May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and Our Redeemer. Amen.
In today’s scripture readings, wisdom and a life of service become two threads or themes that come through clearly. So, I will focus on sources of wisdom and the promise of God’s presence as we serve in a world filled with struggles and difficulties in our present day.
From the First Psalm person is like a tree planted by a stream. The tree will grow and deepen its roots. The psalmist says: “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.” Reading our scriptures, reading a Forward Day by Day daily meditation in the morning, going to church each Sunday, can keep us grounded in delighting in the Lord and seeking wisdom from God. There is a wisdom from below as well. We are told not to follow the advice of the world. Many of us secondary school teachers were stunned and shocked at the beginning of the school year to learn that a dare had been issued on the social media platform of Tik Tok—to dare students as they returned back to school to steal or vandalism something from the school bathrooms, presumably to take a video of it and get a good laugh out of it. Many of the bathrooms in the first few weeks of school were vandalized. We as parents and teachers need to realize that sources of information, wisdom, or poor advice are surrounding our children. There is value in bringing the family to church, to engaging students in Sunday school and youth group. That we should all seek out the wisdom, not of this world, but wisdom that comes from God.
The reading today from Proverbs, known as a book of Wisdom literature, shares in chapter 31 what is a good wife, but I think there is more to this scripture than meets the eye. I was intrigued with commentary from our Episcopal priest J. Ted Blakely’s commentary about Proverbs 31. He asks “Is it (Proverbs 31) providing a description of the ideal wife, one that husbands can measure their own wives against and one that wives are expected to emulate? If so, then this seems like a strange way to conclude a collection of wisdom sayings.” Blakely suggests that this hymn is a portrait of Wisdom personified in a wife. If so, he argues that the suggestion is that all Christians should seek out and marry Wisdom. Marry God’s Wisdom. He will call it “Wife Wisdom,” or Woman Wisdom, the most treasured possession in all the earth.
Asking for wisdom from God is a prayer worth asking for. That is what Solomon asked for in His prayer. Whether it is the wisdom from meditating on God’s Holy Word or on the Woman wisdom of her words, reflections, and actions we need to seek that wisdom out; we will learn from it; and we become better people for it.
In the New Testament reading from James, we receive insight into the “how” we live a life filled with wisdom. In our reading from today, James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” Do we live a good life where our works are filled with gentleness born of wisdom? That’s a good question. James points out that the wisdom of the world may suggest to you to be envious and ambitious. He points out that envy and ambition as your heart’s chief motives only leads to boastfulness and being false to the truth. We will know the wisdom that comes from about, James says because it is pure, peaceable, gentle, and it will yield mercy and good fruits. A life of wisdom does involve seeking out God’s Holy Word, learning wisdom through the good life of a spouse, and choosing to live a good life where the fruits of your ministry are made manifest to others with mercy and kindness.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus shares with His disciples that this spiritual journey of ours is not an easy one. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus daily.
We need to recognize the real presence of God in our lives. We need to know that God is present, particularly when we are going through a difficult time. Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In the gospel reading from Mark today, Jesus tells his disciples that the Messiah must suffer. He tells his disciples in today’s gospel that the Son of Man will be betrayed, will die, and three days later rise again. That was a hard thing for them to grapple with. The Son of God must go through suffering? And, he also tells them that they will suffer too. We know about suffering. It happens to us a part of our life experience. Jesus said that in this world we will encounter tribulation, but be of good cheer for Jesus has overcome the world. St. Paul says suffering produces perseverance, perseverance then produces character, and character produces a hope that does not disappoint. In the reading from Mark today, Jesus has this message for his disciples and for us today: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.” We have a good and loving shepherd who will lead us in paths of righteousness. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who will not leave us or forsake us. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”
God and His Son Jesus Christ are around us; surround us, and protect us from all assaults of the enemy. We will suffer. It will produce endurance and perseverance. It will result in building up our character. It will produce a hope that will not disappoint. We as Christians have been given the hope of eternal life—to live forever in the loving presence of Jesus. That is a hope that does not disappoint. Let us pray.
Dear God, we seek out your wisdom from your Holy Word and from people who love You and care for us. We have erred and strayed like lost sheep. Bring us back into your fold. We want to follow You. Help us to serve one another with gentleness born from Your wisdom. May our words and actions build up and edify one another and not destroy. God we thank you being present in our lives. May we look to you and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide our path as we attempt to follow Jesus, our Good Shepherd and live a life full of the goodness You have intended for us. Amen.
The Rev. Jeff Roper
September 19, 2021
St. James Episcopal Church, Wichita, KS