September 13, Proper 19
Draft text of the homily, please do not cite without permission.
It would be nice, wouldn’t it?
If wisdom were really that clear about things.
Crying out on the streets, shouting in the squares…at the busiest corners…
There is a lot of shouting and crying out going on in our world…
And not just on street corners, but also from every tv and radio and smart phone and tablet in the land.
Not much of it can be counted as wisdom, however.
That’s not to say that there isn’t wisdom out there on the air waves, there is.
But there’s also an awful lot of noise.
So it’s hard to hear a signal—any real wisdom—amidst all that noise—all those wagging tongues setting destructive fires.
I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced wisdom showing up and announcing herself as boldly as she does in Proverbs…
“I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.”
And if I were to hear anyone declaring themselves like that, my Touchstone skeptic alarm would go off.
I’m more firmly in the “the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” camp.
It’s pretty hard to claim to be wise and still retain the title.
Do you know the story of how Anansi the spider tried to steal all the wisdom in the world?
Anansi is a folk legend in West Africa similar to coyote in Native American traditions or Brer Rabbit in the south.
Anansi the spider once tried to steal all the wisdom in the world. He did this by going around and asking people to give him all their bits of wisdom. He thought he was being super clever, and everyone else incredibly foolish because everyone just freely shared their wisdom.
Anansi collected all the wisdom in a big pot, and when it was completely full of all these wonderful ideas and handy life hacks, he decided he’d better keep it in a place where no one could get at it—at the top of the tallest tree in the forest.
So he gathered vines and wrapped the pot around himself, so that it hung in front of him (where it would be safe), but with the pot in front it was really hard to climb the tree (even with eight legs).
Now his son was watching him struggling up this tree from a distance, and he called out, “Father, why don’t you tie the pot to your back so you can climb the tree easier?”
Anansi hadn’t thought of that, but immediately realized how sensible it was, so he moved the pot to his back, tied it on, and easily climbed the tree.
On the way up he started thinking, “How is it that a child with just a little common sense is wiser than me when I have all the wisdom in the world?”
This made him angry and when he got to the top of the tree he was in a rage at the thought. So he took the pot and hurled it to the ground where it smashed open and all the wisdom blew away in the wind… [here’s one source for the story]
You see, wisdom is not something we can possess.
It’s something we share.
It’s something that comes to us…passes through us…
In one of the alternate readings for today, the author says, “wisdom passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God.”
Isn’t that lovely.
Wisdom passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God.
And then it moves on.
I’ve been told that something I said was “wise.” And I suppose that under the right circumstances, in the right place, at the right time, when I can be open to God, and open to the reality of what is happening around me, that’s when wisdom might show through me…through any one of us.
Wisdom always shows up more like the reflection of eternal light. Something reflected in the eyes or face of one who has opened mind to a new reality, opened my heart with a deep resonance. Said or did something profound or comforting in the midst of my own chaos. Something they may not even have fully been aware of.
Wisdom seems to always be situational. What might be wise one moment—to one person, in one situation—might be utter foolishness to another or even just the next moment.
Wisdom speaks through Peter when he proclaims Jesus as the Christ, but the next thing out of his mouth gets him a stinging rebuke.
A few verses before the song of wisdom in Proverbs today, the author says:
For wisdom is “more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrated all things. For she is a breath of the power of God.”
That’s how I’ve always experienced wisdom…a breath…a flash…in a moment.
The right word, at the right time, that cracks open your heart…changes your whole outlook.
A while ago I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a number of years, as we traversed the landscape of what had happened in our lives since we had last met, I mentioned that my mother had passed away a few years ago. My friend paused, then very gently said, “the world is never the same after we lose our mothers.”
This was wisdom that came from her own lived experience and her own sense of grief and loss.
In those words I caught a reflection of grace, the grace of God who also suffers loss…who knows what it is to grieve.
These were wise words from a woman whom wisdom visits frequently.
Who are the people in your life who live with wisdom…who are open to it…reflect it…share it?
The ones who consistently provide that breath…that flash of light?
Who are the ones you turn to to get some perspective…offer fresh insight…to breathe in that power of God?
All the wisest people I know are the ones who have a story—often many stories—and they’re not always happy stories.
The wisest people—the ones who really live with wisdom—are the ones who have been wounded by life, and who probably still feel the sting but no longer fear the pain of their wounds.
Jesus opens his wounded hands and reveals them without shame.
But wisdom also says, “don’t open your wounds to just anyone…”
You have to be careful whom you reveal your self to.
Jesus opens his hands willingly, but only to a few.
Invites only some to touch his side.
The disciples call Jesus Rabbi…teacher…another revelation of the wisdom of God.
And today—in a flash of wisdom—Peter reveals Jesus as the Christ.
And Jesus silences him.
That revelation is not yet for all…
It’s important to tell your story—reveal your wounds—but only to those who have earned the right to hear it—the ones who are trustworthy.
And it is among those who risk sharing their deep stories—with those who have also risked, and earned the right to see and touch—it is there that God reveals the resurrection.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard wisdom proclaiming from a street corner…
but that image of wisdom out in public…in the midst of community is apt…
Wisdom is not something we can possess…I’m not even sure that we can “gain wisdom”…and we certainly can’t hoard it.
I am sure that we encounter it.
It’s something we live with…and among.
It’s something that is shared in common.
It’s revealed in relationships.
It blows through all who are willing to risk trusting and being trusted
who are courageous enough to risk being vulnerable.
It’s in those tender, thin spaces where wisdom shines through…reflecting the grace and goodness of God.
Do you have some wise friends?
A group of people who have earned the right to hear your story? Share your wisdom?
I hope so.
Is All Saints a place where that can happen?
I like to think so. It takes care and intention to build a community of trust. A place where wisdom can be heard and seen and shared.
In all of the programs and opportunities that are available to you here, all of them—from Godly Play with our youngest to our Adult Formation, from the Celtic Eucharist to Choral Evensongs, from Oasis Dinners to nursery schools in Tanzania, from Vestry meetings to Holy Eucharist—it’s important to me that all of them are spaces that are safe for sharing and exploring our faith and our lives together.
I know an awful lot of people here who are committed to making sure this is a place where trust is built, where risks are taken, where wisdom flourishes.
A place where people can find respite amid the noise and haste of their lives.
Where the signal of God’s grace and love is clear, and clearly received.
So welcome, and welcome back, to this place where wisdom grows.