whose wisdom speaks to us
in light and breath,
in earth and ﬂesh:
may we share her delight
in all that has life
and proclaim your incarnate word,
the lover of all creation;
through Jesus Christ, in whom all things hold together.
Proverbs 8:1,22-31 (NLT)
Listen as Wisdom calls out!
Hear as understanding raises her voice!
“The Lord formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.
I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.
I was born before the oceans were created,
before the springs bubbled forth their waters.
Before the mountains were formed,
before the hills, I was born—
before he had made the earth and fields
and the first handfuls of soil.
I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.
I was there when he set the clouds above,
when he established springs deep in the earth.
I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.
And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,
I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
rejoicing always in his presence.
And how happy I was with the world he created;
how I rejoiced with the human family!
I wonder if there are any phrases that your parents used that you swore that you would never say? Eat your crusts – they’ll put hairs on your chest! I mean what eight year old girl WANTS hairs on her chest?! Or, don’t go out with wet hair – you’ll catch your death of cold! Even after I had a medical degree, and I had explained to my mother the science behind how one contracted viruses, my mum would still come out with that one. But my least favourite one was all brains and no common sense. As a child, I was what my peers would call brainy. I was a bookworm and read everything from the cereal packet to my Dad’s Reader’s Digest Encyclopedia. I had a remarkable memory – since lost – for random information, and was definitely the sort of person you wanted on your Trivial Pursuit team. I could remember the name of the first man to reach the North Pole, details of his life and what he looked like, but ask me to heat up a microwavable meal and something would probably go wrong. Send me for the shopping and I would come back with the wrong things. Ask me to do some basic housework and catastrophe would at some point ensue. My longsuffering parents would clear up the chaos and mutter “all brains and no common sense…”
I swore I would never say that to my children, but now I am a parent to teenagers and I will confess this phrase has come back to haunt me. My children are sparky individuals but some of the mistakes they make…well… But that is because common sense – working out the best thing to do in an unknown situation – is nothing to do with intellect or knowledge, and everything to do with lived experience. It is nothing to do with GCSE subjects and diplomas. It doesn’t come with instructions. It is simply that steady accumulation of instinct that comes from living life, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and trying again next time. My teenagers just haven’t made enough mistakes yet. Heaven help us!
In some ways, wisdom is a spiritual sort of common sense that comes from walking with God. It isn’t something you can read in a book. You don’t get it at university. It is different to knowledge – as the joke goes, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
For me, wisdom is something to do with attentive living – paying attention to the ways and wonders of God which infuse creation, are reflected in the lives of people at their best and are interwoven in this ancient and varied book we call the Bible. It enables us to see our world, our society and our relationships more as God would see them – with an open-eyed honesty and with creative hope.
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. Earlier in the book of Proverbs, it tells us that the fear – the respect and worship – of God is where wisdom starts and that wisdom brings great blessing. In James chapter 1 verse 5, it tells us that wisdom is a gift from God – we simply need to ask for it. We are told in the first book of Kings that Solomon is commended by God for seeking wisdom. Our reading today, shows that wisdom is one of the fundamental foundations of the universe. It was in wisdom that God creates the cosmos: wisdom is creative, life-giving and joyous.
And we need wisdom so much to live well in our world. There are so many things shouting “This matters – this matters – this matters…” Whether it is the adverts on our television, the articles in our newspapers, the opinions of our friends on social media. It can be exhausting, bewildering and frightening. We need God’s wisdom to know what truly matters – to understand what we are called to be and do in this world of confusion and noise. But more than that, wisdom as a gift of God is to do with love. Loving those God has put around us requires great wisdom – how do we love and parent teenagers in a muddled world? How do we love the friend who is grieving and lost? How do we love the family member who is behaving badly and causing hurt to others? How do we love the person who means most to us in the world? How do we love our world and do our best to contribute to its joy and its justice, its healing and hope? There is no one answer to those questions – each person, each situation is unique, and needs its own creative, life-giving and hopeful wisdom.
So how do we become wise? The good news is that you don’t have to wait until you are one hundred. I want to suggest three steps to becoming wise, and handily, they all begin with the letter A! The first is to ask – recognise that wisdom is a gift from God, and so we simply need to ask. Dear Lord, give me wisdom in this situation I am facing in my family! Give me wisdom as I start this new project! Give me wisdom as I love this friend… God delights to give good things to God’s children. You probably won’t get a list of instructions by angelic messenger, but you will find God helps you find a way through.
The second A is attend – pay attention to God’s work in the world around you, in the people around you and in your heart. You can tune into God’s work through prayer and bible reading. One of the best things to do is just sit every so often – once a day, once a week, once a month and pray asking God to show you where you have met God in your life recently. Then with the Holy Spirit guiding you, think back over the events of that day, week or month. What stands out in your memory? What is God inviting you to notice. How might you respond to this noticing? It is a remarkably simple yet powerful thing to do.
The final A is act. Wisdom is given to us so we can live more as God’s people in the world. The only way to grow in wisdom is to act on what you believe to be wise, godly and true and learn from the adventure. As we act to live wisely and pay attention to how that goes, always asking God to guide us, we will develop more wisdom and share the fruits of wisdom with all around us: creativity, life and joy!
God of bright truth, we thank you for your Holy Spirit who teaches us, guides us, and grants us wisdom and faith. We thank you for your gift of wisdom, which helps us to see with God’s eyes and to love with God’s heart. You have sent us holy wisdom to guide us and instruct us, and above all to teach us how to nourish and cherish the holy and divine life that lives deep down in all creatures and all things.
Loving God, each and every one of us here this morning needs more of your wisdom. Lord, help us to slow down and listen when wisdom calls to us. Help us to have sensitive hearts and a teachable spirit. There is no one who is wise until we are enlightened by your Holy Spirit. So come, Holy Spirit, and make us children of the truth.
Loving God, we pray for your wisdom in our church. Teach us how to better serve one another and the world.
Loving God, we pray for your wisdom in our streets and homes and neighbourhoods. Teach us to seek your truth and embody your compassion with all we meet.
Loving God, we pray for your wisdom in our treatment of your earth. Teach us to be better caretakers of our planet and its beautiful animals and plants.
Loving God, we pray for your wisdom for our world. Teach all of who belong to a Christian community to show greater tolerance and love to Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Lord, teach us compassion and understanding, so that all of your children may share this world in peace.
We pray for those ill and injured in our community, especially (…..). Loving God, touch them with your tender care, reassuring them of your presence, and speeding their journeys to wholeness and wellness
God, your love is true and bright, and guides us on our way. May we go forth from here with new wisdom, new joy, and a new hope. Give us this week the grace of your presence and your love, to carry us through our days.
Prayers adapted from this liturgy: https://jesusscribbles.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/wisdom-call-to-worship-prayers/