Season After Pentecost (Proper 20[25]) – The Psalm Passage: The results of living your life according to Godly & Sophia Wisdom

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:1 – 2)

It is with delight that I tell you, beloved reader, that this psalm passage was paired with the passage from Proverbs that describes “a good wife” – Proverbs 31:10 – 31. I am not going to cite it because it is a fairly long passage. I used to not like the passage describing a good wife, until I realized that the passage is describing a woman who is equal to her husband in owning property and conducting business. It really is a complimentary passage to women. So I am also delighted to consider the next as describing Christian women.

“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Verse 3)

But just like men, women can walk in the path of sin, evil, and wickedness.

“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Verses 4 – 6)

If women are to be considered as equal to men, they have to be held as accountable by the Divine as men are. Not more accountable or less accountable, but being held to the same level of accountability. When we talk of Godly wisdom, I say again we do not mean the wisdom that comes from books or education. And remember too that in the Old Testament wisdom was named “Sophia” and was female. Finally, it is said that most women chose the path of gentleness which is commended in yesterday’s Gospel passage.

So let this be my exhortation to learn Godly wisdom – that is both stern and demanding as “Sophia” can be but is also gentle wisdom that our Lord God Jesus Christ modeled for us. Selah!

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 20[25]) – The Gospel Passage: Rating your life with New Testament Wisdom

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again. But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:30 – 32)

“They . . . were afraid to ask . . .” The evening that I sat down to write this posting, I had a lot of emotions swirling around in me. And I suspect even when you read this, beloved reader, I will still have the same emotions swirling. There is, to put it mildly, a lot going on in my life.

There was also a lot going on in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. We know from the gist of Jesus’ conversation that the final entry into Jerusalem was near at hand. And if that is true, then large changes in the disciples’ lives was coming soon. But . . . they did not want to ask about it.

“Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.” (Verses 33 – 34)

Was it not that long ago that Jesus asked them who people were saying he was? Yes, it was just last week and in the previous chapter of Mark that Peter correctly identified Jesus. And that was exactly the crux of the matter – they were arguing about who would have the favored position at Jesus right hand – who obviously would be at the right hand of the Divine. Imagine that! One space removed from the right hand of the Divine! What a coveted position!!

“He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Verses 35 – 37)

You see, they did not stop to think what would to be done in order to have a coveted and prestige seat next to the Divine. Because, you see, they did not ask what Jesus meant that he would be dying. They did not want to know the tough stuff, the suffering stuff, the sorrowful stuff, the demeaning stuff – the part where they would be last.

Have you ever been last, beloved reader? At the end of the line, and missing out on the perks? In many jobs and business you have start at the bottom and work your way up. It is as true in general life as in the business/job world. You have to pay your dues. But in the Christian life, you have to pay your “dues” for your entire life. And the perks do not come until the very end – or more precisely, beyond the end. Suffice to say, the Christian life is harder than any job or career in the business/job world.

That is at it should be, actually. Because the Christian life is more important than any job or career. All other considerations should pale in comparison to living a Christian life. Are you beloved reader ready, willing, and able to your life being in last place? Would be welcoming to whoever and whatever comes into your life? Large questions that are answered over a lifetime. May you find the answers, according to the wisdom of the Divine. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 20[25]) – The Epistle Passage: Conducting your life with New Testament wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you?” (James 3:13a)

It is a trick question, beloved reader.

Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” (Verse 13b)

I have been saying for the past week or two that Godly wisdom is not like earthly wisdom – the wisdom of education and intellect. I also said, if you remember, that the personification of wisdom is tough and stern and does not tolerate or mollycoddle fools at all. In this instance “gentleness” means being calm and composed, sure of one’s self and tolerate of others. The writer of the book of James contrasts this with other types of behavior.

