A Listening Heart


Epiphany 4B

Sun Jan 29th 2012

St Petri

Psalm 111

The Getting of Wisdom

It is very good to be here. It has taken a lot to be here – a lot from you, a lot from me and my family and the most from the Lord. It is good to be here.

As I ponder an open future with you in this place I want to begin well because beginnings set the tone for what comes after. I want to get it right and yet, I know, as President David so pointedly said at the installation Service last Sunday, “It is not about you, Adrian. It is about what God has already done for you”.

So, I know that as we begin this relationship and this ministry and mission together, that it is not about me getting anything right, but we working together under the Lord’s direction – and him getting it right – and he always gets it right!

Nevertheless, I am human!! So, I feel like the young boy, King Solomon, who was crowned king so young. He was thrust into the complex world of leadership in a community that had been around for ages and had reached great heights, and yet still had their issues and needed a wise king to bring that good heritage into a bright future.

You remember that at God’s instigation, Solomon was asked to pray for the thing he really needed as he took up his calling to lead God’s people as king. He could have prayed for the usual things kings want – more power, more wealth, more territory……. But, Solomon prayed for something we might not value as much as he obviously did. In 1Kings 3, we hear that the new leader prayed to the Lord for a listening heart (1Kings 3:9). With this listening heart, Solomon became the wise king (at least for half of his reign anyway!) who became the head of a whole school of wise learners and writers – who eventually wrote down something of their wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.

So, I want to pray that prayer and receive the great gift called wisdom. I want us all to begin wisely and well.

That last line of Psalm 111 we hear gets to the heart of where wisdom begins.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Like Solomon, we need a listening heart and the wisdom it brings to bear on who we are am and how we work together. We all need wisdom. Not just for moving into God’s future for St Petri, but for life – marriage, parenting, grand-parenting, working, business, serving people in Jesus’ name wherever we are….

I remember a definition of wisdom that someone told me once. Wisdom is knowing what to do at the right time: knowing what to do, what to say, at just the right time;  knowing how to react, how to plan when the moment requires. Knowing which way to choose when there is a choice to be made.

Robin Mann, maybe one of the many modern days Psalm writers, reflected on this Psalm in a song he wrote a while back…. he sings;

1.   What do we know? What do we learn? Why is the world? Why are we born? Who can explain the ripples on the ocean; the joy of a birth or the aching of a heart that’s torn? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 2.   How do we see? How do we hear? Who made the light? Who made the sound? Creatures that play we are limited for answers, if for a day like the flowers we will fade away. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:

The Psalmist answers our need for wise ways now. He says that if we see anything, if we understand anything about the world, ourselves, how things tick, how we are to grow together in love and witness as a church, it’s because the Lord is the source of understanding of all things and all he is and does. “The Lord has caused his wonders to be remembered”, says the song writer. It is the Word of the Lord that we need to hear – in the heart, with our “listening heart”.

So when I look up into the star filled sky, or look over the Valley from Menglers hill on a beautiful day or casually drive or ride through the vines early in the morning or late in the day, anything I may understand about these things is a gift of the Lord – not merely my own brilliance.

OK. But what about when we try to figure out God’s will and ways? What about when we try to understand spiritual things, unseen things, powerful things, things beyond? Well then we are at a loss. The history of human life is a story of the attempt to make sense of the dimensions beyond us. Temples, stories, poetry, philosophy – the very word comes from “Sophia”, the greek word for our English word – wisdom. Plato, Socrates, the Illiad and the Oddessy, Homer, Augustine, Occam, Descart, Hume, Nitschke, Freud, Jean Paul Satre – grasping at the “God dimension”.

But here is a truth from the Bible: We will never find the God of mercy and grace by gazing at stars, hugging trees, sailing the seven seas, testing our ability on a bungy strap, making a million, helping a billion, solo circumnavigation of the world, understanding the incredible processes of our natural environment.

There we may get a hint of something or someone greater and may even make a statue, or a theory or a symbol of what we have learnt – but we will not find the God of grace and mercy.

It is only in the Scriptures, in the word of this One who is the wisdom of the universe that we will find his very other-worldly wisdom – his character, his personality, his intentions for us, his upside down wisdom,

As Robin goes on to sing……,

3.   What kind of God dies on a cross? Gasping for breath: a spirited sigh. What kind of God has a face like any other; a heart that is full of compassion for a lonely child? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

Friends, the honour, the fear, the attentiveness, the will for God’s word is the beginning we need. As we begin our journey together as pastor and people serving the Lord and each other and those who need us to share the love and hope of Jesus with them, we need a new will, a new prayer, a new commitment to pray for a listening heart and the wisdom the Lord of the church will give to us.

I don’t know what shape this new drive for God’s word in our hearts will take. But I do know that this is the only beginning we need. We need to pray for a listening heart and we need to help each other pray for a listening heart. The Spirit, our Counsellor and Helper will take that prayer and set us on our way together. Will you take this prayer for a listening heart seriously? Will you dare to pray it in your own way in your own time and place in these days ahead?

Can we begin our days for the month of February with Solomon’s prayer. “Lord, give me a listening heart today”? It is my prayer these days and I will be praying it often. Will you join me?

If we forget or get distracted can we help each other and can we trust that In Jesus, wisdom has come to us and his wise counsel, his forgiveness, his deep concern and compassion for us will always win the day. He will remind us. He will restore us. He will make us wise and he will be our present and our future in this community called St Petri.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Amen.

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