Information Alone Is Not Wisdom – Br. Curtis Almquist

Wisdom 7:7-14
Psalm 37:3-6, 32-33

In the calendar of the church we remember today a fourth-century Bishop, Gregory of Nazianzus, which is modern-day southern Turkey. (1) Gregory, a faithful pastor, was known to be wise.  In the scriptures, wisdom is the gift extolled above all others for how to make meaning of life.  In our first lesson today, from The Book of Wisdom, we hear: “I preferred [wisdom] to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with [wisdom].”  Wisdom gives the highest yield in life.  Wisdom is a deep knowledge, more than simply clicking onto information.  As you well know, you can browse through an almost-infinite stream of facts and stats about life, an endless array of “horizontal information,” surfing life only at the surface.  None of this automatically translates into wisdom.

The English words “wisdom” and “vision” come from the same etymological root. (2) Wisdom is a kind of deep seeing, an “insight” into life.   Wisdom is not a skill, it does not come on command, it’s not a pill to swallow.  Wisdom is a gift from God.  Here are several practices that will cultivate the ground of our being for wisdom to grow.

For one, wisdom takes time, time to be attentive to life.  Incorporate times to stop, look, and listen, otherwise your life will only be a blur. Parker Palmer, the Quaker theologian, said that the meaning of life will be opaque to us unless we take time to make our experience transparent.  The soul will black out or burn out, not when people are too busy, but when people are not reflective how they’re feeling and perceiving and acting on what’s going on in their life. (3) Stop, look, and listen to your life, which will cultivate the gift of wisdom.

Secondly, wisdom does not come from getting it right.  More likely, wisdom comes from getting it wrong… and remembering.  That’s why wisdom and humility are cousins: humility, the word coming from the Latin humilis “lowly,”  literally “on the ground,” grounded. Wisdom is a humble understanding about life. (4) So much wisdom can be gleaned from remembering how we got it wrong, or how we are prone to get it wrong.  You may have some significant character flaws; you may be prone to blindness in some ways that become clearly apparent in retrospect. I certainly do.  It’s so important to remember how we got it wrong or how we’re prone to get it wrong, and it’s true for everyone else.  Remember that everyone else has their own version of not getting it right.  Wisdom leaves no room for arrogance.  Wisdom is an understanding, looking up to others who, like we, are looking up to God, maybe desperately.  Wisdom and humility are cousins.

To cultivate wisdom you need not read another book, nor watch another Ted talk, nor earn another academic degree, nor visit another monastery, nor travel to the ends of the earth.  Be where you are, which is where God is with you..  Say “yes” to life on the terms that God is giving you life just now; remember from whence you’ve come, regard others kindly and compassionately as they’re doing the best they can… which some days is not too good; pay attention to your life.  Jesus, in the New Testament, is called “the wisdom of God,” (5)the one “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” (6) By clinging to Jesus Christ, we tap into this divine wisdom. (7) Wisdom is finding the Way in life.  Jesus is the Way who makes wisdom really present to us.  Look to Jesus to grow wisdom in your soul.

  1. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 394) and his brother, Basil the Great were revered as “Cappadocian Fathers.”  Gregory was a prolific commentator on the Scriptures, and fought for the “Nicene faith” at the Second Vatican Council in 381.
  2. The English word “vision” comes from the Old English witan “to know;” Gothic weitan “to see.”  “The English word “wise” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root weid- “to see,” hence “to know.”
  3. “Action and Insight; An Interview with Parker Palmer,” published in The Christian Century, March 22-29, 1995; pp. 326-329.
  4. The Latin word humus is translated “earth.”
  5. 1 Corinthians 1:24.
  6. Colossians 2:3.
  7. In the Scriptures, intimacy with wisdom, wisdom herself, is not distinguished from intimacy with God.

