Sunday, 9 August 2015

Sermon for 9 August - seeking wisdom

Sermon 9 August
Wisdom – ask and it will be given....
Proverbs 2:1-15; James 1:2-8

From the psalms, to the teacher in Ecclesiastes, to the Wisdom of Solomon.... and it all sounds so easy doesn’t it?
Ask for wisdom and it will be given
You will know what to do
Your insight and understanding will prevent you from doing the wrong thing...
And yet.

How many of have not put our foot in it?
Made an error of judgement
Spoken out of turn
Jumped to conclusions
Done the wrong thing...

We read these bold statements in scripture; assertions and assurances that tell us if we only believe enough; pray enough; follow enough then all will be well.
But life isn’t like that!

Life throws stuff at us before we are even aware
And we can pray and pray and pray that something will or will not happen, and find that our prayers were not answered.
Or at least, not answered the way we wanted.

Young people die too soon
Accidents happen
Illness and disease invade our loved ones
Jobs, and homes and dreams go...

Yet, the bible tells us in our readings today: “your understanding will protect you and prevent you from doing the wrong thing”... and “make sure your endurance carries you all the way without failing so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”

Well how does that work?
I must be not praying hard enough
Or maybe I am not wise enough?
Or maybe my faith isn’t strong enough – because I’ve been praying long and hard, and still some things do not go the way I hoped for... so how can this be?

And by the way!
 I do not consider it fortunate when life throws trials my way – I rail and protest.
 I do not need to have my faith tested any more thank you very much!
 If that isn’t what real life is like; if that isn’t what being human is like – then how on earth can we work to reconcile scripture to real life?

Last week, Tom was talking about turning the other cheek – about how to respond when under attack... and he surmised that prayer is our first port of call in every circumstance – whether that is the Russians coming over the Carter Bar; or protesting about the injustice we see all around us.

How does the call to peace; to unity; to justice sit with the seeking of wisdom and knowledge?

How do all these things fit together?

Wisdom: Sophia – the Spirit of God herself – personified as Wisdom, running through the streets calling and advising; encouraging and warning; cajoling and persuading... wisdom alternates between exhortations, and dire warnings.
Do this and if you don’t beware!

Life goes on
The world is full of good folks and wicked folks
(as we explored a couple of weeks back in Ecclesiastes)
Those who see the world and seek hope and joy and love
And those who see the world and look only to better themselves, to look after their own needs; to use and abuse the poor and marginalised.

The collection of wise words that makes up the books of wisdom is if you like not so much a full instruction book as a guide or manual. It is a guide to help us live in the world, without always being of the world. It helps us see a way forward to respond to the ways of the world.

Modern Society sets great store by individualism – by looking after you and yours; by drawing lines and building up walls of protection.

Christian belief however sets a great store by community, looking after each other; caring for the little ones, the weak ones, those who cannot fight for themselves.

I do not know how many of you have picked up on the latest Calais migrant furore? Not this time about migrants trying to travel through the tunnel, but because the Christian programme, BBC Songs of Praise has been visiting the camp, and will broadcast a special programme from the tent church in the camp next Sunday – the 16th August at 5.00 pm

It is a brave thing to do
The backlash has been swift and vocal
There are voices in support
And there are voices of dissent
But – where would Jesus be?

Jesus actively sought out the marginalised; the dispossessed the refugee; Christians, who truly follow his teaching, who truly seek his wisdom will  be right there, in the camps, offering food and warmth and support.

When we pray for refugees – in a makeshift camp in Calais; or in a rickety old boat on the Mediterranean we must (as suggested by James) believe that God will hear and answer; the world needs God’s Spirit of Wisdom like never before

We have so much:
We have jobs and support; a good health service and great education system
We are richly blessed, when others on the world do not even have access to basics like clean water.
I know it easy for us – we do not live on the south coast; we do not have immigrants on our doorsteps. But I like to think, to hope, that if we were called on, we would act generously, offer a warm welcome, to use God’s wisdom for the good of others, for the good of all

In seeking wisdom, the writer of Proverbs tells us – “you will succeed in learning about God” we are assured that those who treat others fairly will be protected.
What does God’s wisdom tell us to do about the refugees?
Listen to these words, written by Liz Crumlish minister of Castlehill Church in Ayr

Queued at ferry ports
Hanging around dock yards
In the cold light of day and under the cover of darkness
Gathered up like cattle
Escorted back to persecution and death
As you see these now familiar sights O God
What are your thoughts?
As you see small boats washed up without their many occupants
who now lie at the bottom of the ocean
What are your thoughts, O God?
As you see prosperous nations refusing to offer aid
or even temporary shelter or asylum
What are your thoughts O God?
And as you witness us redrawing boundaries
feeling our security threatened by the plight of others
Or, worse, turning to look the other way
What are your thoughts, O God?
Your son was often far from welcome
in our streets and towns
seen as a threat to security
a challenge to the authorities of the day.
What are your thoughts O God
as you see your children today
still closing ranks
still refusing to share
still condemning others to death.
God help us to see what you see
and to be convicted by your thoughts
until we open the borders of our hearts and our minds
to make room for all your people.
by Liz Crumlish in Sanctuary First

There are no easy answers; the wisdom of God calls us to act, to trust, to believe  - to make room in our hearts, in our prayers to include everyone – even, or especially,  those who challenge our sensibilities
Wisdom is running through the streets and calling to all who will listen
Beg for knowledge and insight
Listen for God!
And act


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