St Stephen's Lewisham
18th August 1991
Year B Week 20
The Gift of Wisdom
Proverbs 9: 1-6
Ephesians 5: 15-20
John 6: 51-58
This morning there is to be a baptism; and in a few weeks' time, I am happy to say a number of us are going to fulfil or complete the process which begins at the font, by being confirmed by the Bishop.
Of the many gifts which God has to bestow upon us in Baptism and Confirmation, the one I propose to talk about this morning is the gift of Wisdom.
The first reading this morning gives us the picture of Wisdom being like a person inviting us to come and be her guest. She has built her house, prepared a meal with food and drink, and is now waiting to persuade you and me to participate in what she has to offer.
We are living in an age which is both foolish and ignorant about the ways of God. Amongst all the technology and scientific discoveries of the past hundred years people have stopped looking to God who created both ourselves and all that technology we know so much about.
The Jews for thousands of years had a word for this mistake – the foolishness of worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. They called it "idolatry". And they discovered by long and bitter experience that to forget God in this way can only lead to disaster both for the person and the nation that gives into it..
"Fear the Lord" says the same book of Proverbs "and depart from evil: do not be wise in your own eyes". "The fear or of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom" says the psalm, and in the words we used between the first and second readings this morning "come children and here me that I may teach you the fear of the Lord: taste and see that the Lord is good".
"Fear the Lord, you his saints, they lack nothing who fear him".
True fear has to be learnt. It doesn't happen naturally. The bad sort of fear or, the fear that love casts out is a natural thing, something we are born with. But the good sort of fear, the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, can only be learned from someone who knows about it already – and outside the Church such people hardly exist. Goodness knows there are rare enough these days inside the Church as well!
The problem with the world we live in is not that its people have no fear. It's true to say that more people are more anxious and fearful today than they have ever been before, even though many of the things which were to be feared in the past – disease, poverty and hunger are not as serious threats to most of us as they might have been, say, a hundred years ago.
But just as people have stopped fearing God and being wise, they have found themselves enveloped in a whole cloud of other fears.
In the second reading Saint Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus "this may be a wicked age but your lives should redeem it. Don't be thoughtless but understand what the will of the Lord is.."
The wise person is one who not only enters in to the House of Wisdom but goes on from there to discover what God's will is for them personally. That's why Baptism and Confirmation can never be an end in themselves but only a beginning.
One thing is certain. God's plan for your is quite different from his plan for the person sitting on either side of you. In broad outline of course, the end of the plan is the same for all of us, that we may "Glorify God and enjoy him for ever". But the means whereby we are to reach this end vary significantly from person to person.
One way of looking at the whole business of coming to Mass together on Sunday is to see ourselves as disciples of Jesus gathering together for a meeting in order that he may brief us, collectively and individually, for the work he wants us to do for him during the coming week.
The word "Disciple" remember means "Learner". For these purposes you and I, however long we may have been walking the Way of Christ, are still wearing L-plates. Our job is to be receptive to what Jesus Christ has to give us.
But it's not only instructions he gives. He also gives us himself. "Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day. If you do not eat and you will not have life in you. The bread which others eat does them no good: they are spiritually dead, but anyone who eats in this Bread will live for ever".
Do you see how the whole thing begins to fit together and make a sensible picture – rather like a jigsaw? The world that does not know of or seek after God, and that is the world into which all of us have been born by nature, is a world without a Future, a world without promise.
But the world into which we on been born by Baptism, and whose grown-up citizens we become by Confirmation, is another world entirely. It is called the Kingdom of God. The dinner is ready, all things are prepared, a place has been laid at God's table for your and another one for me. All that is needed is for you and me to come into God's house and sit down, for Jesus Christ himself is waiting to come and serve us with the Bread of Life.
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