Wisdom, like grace, comes unbidden, often when we expect it least. We may suddenly see with clarity our next step forward that takes us beyond our own desires, our own selves, for with new eyes, we see differently our part in the emerging wholeness or completeness of a situation that previously had been beyond our reach.
Wisdom, like grace, can be asked for and given to us by God, as in the reading this morning from the Hebrew Bible, when Solomon, upon his anointing, asked for wisdom, not riches. Often, when presented with a messy situation, or when our backs are up against the wall, or when the overwhelming complexity of relationships consumes us, we often get down on our knees and pray that God will usher us onto a path that becomes clear. We pray for wisdom to act rightly and creatively, for wisdom can at times encourage our deepest engagement with the source of all creativity, the divine.
Wisdom, like grace, can be present in those with much life experience, those who have known real pain and joy over the years and have assimilated those experiences to grow compassion and empathy for others; and wisdom, like grace, can be evident in young children, those whom we often refer to as “old souls”, those who have a different take on life from the beginning, those who see the world around them with the eyes of their heart naturally aligned with God’s and who then astutely choose not to adopt the culture around them of bullying, or self-advancement, or falsehood.
Wisdom, like grace, is of God, and therefore is recognizable when it brings us toward peace, or wholeness, or righteousness. Wisdom is the revelation or the manifestation of the alignment of our will, our desires, our path in life, with that of God’s, and it is a gift to receive. In fact, this wisdom, like grace, this fire of truth burning within our souls, this clarity for righteousness and justice, this gift from God, is perhaps that which we are most called to be good stewards of, for if we hold, and honor, and obey (meaning deeply listen to), the wisdom imparted to us by God, our lives will show forth our praise and thanksgiving for all that is good, all that is of God, and God’s kingdom will come near. And that’s an authentic definition of stewardship: something that is worth the giving of all that we are, and all that we have, to make the world a better place.
We hear a lot about wisdom today in our readings, from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the book of Kings which we read this morning and from the alternative Hebrew reading from Proverbs which features Lady or Woman Wisdom, with the author putting a female caricature to this attribute of God, and then from the letter written to the Ephesians, in the directive of faithful Christian living, equating wisdom with making the most of our time, with understanding the will of God, and with the stance of our hearts turned toward rejoicing, singing, and giving thanks to God at all times and for all things.
From our readings today, we learn that Wisdom is an attribute of God that we are invited into, encouraged to partake with, and charged with drawing unto ourselves, so that we may, in a more complete way, live as faithful Christians, offering God’s counter-cultural way of being into our lives and world.
The original hearers of these words would have understood wisdom to pertain not so much to the acquisition of intellectual knowledge, as to the orientation of persons to the values approved by God, and we too can enter into that comprehension of the word Wisdom. For as wisdom is from God, it takes both head and heart knowledge to experience it and then to manifest it in our lives. We need to have the eyes and the mind to perceive it in our midst, in ourselves or others, and the heart to make it our own, to incorporate it into our being, to live the change.
Today, let’s talk about how our worship opens that possibility for us, the taking within ourselves the Wisdom and grace of our Lord, so that we can live the change. For whereas Wisdom and grace can come unbidden and can show up in our being anywhere and anytime, often we find our orientation toward that which is holy in our worship and prayer, and in our stance of gratitude, so often experienced during our Sunday service. Often as we turn toward God’s way, toward the real presence of Christ among us, as we approach this table abundantly set with divine love and grace, as we hear the expansiveness and inclusivity of the invitation, we find our own way of meeting that grace.
Although we didn’t read the section from Proverbs this morning, you probably recall that is this book of sayings, Lady Wisdom sets a table of an abundant feast and proclaims to all, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.” She promises a banquet, and God provides.
Our Christian understanding of the gospel of John is that when Jesus says to his disciples that he is the bread of life and extends the invitation to eat of his flesh, that it reveals his ability to promise a banquet, to offer a new way of life, and to be that new way of life within us, whereby we can abide in him and he in us, living life as wise people, leaning toward and living into that which is good, right, and true.
For when we see Christ in others and through that vision, ourselves become more Christ-like, when we feast on the Word of God through our holy listening and response to the scriptures by finding ways to attach the truth of God to our truth, or when we take within our body the Body and Blood of Christ, we abide in Jesus and he in us. We are assimilated to God’s ways, to God’s Wisdom. We become more Christ-like.
I’ve been very aware over the past year, as I have placed intention around the quality and types of food I consume, that as my body has shifted and grown healthier, my spirit has too. There is this saying that “we become what we eat” and I believe that to be true, for what we eat becomes a part of us. But what is abundantly clear to me recently, that when we eat of spiritual food, of the wisdom and grace shown to us in numerous ways, yet particularly so in the sacrament of the Eucharist, rather than what we eat becoming a part of us, we instead become a part of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that which binds the Body of Christ together. We eat of Jesus’ flesh so that we can become more like Jesus. We take Jesus within our very being and take within ourselves the Wisdom and grace of holy, and we are transformed. We become more with Jesus. Our lives become fuller, more complete, more joyful, more open. And Jesus becomes more to us, more accessible to us, more present in our lives, more manifest in our lives. What we experience when we join in the Spirit of Christ through the sacrament of the Eucharist is a two-way relationship, one where we receive all of Christ and one that requires us to be “all in”, to be fully invested, to hold, and treasure, and be good stewards of that love which is now the flame burning brightly within our souls. The reciprocity we are invited into by the offering of this gift of grace of Wisdom through the Eucharist imagines that we not take “tiny bites” of this faithful life, but rather embrace a life focused on faith, a life with Jesus at the very core of our being. This image begs the question for each of us to answer, “Can I be an ‘all-in’ disciple of Jesus?” “Can I feast with gusto and take all of Jesus within me, so that I can fully become Jesus to the world?” “Can I keep my focus on Jesus, not just on Sunday mornings, but also on Mondays and Tuesdays and throughout the week?” “As I am entrusted with this flame burning brightly within, can I be a good steward of this precious gift?”
We just sang the heart-consuming hymn, Be Thou My Vision, which so eloquently raises the prayer in our hearts that Jesus be our vision (be what we see, what we perceive, be the lens through which we view our world), O Lord of my heart (my whole heart, the entirety of my being), Naught be all else to me (let nothing else matter to me), save that Thou art (except that you are); Thou my best thought, (consume my thinking) by day or by night (Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday, throughout the week), Waking or sleeping (be a part of my very being); Thy presence my light (that which guides me to you).Be Thou my Wisdom (my understanding, my will be yours), and Thou my true Word (my truth);
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; (eternal life)
Thou my great Father and I, thy true son; (the source of my being)
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one. (I will abide in you and you in me).
The more we eat of the spiritual food, of the Bread of Life, the more we know God in our heart, the more we become Christ-like, the more we can change the world. But it starts with tending to that flame in our heart.
Here’s an idea of how you may be able to deepen your intentionality around receiving and becoming this gift of grace and Wisdom. If Christ is to become our mind and heart, our very being, through the Eucharistic eating and drinking, then somehow, we must assimilate the essence of Jesus, now within us.
Here’s the invitation: remain with Jesus. Tarry at the altar rail. Ponder, pray, and be attentive to what is going on inside of you, as you stretch out your hand, as you offer your heart, as you feel the touch of the bread upon your palm, as you feel the presence settle within you. Absorb not just the holy food and drink, but the holiness which is now within you. You need never to feel rushed at the rail. You can always linger, pray, absorb, and be attentive. There may be people ready to kneel walking to the altar rail after you. Don’t worry. We all know this is holy time, a time of guaranteed intimacy with Christ. Don’t rush it. Others can move around you. And when you return to your seat, close your eyes. Sit in silence. This can often be one of the most meaningful parts of the service, for the Body of Christ is settling within you, so you can settle into the love Jesus brings us. There’s plenty of time to shift into your everyday world, to imagine what needs to happen after church. Right now, abide in Jesus, so Jesus can abide in you. Eat fully of the bread, drink deeply of the cup, for wisdom, like grace, is a gift given to us by God, so we can live the change made manifest in us.