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Reflection June 19, 2016
The Summer of Wisdom
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Two weeks ago (on June 5), I began a new series of sermons under the heading “Summer of Wisdom.” These eight (or more) sermons will focus specifically on what are known in the Bible as “Wisdom Books” - namely: The Book of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Song. Many parts of these books are well known to many of us - but I felt it might be good to ponder these four books together over this summer.
I need to note that exploring these books will change my normal style of preaching a bit. I’ll be doing a bit more “teaching” in these sermons than is my normal preaching style. I will, naturally, still try to make the sermons reflect our own practical lives and our common life of faith.
I mentioned in the first of these sermons that we are going exploring. We are heading deeper into the mysteries that surround us - the mysteries that sustain us. Wisdom is the art of discerning what really matters in life.
By the way, this series of sermons arises from my beloved Beth asking me to preach on the Song of Songs. I have never preached on the Song of Songs but I surely look forward to doing so later this summer.
As the seminary professor Kathleen O’Connor notes: “According to (biblical) wisdom, life is not a simple set of truths to be followed but a continual encounter with conflicting truths, each making competing claims upon the person. (Biblical) Wisdom views life as paradoxical - requiring discernment from situation to situation of how, when, and if one should act.”
Wisdom requires more that knowledge - even though knowledge is essential to wisdom. I don’t believe wisdom is possible without a love of learning and a never-ending proclivity to reading. I have never met a wise person who was not also widely-read.
But, of course, more than reading is required. Wisdom requires the joining together of the brain, the heart, and the soul. Every one of us is faced with this momentous task of merging and uniting these three components of the human person.
Biblical wisdom might well be summed up thusly: reverence towards God and respect to all persons and all creatures everywhere. Biblical wisdom resists the “easy answers” - the “sound bites” that do not go deep enough. Life is, simply, too complex for easy answers.
The reason I wish to spend this summer exploring wisdom (Sophia in Greek), is because I believe wisdom is a grace from God. Without wisdom, we have little to teach our young. Without wisdom, we remain on the surface of life, never pondering the paradoxes that have been part and parcel of our human condition and human history.
I hope - by summer’s end - we will have all grown in wisdom. Wisdom, in the Bible, is primarily about relationships: relationships with God, with each other and with all creation.
As I mentioned in a recent sermon, the purpose of life - the primary purpose for which we are created - is for intimacy: intimacy with God and intimacy with at least one other person. To achieve and sustain intimacy is why we are here and why eternity awaits us.
It is my deep desire that through our exploration of the Book of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Song, we might encounter what our ancestors in faith wished to teach us about life and about true intimacy.
This past Sunday, I finished the Book of Job. Join us next Sunday when we seek the godly wisdom found in the wonderful teachings from the delightful and challenging Book of Proverbs! May God - the Source of All Wisdom - lead us and guide us in the weeks to come!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor