Simple Wisdom

Jeremiah 31:27-34    Psalm 19

October 17, 2010

What does it mean to be wise?  When I reflect on the question, several images and ideas run through my mind all at once.  There is the owl, who is held in esteem as the symbol of wisdom.  There is the learned scholar, surrounded by books in his study, perhaps gathering eager young students around to hear his latest idea or discovery. One of the stronger images that comes to me is of an old woman.  (It could just as easily be an old man, but for the sake of descriptive simplicity, let’s go with this.)  She is wrinkled and white haired, and her voice is softer than it used to be, but when she speaks people listen.  They bend in and stop what they are doing so as not to miss a word, and they listen.  They listen deeply.  An elder has lived long enough to have gleaned some knowledge about how the world works, and how one might fashion a life for oneself, but wisdom goes beyond this basic knowledge.  Wisdom taps into something even richer, more nutritious.  Wisdom is able to feed us in ways that knowledge is not.  Jeremiah has it right when he speaks on God’s behalf saying that there will come a day when people do not have to learn about God any more, because eventually the wisdom of God will be so integrated into their lives that people will grow up with it in their own hearts and minds and beings.  Basically, there will be no separation between the wisdom of God and that of the people, because the people will have so effectively integrated God’s wisdom into their  whole selves.

I don’t know about you, but I long for that day.  I find that I get tired trying to think about God and wonder what God would have me do in each situation.  There are times - wonderful times - when I just seem to know what the right thing is to do.  It is at times like that, that I know God’s wisdom is somehow starting to find a home in me, becoming second nature to me.  And it is a wonderful feeling.  That is the way I want to be in the world all of the time.  But so far, it is only with me sometimes, usually when I have taken the time to be present in my own life.  It is way too easy for us to rush through our days from one activity to another with little thought for our spiritual lives or even our emotional or physical ones for that matter.  We put our responsibilities first, but somehow we ourselves and the things that are essential to keeping us in touch with what really matters, go by the wayside.  Our “to do” lists don’t take these deeper needs into account, possibly because we don’t realize how important they are to our well-being.  

This is why the Jeremiah reading appeals to us, because we long for the kind of relationship with the Holy that it describes.  We long for a life in which God’s intent for us is so much a natural part of who we are that we just do the right thing as a matter of course.  We wouldn’t have to struggle so hard, trying to figure out which choice would be best.  All we would have to do is act, knowing that all of our actions were guided by God’s law because it was written on our hearts.  No more memorizing.  But here is the interesting piece to this scripture; we may already be at the point in human history where this scenario is true.  Think about it, have you ever been faced with a decision, and known right away what course of action you would choose?  Did you ever have an uncanny “knowing” about something or someone?  Well, maybe these are signs that this time that Jeremiah writes about have already come.  Maybe it is possible for us to know God’s will for our lives without going outside of ourselves, seeking out scholarly books and guidance from libraries.  Maybe the true wisdom already lies within us?  Maybe the answers God would have us embrace are already a part of who we are?

This morning’s psalm depicts a world in which the Holy is woven through and through, in every aspect.  Take a look at where God’s glory, wisdom and laws are found, according to the psalmist!  The “heavens are telling the glory of God,” and the message is being carried throughout the earth, to the ends of the world.  That is pretty extensive, wouldn’t you say?  Seems like it might be difficult to pretend you didn’t hear it, if it really is so pervasive.  But we live in a day and age that does pretend not to hear God’s voice.  And so, we need to live differently than the people who walk around with plugs in their ears, blinders on their eyes, and even worse, walls around their hearts.  We need to live in an open relationship with, not only God, but with the whole earth.  If the heavens and the winds and the sun carry the messages of God, then we need to listen differently.  We need to be willing to see differently as well, looking for signs of God’s presence in all things.  The Celtic people have a tradition of a meditative walk in nature during which they hold a question in their hearts, praying on it as they walk, and looking for signs or symbols in the natural world that offer them answers or suggestions for dealing with the question in hand. They trust that God’s presence is so woven through nature, that they will find answers there that come from God.  

A large part of the celtic approach as well as really any approach to looking to God for answers to our life questions is that we have to make ourselves available.  We have to take time away from the hustle and bustle to think.  We have to take time away from our responsibilities to pray or meditate in the silence.  We have to “wait on God” as religious folks have called it.  We can’t really just put in our request early in the morning and then go about our day hoping we see or hear an answer somewhere along the way, unless we have taken some time apart first.  We have to build our relationship with the silence, with the spaciousness, with the openness that makes room for God in our lives.  This is an essential part of living as a person of faith.  It is not something we squeeze in if we have a little time left over.  We have to make it a priority that we carve out time with God first and foremost.  It is perhaps strange, but it is really true, that when we do this, when we take time to be in the presence of God for even a little while at the beginning of our day, the rest of the day flows a little smoother.  And something else that I find to be helpful when I take this time, is that I feel more resilient, better able to cope with whatever comes my way as well.  I am a stronger, more centered person when the Holy presence is at the center of my life.  It calms me and encourages me and helps me to offer my best throughout the rest of the day, when the morning starts with God.

We all seek God’s response to our heart-felt questions, our dilemmas and struggles.  We want to know that we are not alone in the world.  Maybe that is the bottom line, even of human existence, to know that someone or something bigger than ourselves is watching over us, holding us in protection and sending us love and guidance?  This is what Jesus was all about, really, and why one of the names we know him by is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.”  God is with us, we just have to open ourselves so that we might see.


May the activities of our bodies, the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.