Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31
John 16: 12-15
The world is full of advice. Just ask, and good advice rains down:
Buy low, sell high.
Many hands make light work.
From our dentists: brush daily, and floss regularly.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Eat more vegetables.
Get more exercise.
Always use your seatbelt.
Y’all know that “Many hands make light work” is one of my favorites. And any kid on any of my buses ever knows that I believe in seatbelts. The wisdom of the world: conventional wisdom. And those words ARE good advice.
There is another kind of wisdom however, a deeper kind of wisdom, the kind of wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s available to all. Listen to these words from Proverbs 8: 1-4: Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise Her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads She takes her stand; 3beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals She cries out: 4“To you, O people, I call, and My cry is to all that live. Wisdom does not take up her stand inside the city – instead She calls to everyone that passes by. She cries out to all the world. She says: My cry is to all that live. My cry is to ALL that live. God, through wisdom, reveals God’s very self to everyone. How? Through the beauty and design of the universe. Wisdom recognizes this. The Jews believe that Torah, which comes directly from Wisdom, was present at the very creation of the universe. That is the idea behind natural theology – that God does indeed reveal God’s very Self to everyone. Psalm 8 reminds us: 1O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens. 2Out of the mouths of babes and infants You have founded a bulwark because of Your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have established; 4what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them? 5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. But we need more than the natural revelation given to us by God’s magnificent creation – we need to know that not only that God is mindful of us, but that God rejoices in us. It is not enough for Wisdom to delight in the human race; we need for God to rejoice in us as well. And so, in the fullness of time, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, into the world. And when God did that, God upset virtually everything that human beings understand through conventional wisdom.
Consider Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, who was going to divorce her quietly, since she was pregnant – and he knew HE was not the father. Conventional wisdom demanded that he divorce her. God’s messenger Gabriel revealed God’s wisdom to Joseph. Consider the magi, those who came looking for a king. Where did they go? Where conventional wisdom said they would find the infant born King of the Jews: to the palace in Jerusalem. They were redirected to Bethlehem by the wisdom that comes from the Word of God, from scripture, which the priests laid out for them, ironically at Herod’s request. Consider how Joseph fled in the middle of the night to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, because of the warning from the angel. Conventional wisdom would say wait because the baby was too young to travel; surely God would protect God’s own Son.
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He really upset conventional wisdom. Love your enemies? Bless those who curse you? If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other side also? If someone demands your coat, give them your cloak too? In today’s lectionary reading from the Gospel of John, as Jesus is speaking to, and encouraging, His disciples shortly before He knows He will be arrested and tortured, tried, convicted and nailed to a cross, Jesus says this: John 16: 12-15 [Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but will speak whatever He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify Me, because He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is Mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” What is Jesus’? Everything. All that the Father has. Everything. Instead of payback, we are to bless. Instead of hatred, we are to love.
This is an amazingly attractive idea, even as it is also so counter to the wisdom of the world. It is so incredibly attractive that non-Christians are drawn to it. On my school bus, I drive a wide variety of kids, from a wide variety of faith backgrounds: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindi, and no particular faith background, as well. One of my Muslim kids is a wonderful young woman I have known for five years or so, who has been thinking pretty deep thoughts for a very long time. She is generally upbeat, but over the past year she has made a very conscious effort to be positive, encouraging, and thankful. One day Noor told me why: one of her BFFs is a young Roman Catholic girl. Noor and Emily have been friends for years, and so see how each other react to different situations. Noor fairly recently made this decision: when she thinks about how to react to any given situation, she says to herself: WWED? What would Emily do? And she follows Emily’s example. Culturally it would be much more difficult for Noor to say WWJD, but that is what is on Emily’s mind when she chooses HER reactions to the things that life tosses at her over the course of a day. Emily’s behavior shows more clearly than any learned discourse, any magnificently-delivered sermon, Who it is that she follows, Who it is that has given her her salvation. Emily shows through her life that Jesus is her Lord and Savior. The very first thing any Princeton Theological Seminary student learns in Preaching 101 is just that: the most important sermon any of us will ever give is how we live our lives.
So what kind of sermons are we preaching, with our lives? What kind of wisdom is visible in our lives? Conventional wisdom, or the wisdom that comes from God? The wisdom that comes from the Spirit of truth testifies to the power of such wondrous love as this: God, through Jesus Christ, the Lord of bliss, paid the price for us, for our salvation. Our charge is to share this wondrous love with the rest of creation. We CAN choose our behavior, and love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and extend God’s love to this lost and broken world, that needs that Light in the darkness more than ever. Declaring that wisdom, the wisdom of God, is made visible in our lives through what we do, and don’t do. What wisdom do WE reveal? Let us pray: Lord God, give us hearts of love, for You alone, so we can proclaim Your wisdom, in word and in deed, until Jesus returns in glory. And even so, come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.