particularly, though not exclusively amongst women commentators on the bible. (There are nearly a million references to “Holy Wisdom” on the internet).

So who is this Wisdom figure? What does she do?

Here is a list of some of the characteristics and activities of Wisdom – drawn from the Bible and compiled by the people who produce our Young Church Material. It is a list worth thinking about:
These are the things that Wisdom does:
? Wisdom creates the world.
? Redeems a people
? Cries out for justice
? Pours forth compassion
? Plays with the seasons
? Nourishes, with carefully prepared food
? Comforts and consoles
? Sends forth heralds
? Utters challenging words
? Renews all things
? Makes friends of God and prophets
? Lights up evil and overcomes it
? Teaches the right paths

I find that an extraordinary list of activities. They are the divine activities indeed.

Let me just dwell on the last one in the list. Wisdom teaches us the right paths.
I was thinking about this when out for a walk in the Mine Woods. How do we know the right path? How do we know which way to go? How do we come to know which path will lead us where we want to go?

Such a metaphor for daily life. What path to follow. What path to choose. Wisdom, it seems, wisdom will guide us.
To search for wisdom is intrinsic to being involved in the activities of God.

Not cleverness, mind. Not simply full of knowledge. You cannot take an exam in Wisdom. Wisdom is to be embraced more than studied in a text-book.

I don’t know how you read the bible. There are many paths in it. Sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees and we get lost and muddled.

Here is a suggestion for you to try. Pick on something and search it out. You could do worse than pick on wisdom (though healing, salvation, joy, love and hope) would do too. Stay with that theme and listen for it in the biblical texts and listen for it in your life. Reflect on your theme. Revel in it.

The path of wisdom involves revelling in God’s word. Finding new delights in the word of God written in the bible, written large in nature and written with sure conviction in the lives of God’s people.
Wisdom is that part of our faith which is about pondering and then acting. Mulling over and then doing. Walking God’s talk. Creating God’s new reign of justice and joy. With wisdom, we journey from chaos to order. From darkness into light.
Wisdom is a symbolic figure who always calls us on. Calls us to journey. To discover. To contemplate beauty and to pray our way through suffering and pain.

The promise is that if we seek out wisdom and put our trust in her, then we will find ourselves discovering God’s activity and work.

That work means peace for all God’s fractured people. Nourishment for those who would pray. Stillness for the troubled. And healing for our souls.

Wisdom is but one, yet can do all things;
herself unchanging, she makes all things new;
age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets.
Wisdom spans the world in power from end to end. Amen

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