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (Verses 14 – 16)

I guess in addition to being calm and composed, sure and accepting, I should have said satisfied with what he/she has in life. At least that seems to be the anti-thesis to what the writer of the book of James is describing. It is helpful to realize that the writer of the book of James is talking about preachers and teacher. Being selfish and conducting one’s self according to worldly ambition does not bespeak someone of wisdom and understanding. The writer of the book of James explains more about wisdom as the writer understands it.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” (Verses 17 – 18)

This does not sound like the “Sophia” wisdom we encountered last week (Tuesday it was). But wisdom in the New Testament is not like wisdom in the Old Testament. In the New Testament wisdom comes from being like Jesus and following in the path of the Risen Lord. Gentleness, mildness, and humility were some of the hallmarks of his ministry. And it is from this example that the writings of the New Testament draw their traits and characteristics of correct Christian living from.

“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. . . . Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Chapter 4, verses 1 – 3, 7- 8)

The conversation seems to have moved from targeting those who would be teachers and preacher to the general assembly of the faithful. So I guess that means that we “common” folk need to be pay heed to it. And that really is how it should be. We teach unawares as we go about our days and our lives. Those who do not know about Christianity or those who wish to learn – learn from those profess and claim Christianity as their faith tradition. What are you teaching them, beloved reader? And what I am teaching those I am in contact with? And, what does Godly wisdom teach you? Important questions for us all. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 20[25]) – The Old Testament & Psalm Passages: The Lord God saves the Speakers of God’s Word

I am trying something a little bit different this time. In the past few weeks the Old Testament passage and the Psalm passage have been pretty much in-line with each other. So it occurred to me maybe I/we can consider them together rather than several days apart. When it is time for the Psalm passage (usually on a Saturday) I will look at the other Old Testament/Psalm set and see what the possibilities are there.

It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!” But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:18-20)

From what I read in the Easy-to-Read version, Jeremiah’s enemies were the people in his own home town, his relatives. We can assume “the tree with its fruit” was Jeremiah, the fruit being the blessing of the Lord in prophesying. Not all prophets are popular, and even less popular in their home town. If the first few verses of the book of Jeremiah we learn that Jeremiah considered himself young, maybe too young to be a prophet for God. But he was called. And trusted himself to the Divine.

One description I read about the book of Jeremiah and the personage of the prophet was that he was a “performance artist” acting out in a literal way the figurative message that the Lord God was giving him. If one would read the book of Jeremiah, it does seem he finds visual ways to make his point. But that type of prophesy could be taken as very “in your face” rather than just the speaking, writing and ranting of words. Like many of the prophets of God who preached salvation and repentance, he needed rescuing from those around him.

“Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the insolent have risen against me, the ruthless seek my life; they do not set God before them. Selah
But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil. In your faithfulness, put an end to them.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.” ( Psalm 54)

Is such rescue reserved only for the prophets and preachers of the Lord God? It might appear so at times, because there is so much suffering in our modern world. The time of the biblical prophets is past (so we think) and now the modern Christian is subject to all sorts of trials and tribulations without respite. But if you would talk to the modern Christian, I am thinking that he/she would tell you that the Lord is there, and there is comfort and solace in the Lord’s presence that outweighs that the world presses and oppresses onto the believer.

The prayer found in the psalms passage does seem to echo the faith that Jeremiah put into the Lord God who called him. Jeremiah says he was like “a gentle lamb lead to slaughter” because he did not know what it would be like to be a prophet for the Lord God. Do not think, beloved reader, the Divine lets the called and chosen prophets “hang out to dry”. The writer of Psalms would not write about something that had NOT happened. And I would not encourage you with false hopes. So if you are called and chosen, answer that call with confidence and courage that nothing will be too great for the Lord God to see you through. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 19[24]) – The Psalm Passage: The Personification of Wisdom

For she 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.” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 – 8:1)

The Wisdom of Solomon is not part of the canonical bible – that is, the “official” bible as it is known. It is part of some faith traditions holy readings, and the Revised Common Lectionary occasionally dips into the source of writings. As I have said on other occasions, I like writings that extol religious/faith traditions wisdom. So you can imagine that I like these portion of the RCL lectionary very much. It does not hurt that I like the pronoun as it is translated from the Greek. Wisdom was often often personified as being female. Not that wisdom was attributed to very often human females. Wisdom was most likely personified as females to show it was a helpmate to mankind (yes, I very intentionally used that word for humanity).

