Wisdom 6:12 – 19 (Common English Bible)
Wisdom is bright and unfading. She readily appears to those who love her. She’s found by those who keep seeking after her. She makes herself known even in advance to those who desire her with all their hearts. Someone who wakens before dawn to look for her will find her already sitting at the door. Taking wisdom to heart is the way to bring your thinking to maturity. The one who can’t sleep at night because he’s consumed with thinking about her will soon be free from worry.
She herself goes about looking for those who are worthy of her. She graciously makes herself known to them as they travel. She comes to them in each of the ideas that they think. The real beginning of wisdom is to desire instruction with all your heart. Love for instruction expresses itself in careful reflection. If you love Wisdom, you will keep her laws. If you are attentive to her laws, you can be assured that you will live forever. If you live forever, you will be near to God.
The reading I used today comes from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is not found in many of the bibles we have at home. It is one of those books only found in study bibles (and Catholic and Orthodox bibles) in that section between the Old and New Testaments known as the apocrypha or deuterocanonical books. The bishops who decided which books should go into the Bible decided that these should available to students of the Bible because we can learn from them but that we shouldn’t consider them to be authoritative.
The Wisdom of Solomon is sort of a continuation of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. A large part of it is narrated by a person known as Wisdom and contains sayings about how to live with joy and obedience to God. We first meet Wisdom in Proverbs where she describe herself in this way:
The LORD created me at the beginning of his way, before his deeds long in the past.
I was formed in ancient times, at the beginning, before the earth was.
When there were no watery depths, I was brought forth,
when there were no springs with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was brought forth;
before God made the earth and the fields or the first of the dry land.
I was there when he established the heavens,
when he marked out the horizon on the deep sea,
when he thickened the clouds above,
when he secured the fountains of the deep,
when he set a limit for the sea, so the water couldn't go beyond his command,
when he marked out the earth's foundations.
Common English Bible (2011-06-15). CEB Common English Bible with Apocrypha (Kindle Locations 28122-28143).
Just FYI, Wisdom is always referred to as a woman because the word meaning wisdom is feminine in Hebrew and Greek. English words, of course, don’t have gender.
This concludes the educational portion of the message.
I say that sort of tongue in cheek because as we all know education and wisdom are not the same thing. Today we celebrate the beginning of the school year, the beginning of a new season of education. The children will learn a lot this year. They’ll learn new things about words and numbers and science and maybe history and languages . . . and I don’t know what all. Their teachers will do their very best to teach them the things they need to know, the things the government and the school system say the children need to learn in order to pass the required tests.
I know that most teachers would much rather teach them how to think, how to reason their way through situations, how to think critically about problems and issues. Most teachers are be thrilled if in addition to teaching their students how to pass tests they also manage teach them to be moral and ethical and wise.
The real beginning of wisdom is to desire instruction with all your heart. Love for instruction expresses itself in careful reflection. . If you love Wisdom, you will keep her laws. If you are attentive to her laws, you can be assured that you will live forever. If you live forever, you will be near to God.
If you love wisdom you will keep her laws, you will live forever, you will be near to God. This sounds familiar. This is kingdom of heaven language. The one who loves Wisdom loves God, because Wisdom is of God. The one who loves Wisdom and therefore God, will do justice and love kindness, will show mercy and compassion, will care for the widow and orphan and everyone who has no one to protect them from the oppressor.
I know, I say these things all the time yet I don’t always say what loving the widow and the orphan and all the other powerless people really entails.
For the last two years we have been offering a program called the Treasure Box. A Treasure Box contains about 25 pounds of good quality frozen food at a very reasonable cost. It is supposed to feed a family of 4 for one week and an elderly person for an entire month. Unfortunately, Treasure Box has been losing so much money that they can’t continue to offer this service. The very last Treasure Boxes will be distributed in September. Most of our people were very upset to hear this – they simply don’t know what they’re going to do. Some have been sent to us by social workers or the school system. Many are retired or on disability. One has 6 foster kids and 3 of his own to feed. We feel terrible and we feel responsible to find a way to help these people. We’re going to see if we can get involved with a similar program between now and October so we can keep serving our neighbors.