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  1. Harriet on December 3, 2021 at 05:20

    Saying yes to life as it is NOW is a message I needed to hear. I’ve just got uncomfortable information about a back problem that is “progressive and degenerative.” What is the future like for me??? Right now my job is to live in the NOW, pray about the future and not be afraid. Thank you.

  2. James Doran on April 26, 2021 at 08:55

    “Wisdom and humility are cousins,” is itself a spark of priceless insight. It illuminates a solution to the conundrum that has puzzled our group studying the Rule of Benedict: why is he so insistent on the necessity for humility? Because it leads to wisdom …

  3. Kitty Whitman on April 26, 2021 at 08:04

    Only with a lifetime of loving and listening to the wisdom of God calling to you daily could you have so succinctly and graciously written and shared this for us to hear dear Brother. Thank you and Amen.
    Kitty W.

  4. Suzan Chamberlayne on June 8, 2019 at 14:48

    I am most appreciative that this archived sermon came to me now, as I missed it before and it was perfect for me at this time. My gratitude to Brother Curtis Almquist for his wisdom and deep, reflective wise words and to God for providing them.

  5. Gresh Lattimore on June 7, 2019 at 13:24

    So succinct and so meaningful! Thank you Br Curtis for this lovely little piece about wisdom! Your words are always full of wisdom and grace!

  6. Pamela Post-Ferrante on June 7, 2019 at 13:09

    To be where I am is the most difficult thing I have Faced. But to change the thinking of being so alone in this hard time by remembering God is here- going to be because – I am here- helps. Thank you for your sermons.

  7. Annette Foisie OSL on June 7, 2019 at 09:56

    Dear Brother Curtis, Stop, look, and listen: yes, absolutely. As an artist there are many times a day that the wondrous Creation around me, the magnificent California coastline, calls me to stop, look, and listen. Then I pray my gratitude to God the Creator, and set up my easel to paint, in praise of Him. Jesus shows me the Way. And with Pentecost approaching, I know that I will be called by the Holy Spirit. All of this guidance is Grace, for which I am so grateful.

    Annette Foisie OSL

  8. Jeanne DeFazio on June 7, 2019 at 08:36

    Shared this excerpt today: Wisdom is finding the Way in life. Jesus is the Way who makes wisdom really present to us. Look to Jesus to grow wisdom in your soul.

  9. Diane on June 7, 2019 at 07:49

    Wisdom. I try to hold this close in my heart and mind. Over time, I’ve learned to hold off on my first thoughts and reactions (those are usually wrong). I have a temper which needs to be held in check. The pastor at my church helps me a lot by modeling patience and kindness. Since this church shelters and feeds the homeless 365 days a year, you can imagine this is not easy. And yet, he does it in situations that are not easy. This included facing up to some police officers who came charging into the sanctuary (during a Sunday service). And ended up spending the night in jail. As you might imagine, the judge really didn’t want to deal with this (sort of gave a bad name to the police department).

  10. SusanMarie on June 7, 2019 at 07:18

    Beautiful…thank you! I wish we read more often from the Book of Wisdom. As a former Catholic, it was part of our regular readings. I also studied it in a Bible Study class. Now that I’m an Episcopalian, I don’t hear it very often as it’s not part of “our” Bible, which is really too bad. I still read from the Book of Wisdom often. It’s a treasure.

  11. Rachel Williamson on June 7, 2019 at 07:14

    Thank you, Brother Curtis Almquist, for your words this morning. I needed to hear them.

  12. Karen Obits on June 7, 2019 at 06:47

    Thank you for this pithy yet powerful homily.

    “Say ‘yes’ to life on the terms that God is giving you life just now… regard others kindly and compassionately as they’re doing the best they can…”

    Those words struck me as a helpful rephrasing of the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself” that I can carry with me into each present moment.

  13. Maida Broudo on June 7, 2019 at 06:45

    Thank you dear Brother Curtis-this is so well stated, and a very helpful reminder to stop and listen and reflect!

    Thank you so very much for your voice- calming and teaching!

    Love, Maida

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