22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

The Way of Wisdom

22 May, 2016 Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and John 16:12-15 Trinity Sunday By Rev Dr Christopher Page

 
Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Introduction
There is little argument that we live in the “information age”. We know more about everything than any generations before us. I use the words “we know”, or is it better to say, “we have more information about everything than any previous generation”, because there is a difference between information and knowledge, or should I say “knowing something”.

Perhaps the most literary and mystical expedition into this division between information and knowledge comes from TS Eliot’s epic poem, The Rock. He writes:

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Words Words Words
We are well into the lead-up to a federal election and we are under an avalanche of words and information. Perhaps it is a stretch to even call much of what we hear information because the political process shapes conversation and monologue into media sound bites and one is often left with a bewildering, contradictory and confusing cacophony of words. Regardless of that, our civic and moral responsibility is to be informed as best we can, so vote on July 2 for the political party that you believe is the best possibility for hope and justice in our society.

But perhaps TS Eliot’s quote gives us some sense of why we can be disillusioned with the political process. I believe we are looking to our leaders for information…yes. For knowledge about our society and how it could best function… yes. But ultimately we are seeking wisdom, that capacity to take information and knowledge and integrate it into the great picture of human life and show us wisdom. There is an important point here and that is the old aphorism written by Joseph de Maistre, “Every nation gets the government it deserves… In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.”

I think what that quote points to is that we can outsource our wisdom. That if we desire wise leaders, then we must be on a pathway toward wisdom ourselves. We need to see that mere information is not enough. We want a depth to our own thinking that leads us to being wiser people.

Wisdom doesn’t come easy as the writer of Proverbs suggests:

Doesn’t wisdom call us, and understanding raise her voice? Don’t we hear wisdom at the heights of life, or beside life’s pathway? Isn’t it wisdom that takes her stand at the crossroads or beside the gates in front of the town’s entrance? It is there that she cries out to those who will listen, and to all people and all nations.

Wisdom at the Crossroads
The writer of Proverbs often places wisdom (that feminine expression of hope and truth) at the crossroads. Most often we seek wisdom when we need to make an important decision. This was well expressed by the American public theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in the middle of the 20th century. His prayer has gone on to be the most quoted prayer in the 20th and 21st century after the Lord’s Prayer. It is often called the Serenity Prayer:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This corrupt world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that God will make all things right,
If I surrender to God’s will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with God forever in the next.
Amen.

Niebuhr makes two important points. One is that you can have all the information and knowledge in the world, but not be wise because you can’t distinguish between those things that you have power over and those things that you don’t. So to be wise we need grace, which comes from the hand of God, and courage to face the difficulties and disappointments with resilience.

I had a wedding yesterday for a lovely couple and I gave them my “3 Rs for a successful marriage”. Respect, responsibility and finally resilience. I explained that the definition of the word resilience is: “being able to spring back into shape after being bent, stretched, or compressed”.

The second aspect of wisdom comes in the second part of the prayer, which isn’t quoted as often:

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This corrupt world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that God will make all things right,
If I surrender to God’s will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with God forever in the next.

So wisdom really isn’t so difficult. It requires humility, the capacity to surrender to the reality of the things we can’t change, and to live in the moment, day by day.

Again the author of Proverbs makes this point in his reference to wisdom:

When the heavens were established wisdom was there…when the heavens and skies above, and the earth and the fountains beneath were established, I, wisdom, stood beside God, like a master worker; and I, wisdom, rejoiced every day, delighting in the world and the human race.

To be wise is to know that you know you know nothing
I think it is obvious that the first step on the road to wisdom is not gathering more and more information or even knowing more and more things, it is humility. In fact it probably begins as Socrates suggested in the 4th century BC: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

I have quoted the Rev Dr Harold Lang before. Harold was the principal of McMaster Divinity College in Ontario. Once a month, when I was the Pastor of McNeill Baptist Church and teaching part-time at the Divinity College, I would have lunch with Harold who was 96 years old (he died at 104 years) and was as sharp as a tack. He lived by himself in a large early 20th-century house within walking distance of the University campus.

Harold’s wife had died some years earlier and his domestic help would prepare the meal for us, setting it in the dining room and then leaving us to our theological conversations. Harold would love to tell me stories of the present faculty members at McMaster and how he once gave the current Professor of Biblical Studies, a student of Harold’s, a C grade for a very poorly written essay.

Several things remained with me from my conversations with Harold, and one that stands out is when he said something like this, “Chris, when I was younger and a professor at the College I tried to believe many things; now I don’t think I know much at all. I think I only know one thing and that is “To love God as much as you love your neighbour. So, I suppose that is wisdom!”

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