One of the people who gets a Treasure Box every month is Garth, a very nice elderly man who has the kind of physical difficulties that make me think maybe he’s had a stroke. He was relieved to hear that we’re going to try to continue helping him. He’s terrified that the government is going to take away his Social Security and Medicare. He’s angry that the government doesn’t seem to care about people like him.
The Hebrew prophets told the government of their own times that if they didn’t care for the poor and powerless they would fall – and they did. Dr. Jeremiah Wright said the same thing to the U.S. government in his infamous “God damns America” sermon. He wasn’t alone in this kind of thinking. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was scheduled to preach a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell” the Sunday after his assassination. According to Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University in a recent NY Times article titled “Dr King Weeps From His Grave,” Dr. King said that his “dream of a more democratic America had become “a nightmare” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” Dr. King called America a “sick society.”’
Forty plus years later America is still sick and suffering from the causes of Dr. King’s nightmares.
Racism: It isn’t dead, it’s just changed the way it works. Schools are more segregated today than they were in 1970. Racially based hate crimes are on the increase. The prison population is disproportionately comprised of young men of color.
Poverty: The gap between the rich and poor is greater than it has ever been. Thanks to the greed of banks and multinational corporations more families – 2 parents plus children – are homeless now than at any time since the Great Depression and it doesn’t look like those numbers are going to decrease any time soon.
Militarism: We are engaged in two wars, and have been at war for nearly ten years. You have all seen the news stories about the dire straits way too many military families are in while the military industrial complex reports record profit.
Materialism: Corporations are people now – at least they are according to the Supreme Court and some candidates for the presidency. We are a nation living on plastic, bombarded with the temptation to buy online, on TV, on the phone and on impulse. A frighteningly large percentage of us are one pink slip or bad diagnosis away from financial disaster. I won’t even mention that lately some Americans have losing rights at a scary pace – union members and poor women and –
Do I need to point out that the people who suffer most as a result of racism and materialism and militarism and poverty are the widows and the orphans and the otherwise powerless?
The very same people who have been denied justice from forever –
the same ones that God specifically and repeatedly told the leaders to treat with justice and mercy and compassion or bad things would happen.
Yesterday Garth said he is afraid that if the government keeps taking away from the poor that people will take up arms, that there will be a violent uprising, a revolution. I believe a revolution is exactly what we need. According to Cornel West we need to make “a revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.”
There have been surveys lately that indicate the “religious right” believes church should have a larger role in politics. Well, I’m not part of the religious right, but I believe that too.
I believe that the Church needs to stand up for the justice that is denied the poor, the widows, the orphans, the bullied and the powerless.
I believe that we must sign petitions, march, register to vote and tell everyone around us to register to vote, write blogs and letters to the editor and letters to our elected officials.
I believe we must stand with the Hebrew prophets and with Dr. King, and tell our government to love Wisdom and to love her laws, to love justice.
I believe we need to remind them what happened to Israel and to Judah when the prophets were ignored –
and just to be clear, the prophets were not fussing over how to properly keep all the laws in Torah. They weren’t worried about written down rules and how to interpret them. They weren’t lawyers. Some of them weren’t very well educated. But they were lovers of Wisdom. They were prophets. Their job was to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. They were concerned for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless. They preached that everybody, but especially the leaders of the nation, need to act with justice and mercy and compassion and love to all persons, but especially to the oppressed.
We need to do that.
We need to do that because if we do not stand with the least of our brothers and sisters, we are not Christian.
We need to do that because if we do not love even the most unlovable,
we are not Christian.
I don’t know what we would be, but we would not be Christian.
We would most certainly not be lovers of Wisdom and of her laws.
Wisdom is bright and unfading. She readily appears to those who love her. She’s found by those who keep seeking after her. . . If you love Wisdom, you will keep her laws. If you are attentive to her laws, you can be assured that you will live forever. If you live forever, you will be near to God.
Let’s live forever.
Let’s be near to God.
Let’s seek Holy Wisdom.