The Adventurous Lectionary – The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 16, 2015
I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
If a genie came to you and granted three wishes, what would they be? In this passage, God is not as generous as the genie, God gives only one wish, but God tells Solomon that he can ask for anything he wants and presumably he will receive it. Solomon begins with a sense of confession and humility: he recognizes his inexperience and need for guidance. The task is simply too great for him. Then he asks for wisdom, “an understanding mind to govern the people, to discern between right and wrong.” God grants him this wish and then adds power, wealth, and success. After all, none of these are of value without wisdom; and with wisdom and an ethical imagination, these can be blessings for everyone.
Already the presidential candidates are lining up. It appears that in the Republican Party, many of the candidates are trying to top each other in terms of outrageous statements regarding immigration, marriage equality, responding the working poor, and an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Without betraying my political loyalties too much, no one seems to confess the challenges of the presidency or the need for wisdom and an understanding mind!
Solomon’s dream invites us to consider what’s really important. What are our highest values? What do we want above all else? Do we want wisdom in caring for our families, professional lives, congregations, and communities? Or do we seek more toys, greater power, and enhanced prestige? I believe Solomon guides us toward the pathways of wisdom. How might wisdom manifest herself in our lives, especially as we seek to give our congregations guidance about caring for the Earth, responding to strangers, and finding solutions to child poverty in our hometowns and across the globe?
Psalm 111 continues the theme of wisdom. Awe at God’s grandeur is the beginning of wisdom. Radical amazement puts our life in perspective. We are not isolated, nor are we self-made. We are part of a larger ecology, embracing galaxies as well the local environment. We are part of an intricate web of divine activity and nature apart from which we would not exist. The Psalmist continues the question: “How do we live wisely in our time? How do we embody wisdom, knowing the disastrous impact of materialism, unrestrained capitalism, and consumption on Mother Earth? Can wisdom help us transform our “garbage dump” (Pope Francis) into a garden?”
Ephesians also addresses the issue of wise living. In challenging times, how are we to be faithful? How shall we use our time wisely, redeeming the times in which we live. Wise living involves a dedicating your time to thanksgiving, praising God, and behaving ethically, joining spiritual practices and lively worship. For the author of Ephesians, wise living involves integrating Spirit-centered intentionality and mindfulness. Wisdom counsels us that we sing and praise God even in times of challenge. Beneath the challenges of life, there is an undercurrent of grace that enables us to experience God’s presence regardless of life’s circumstances. Unwise people live for the moment and in terms of self-interest. Their happiness depends on success and achieving their moment-by-moment heart’s desire. Wise people see their lives in perspective, seeing life from a God’s eye view, and recognizing that we can be joyful and spirit-filled in any setting.
John’s gospel speaks of God’s everlasting nurture. Taken literally, this passage is repulsive. It suggests that enter eternal life, you have to eat Jesus’ flesh and blood. A ritual cannibalism cannot be affirmed by today’s progressive Christians. If we are to redeem this passage, or even read it in church, we need to find an alternative interpretation, one that affirms God’s immanence in the celebration of communion and in our daily lives. We can eat and drink God, but this meal is best understood in terms of a radical embrace of God’s vision so that it becomes the center of our self-understanding. God is in us, just as we are in God.
Wise living points us beyond ourselves to world-loyalty. It takes us beyond the moment to look at our lives as a whole from God’s standpoint, and places our day to day lives in the context of God’s everlasting life.