Matthew 11:16-19; 25-30
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?’ [i]
There are some who listen and follow, who find her dwelling and hold her fast. But there are many in the broad places of the world who ignore her. The marketplace is for many things, but not for wisdom. They don’t bother to look up from their tiny screens. Nimble fingers text and tweet faster than hearts can pause and feel.
‘We played the flute for them, but they didn’t dance. We mourned, but they didn’t wail.’ [ii]
With each comment thread, the bitter bickering shrinks the circle. Wisdom has not played by the rules.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.[iii]
Jerusalem, Jerusalem! he cries, ‘How often have I desired to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under wings, and you were not willing.’ [iv]
When the words of Wisdom finally find their target, the reaction is visceral. As one body united for the first time and the last, they cry: ‘CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!’[v]
Yet – Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.[vi]
Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. Or, in Luke’s version, Wisdom is vindicated by her children.[vii] In books such as Proverbs and Job, Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon, we encounter God’s Wisdom personified as a Woman of great gentleness and strength, offering food and drink, shelter and instruction, scorned by the masses but taking her stand nonetheless. In the book Sirach, the wise elder instructs a disciple: “Listen, my child, and take my advice, do not reject my counsel: put your feet into [Wisdom’s] fetters, and your neck into her collar; offer your shoulder to her burden, do not be impatient of her bonds… For in the end you will find rest in her and she will take the form of joy for you.”[viii] In the gospels of Matthew and John, we bear witness to a Spirit-led conversation between this multifaceted tradition of personified Wisdom and the early Christian experience of Jesus Christ. For us as for them, Wisdom is Jesus, the embodiment of all good things in Wisdom’s treasury and the incarnation of God, the source and ground of Wisdom. This Jesus is without doubt a Savior to be worshipped and an exemplar of how we are to act in the world. But he is also a Teacher of the heart, what today we are calling “inner work.”
Zechariah 9: 9 -12
Psalm 145: 8-15
Romans 7: 15 – 25a
Matthew 11: 16 – 19, 25 – 30
When I was in seminary, one of my professors frequently spoke of alarms bells. He’d be in the middle of his lecture, or answering a question, or making a comment about something, when he would stop and announce: alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! It took a while, but we soon realized that this was his code for us to make connections between what he had just said and something we might have heard or known from a different situation.
Well, if it were Professor Koester, and not Brother James standing before you today, I’d be saying alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! In fact, really loud alarms should be ringing for you this morning. It’s not that you are in a deep sleep right now and need to wake up (although perhaps that’s true!). Instead you should be thinking, this all sounds vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this before?
Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
A favorite story of mine about the founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson, is from his childhood. His biographer M. V. Woodgate writes: “When he was a little boy, he used regularly to read a text every night in a little testament his mother had given him, and one night he was found by his nurse lying on the floor in his night clothes, with the little book clasped in his hand. His nurse and the governess both told him to get into bed, but he lay silently there, and at last they brought up his father, who called him to sit on his knee and tell him what was the matter. The little boy pointed to his text for the night and his father read, ‘Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’ (2 Timothy 2:3). Then he said, ‘The floor is hard, so I must sleep on it.’ ‘Yes, Richard,’ said his father, ‘but there is one thing harder which the soldier has to learn, and that is obedience; so you go and get into bed.’ Young Richard Benson had a fascination with soldiers and had inherited a love for Jesus from his mother, both of which would last throughout his entire life.