Sermon, Pentecost 17B, Sunday September 16, 2018, St Petri
Proverbs 1:20-3320 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: 22 ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.24 But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 ‘Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.’https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/20180916_message.mp3
Everybody wants a good life. No one wants to make mistakes that cause more pain or put their name, wealth, farm, house, business or family in peril. We all want to avoid bad relationships, the shame of stinging criticism, the embarrassment of getting it wrong. We all want to live in a free and fair community.
What is most important in living this life we long for when anything we fear can and will probably happen at some stage.
It is the view of the bible that it is our listening that determines our living: What and who we listen to determines our life’s direction, fulfillment and contribution more than anything else.
This is particularly the case in one of the three general literature types in the Bible; “The Writings”, or “wisdom literature”.
The Hebrew Bible is split into three great categories of writing; The law (Torah), The Prophets (Nephiliim) and the Writing (Kethubiim).
The law (Torah) is the Pentateuch; the first 5 books about creation and Exodus from slavery and Moses in the desert. Then comes the Prophets from Samuel the first prophet and king maker right through the Malachi 400 years before Jesus. Then there is the Writings – Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs; probably the writing we most associate with wisdom.
The proverbs come from Solomon and they are all about listening. They came from a listening heart, for which Solomon asked the Lord. He prayed,
” …..give your servant a listening heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. (1 Kings 3:8).
The Lord did this. Today we hear how Solomon’s wisdom words begin;
Sophia or Lady Wisdom goes down to the central markets of the city and stands atop a counter with a microphone and calls out to anyone who will hear.
22 ‘How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.
She challenges the hearers to listen to her thoughts and teachings – her words.
Listening to her words are the difference between experiencing self-destructive foolishness and life-giving wisdom of God.
You will only listen to Lady Wisdom if you honour and acknowledge the source of Lady Wisdom’s wisdom! It is the ‘fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10). Wisdom begins with the acknowledgment , respect and honouring of the Lord God.
God’s wisdom for living is so much more than mere information (we have plenty of that). Neither is wisdom a program – a set of simple steps to take, or even merely a ‘proven’ formula for success. At its heart is not more research, clear values and will to do them.
But God offers his wisdom for living in speaking words; speaking words together, listening to words together; words in song, in art, in prayers.
God’s wisdom only comes in the school of hard knocks – the school of experiences – but not just your own experience, but experiences shared, talked about sung about pained, reflected in verse in lyric…..
And this wisdom on offer from God is instilled by God in you only as you engage with it and wrestle with it. Wisdom is hard won. It does not come easy or all at once by following a few rules or keeping some values. Wisdom does not come from swatting up on 10 Proverbs. Wisdom can only come when you listen to one speaking into your actual experience in the moment.
EG. If you have never heard a leaky roof dripping all night and keeping you awake or if you have not actually got a partner or been around children at all, there is no way you would know what to do with this proverb:
A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome partner is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof. (Proverbs 19:13)
Once you simply receive God’s word with a great respect and trust him as he speaks into your day in the rough and tumble experiences, Lady Wisdom’s teaching becomes many things;
Wisdom is a peacemaker – the most valuable life-giving thing we could acquire. (3:13-20)
Wisdom is actually governed by the Lord as he governs the whole universe and all of our experiences (3:13-20)
Wisdom’s purpose in revealing herself in experience is to help people trust in the Lord in all their life (22:19).
Wisdom guides good government and leadership (8:12-31). This is why we pray for the fit of God’s wisdom for those who govern – whether they acknowledge him or not – they need the Lord’s wisdom!
The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. Wisdom gives life but foolishness is the destruction of life. Foolishness is by nature destructive of self and others. Living life without the acknowledgement and listening to the Word of the Lord in your day; letting his word shape your experiences, is actually quite suicidal in nature;
Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and don’t forsake your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head…. My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent.……their feet run to evil,….they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors. (Proverbs 1:8-19)
Friends, it is our listening that determines our destiny more than our intellect, our wealth, our peers, our control, our dreams and visions for ourselves or the world.
But here is what I find so good this morning.
I’ll ask a question: Where does Lady Wisdom do her calling?
Lady Wisdom does not do her calling and speaking in some special holy club or some little room or some inner circle of the especially wise! Lady Wisdom does her calling and teaching at the Central Market place – in the public square, at the local pub, in the local institute, the tourist hub, the crowded Adelaide Oval, the busy hospital.
And who is in this public space? The Foolish! Wisdom invites fools to know the wisdom of the Lord. Only the foolish are invited to the banquet that gives life and understanding and makes for wisdom.
In that parable Jesus told about the wedding banquet, those who believed themselves to be wise didn’t bother coming when invited. Only those who were not wise ended up feasting in joy!
That is good news for fools like me!
And even better news…… Nowhere does Lady Wisdom give God’s wisdom for life, future, marriage, family, work, love, health and real peace than in a person – a living, breathing real person of history.
Lady Wisdom only gives up her richest and fullest meaning when she is heard in light of Jesus of Nazareth.
He dazzled his listeners with his wisdom).
“….and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked (Matthew 13:54)
He claimed to be the new Solomon with ultimate wisdom.
“….and now something greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31).
Lady Wisdom that is said to have created the world (Prov 8:22-31) is finally revealed to be Jesus, the Word of God, with whom God created all things;
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made… (John 1:1-4).
Paul actually can name Jesus very Wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 30). Jesus Christ crucified and risen is the person in whom all God’s wisdom is hidden;
“….namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. (Colossians 2:3).
This Jesus calls fools. This Jesus uses what seems foolish (his cross) to shame those who think they are wise enough already so that they and we ship of fools can find that the Lord is good and true in all aspects of our life, and so we know our wisdom is in him, not ourselves and he gets all the glory for all wisdom we live.
It is the listening that determines your living more than anything else.
We listen to live.