Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Where is Wisdom to be Found?

Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1

For wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

Saint Paul famously said, “Greeks seek wisdom.” But where can wisdom be found? Who really is wise?

As the story goes the oracle at Delphi proclaimed that Socrates was the wisest man on earth. Socrates himself, however, was puzzled by this and set out to prove the oracle wrong. “The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing” he said, and so he questioned all the self-appointed wise men of the world to discover who it really was who was wise.  What he found was that all the so called teachers of wisdom, the sophists as they were called, were not really wise at all. For them, truth was relative, all a matter of rhetoric, who could best who in public debate, who could make the most eloquent argument, who could make the most biting critique.

One need only look at all the talking head pundits on television to know that there is nothing new under the sun! What made Socrates truly wise was that he saw through the pretense of worldly wisdom. Likewise the scriptures warn us of being deceived by vain and empty philosophies. Saint Paul tells us that the Gospel is foolishness to the Greeks, but for us it is the wisdom and power of God.

In our Old Testament lesson from Proverbs, Wisdom, personified as a woman, is said to be crying out in the streets and in the public square, pleading with us to abandon our foolish ways and to receive her instruction. Wisdom is still calling out to us, but her voice is just barely audible above the clamor and quarreling of the sophists and pundits.  We love image more than substance. We are easily taken in by the deceptive charm and flash of her imitators and so her beauty goes unnoticed. We have an insatiable appetite for the new and the sensational, but she is ancient, tried and true. 

She is indeed older than creation itself. In Proverbs chapter eight she tells us, “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” Wisdom is spoken of as more than just an attribute of God or an abstraction, but as his companion and agent in creation. She tells us that she was there when God created the earth that she was beside him as a master workman and that she was daily his delight.
Wisdom dwelled with God from all eternity. The response to our Proverbs reading, which we sang just a moment ago, is from the apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon and it expands on what Proverbs teaches us about Wisdom.  It says, “She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.” If anyone wants to know who God is they must look to her. Through obtaining wisdom we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal glory and goodness.

The author continues by teaching us that, “She renews all things.” God mends what is broken and restores all things to their original goodness through Wisdom. It is through possessing her that people of every generation became holy and it is through her that they are made friends of God. In making her our own we obtain something of more lasting value than all the riches in the world. Not only does she precede all things but her glory will also outlast every created thing. Long after the light of the sun blinks out she will continue to shine.

Let me ask you this, who was it that was in the beginning with God? Who was it through whom all things visible and invisible were made? Who was it that the Father delighted in for all eternity? Who is it that the letter to the Colossians teaches us is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation?” Who is it that the book of Hebrews calls “the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being” and who also, “sustains all things through his powerful word?” Who was it that said, “Behold I make all things new?”  Who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end? It is our Lord! Jesus Christ! It is him who scripture names as the power and wisdom of God.

There have been many who have been called wise, many who have loved wisdom. Socrates was truly wise and a light in his generation. The Queen of Sheba traveled from the ends of the earth to sit at the feet of King Solomon who scripture tells us was wiser than all the Kings of the earth. Yes there are many wise teachers who we can learn from.  Jesus, however, is not just one wise teacher among many others. It’s not just that he was the wisest man who ever lived. No, more than that, he was the very embodiment of wisdom itself.

In Christ, the divine wisdom from above came down to earth and tabernacled in our midst. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  What was spoken figuratively of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs is literal truth in Jesus Christ. He walked in our public square. He raised his voice in our streets and cried out, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest!”

His invitation has gone out to all. As John’s gospel tells us, he is the true light that enlightens all who come into the world, but just like Lady Wisdom he has been refused and ignored. He has stretched out his hands, opened wide his arms, but he has not be headed.  Jesus spoke of himself in feminine terms like lady wisdom, as a mother pleading with her children, “how often I have longed to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Only in him do we find the life that is truly worth living. “Come to me,” he calls to us, “And I will gather up the broken shards of yourself and make you whole. I will make it so you too shine as a reflection of my father’s eternal light.”

He renews all things. The spotless mirror of the Father’s glory, the perfect image of his goodness, came down from heaven to restore all of us who had distorted and sullied the image of God. It was as if a masterpiece painting had been damaged beyond repair and the original subject of portrait came and sat again so his likeness could be repainted and restored.

Should we despise the call of our savior and the promise of restoration for the wisdom of this world? Should we neglect wisdom incarnate for the mere appearance of wisdom and the applause of the crowds? Proverbs warns us of the calamity that befalls all those who reject wisdom. We must be willing to be considered fools for Christ’s sake. In our Gospel Jesus tells us that if we wish to be his followers we must take up our cross and follow him. Only then can he shape and remold us in his image. He warns, “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

If we reject wisdom, if we fail to live in the way God intends for us, we can expect only tragedy and ruin, but there is untold blessing for those who embrace wisdom and walk in her ways. If it is truly wisdom we seek the only place we will find her in all her fullness is in the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.