Perhaps beloved reader you will find more delight in it if you simply exchange the pronoun “she” for the term “wisdom” or “holy insight”. Then imagine that you have such holy insight. What would it mean to your life, your interactions with others, and your relationship to the Divine if you had such an understanding? And if find that a delightful prospect, then as King Solomon did, as the Lord God for the gift of wisdom. Selah!

Season After Pentecost: Holy Cross Day – Epistle & Gospel Passages: What wisdom will last?

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (I Corinthians 1:18 – 19)

Today, that is Sept 14th, is Holy Cross Day or Exaltation of the Holy Cross. While predating the day by several centuries, Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians pinpoints the cross at the instrument of salvation.

Earlier this week for the Old Testament passage the scripture citation was from the book of Proverbs and was focused on personification of wisdom as a voice that should be followed. Paul, in the letter to the Corinthians casts wisdom as having belief in Christ and the cross; no less a wise thing to do.

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Verses 20 – 24)

I do have to take some exception, however, to Paul’s description of the proclamation he makes as being “foolish”. Perhaps to the people of Paul’s time it was foolish to believe a poor Jewish man who died the death of a common criminal was important enough to remember and revered. In hindsight it was probably one of the most important events in the story of humanity. Equal to, I dare say, the creation of humanity.

Consider this, beloved reader. A verse embedded a longer passage has become one of the most quoted scripture verses ever. Do you know what it is? Can you find it in the passage below?

“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. “ (John 3:13-17)

We don’t know, we can’t know, what from our modern times will be wisdom that lasts through the ages. And what will be here now and gone tomorrow. Understandings about our world, our universe, our existence change and move forward every day. You hang your hat on a truth, a bit of wisdom, and it is gone before the dust stills on the hat. And it may be true, what is wisdom for one may be folly for another. So my advice to you, beloved reader, is believe in wisdom that will last! Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 19[24]) – The Gospel Passage: The Retaining of Wisdom

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.” (Mark 8:27 – 30)

Peter got it right. He saw through all of the “cover stories” of who Jesus was. That is, that Jesus was the return of one of the wise and worthy people from the past. But Peter saw that Jesus was something different – someone that had never been on earth before. It may have been Peter’s own wisdom and insight that told him this. Or it may have been the prompting of the Spirit.

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Verses 31 – 33)

Then Peter got it all wrong. How human! But very forgivable. As humans we “get” things right and wrong. We have the wisdom to understand the insights that the Spirit blesses us with. We study and come to under scripture and theology. We learn about preaching and teaching, counseling and guiding. We learn how to discern the movement of the Spirit, and how to tap into the plans of the Divine. But we also get things wrong. We misinterpret scripture. We pursue ideologies that are not Christian based and are not spiritually authentic. We cause the innocent to “stumble”. We make missteps leading ourselves and others into sin. We both retain and lose Christian wisdom.

“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?” (Verses 34 – 37)

Christianity can have a very contrary nature – what is lost and let go will be found and returned. Paul says he does those very things he does not want to do, and does not do what he should. How then can we hold on to the right things in this life? How can we retain the wisdom that is given to us by the Spirit? How can we do those things we should, and release the wants, needs, and agenda of that world that just drag us down? The best way, beloved reader, is to remind ourselves often of what Jesus said and did. Peter saw clearly that Jesus was something new and different. But then let old agendas and understandings distort that wisdom. It does not good to hide from the truth as revealed by the Divine. Neither does it do us any good to hold on to false wisdom – what the world tells us is true and authentic.

“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.” (Verse 38)

I pray beloved reader, for both you and myself, that we may hold on to the wisdom that the Spirit blesses us with and use it daily. Selah!