Rev Dr John McCulloch
St. Andrews Jerusalem and Tiberias
2nd Sunday of Pentecost 2019, (year C) 16/6/2019
Proverbs 8: 1-4 & 22-31; Romans 5: 1-5 & St John 16: 12-15
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable to you o Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
The Call of Wisdom
‘Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live’.
The Hebrew poetry of the opening verses of chapter 8 of the book of Proverbs, reminds us of God’s action in the world, summoning all towards life.
The Hebrew word for wisdom used in the original is hakmah. It is a feminine noun, like the word ruach/ spirit is. At the beginning of time, recorded in the opening verses of Genesis, it is the spirit of God, the ruach that hovers over the water, bringing life out of the chaotic watery abyss. At Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, that same Spirit descends in the form of a dove; and today, the Spirit of God is still at work in our world, calling those with ears to hear, to open ourselves up to the stirring and moving of the Spirit, which always leads us towards life.
The Spirit and the wisdom of God cannot be contained, they must flow out. Albert Einstein said that ‘a ship is always safe a shore, but that is not what it is built for’.
The wisdom described in the opening verses of Proverbs 8 does not stand still. It is always on the move, calling out to all who will listen.
And how our world today needs to hear the call of wisdom, the call of God, the call of the Spirit; which comes to bring renewal, life and hope. The Spirit, which when implanted deep within, brings forth the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
But what is the spirit that governs our world?
A world that is heading towards ecological devastation.
A world that is addicted to violence as the only solution.
A world that is addicted to greed, that lacks compassion and solidarity with the poorest on this planet.
A world which is perilously heading towards destruction.
How we need to hear the spirit of wisdom again.
How we need to be stirred by the Holy Spirit, that she may hover over the troubled waters of our lives and world; recreating and restoring all that has been damaged and injured by human greed and violence.
In the beautiful Hebrew poetry of Proverbs 8, we read in verse 22 of how wisdom was created at the beginning of time. In verse 23 we read (and this is wisdom speaking) ‘Ages ago I was set up, at first before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding in water’.
Wisdom is foundational to how our world was established, and how it was formed; and when we as human beings depart from this wisdom; we damage ourselves and others. We damage our world, and we fuel the fires of injustice, suffering and violence.
But the Spirit of God always calls us back.
The Spirit of God disturbs the waters, and longs to bring freedom and healing in the places where hope is lost and where fear abounds.
It is important to note that wisdom is not only about understanding, about knowledge and insight (although these are important aspects of it); but wisdom is also associated with unbiased judgement, it is associated with benevolence and compassion. And we can sense this in verse 31 of Proverbs 8 when it describes wisdom as ‘rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race’.
When Solomon is told that he can ask for anything he wants, it is wisdom he asks for. And it is no coincidence that it is Solomon who builds the Temple, the place where the presence of God dwelt.
And God asks us the same question today? What is your deepest desire? What is it that your soul craves for? Is it for money, fame, success and a whole host of other desires that drive our economic systems of rabid consumption?
Would we, respond as Solomon, and ask for wisdom?
In our gospel reading from John 16, we read in verse 13 of how ‘when the Spirit of truth comes, she will guide you into all truth’.
We live in an age where false truths and false news permeate our social media. But the biggest dangers of false truths are not only the false truths out there, but the false truths we live by day to day.
The false truths that say we are not loved.
The false truths that do not recognize the face of God in the stranger and the person we fear and despise.
The false truths that there is nothing we can do, as agents of God’s kingdom and rule of peace on this earth, to bring about and work towards a better world, where hunger, sickness and despair are no longer the order of the day.
The false truth that believes that violence is the only solution.
The radical Catholic thinker and philosopher Thomas Merton, warned against what he called ‘the false self’.
The false self is that part of ourselves (and we all have it!) that lives in the expectations of other, that craves approval, that wants our opinions to count. The false self is driven by wanting to be liked. The false-self imprisons us in to using all our energy to be liked and accepted by others.
Thomas Merton says that for true spiritual growth, the false self has to die.
In his book The New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton writes:
“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny.… To work out our identity in God.”
― Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
And as we rid ourselves, by God’s grace, of the false self, that lurks beneath our every thought and action; there is room for compassion to grow. There is room for character to be shaped. Someone once said that ‘character is judged by how you treat those who can do nothing for you’.
This is not the easy path. We are called to walk in Christ’s footsteps, which leads to the cross. As his followers, we too must give our lives in the service of others. The apostle Paul understood this. In our epistle reading from Romans 5 verse 3 he says ‘that we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us’.
Wisdom is calling out in the streets and by ways. It is calling out across our world for those with ears to hear.
Will you open your hearts up to the Spirit of God afresh this morning?
Will you open your ears to hear the voice of wisdom and compassion, calling you to live your life in devotion to the God of love?
Where the Spirit of God is, there is true freedom.
May we, on this 2nd Sunday of Pentecost, be freed from all that weighs us down; and dare to live by the Spirit, which always leads us to greater compassion, for its leads us into the very heart of God.
Glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning was now, and evermore shall be. Amen.