Our first two scripture readings today are both pleas and exhortations to live wisely. The first was from Solomon, telling us that Wisdom is calling to us to the banquet she has prepared for anyone who chooses to come to her house. The second is from Paul, telling us that since God has given us a new life in Jesus, we ought not to go back to our old selfish ways, but should wisely make the most of our lives by being thankful for everything God has given us. These two pleas for us to live wisely come from two very different settings: Solomon was a powerful and wealthy king; Paul was a powerless and poor preacher. The two lived a thousand years apart from each other, although they both spent time in Jerusalem. In many of Solomon’s writings, one gets the hint that he believed that some are born wise and others are born foolish, and that can’t be changed; in Paul’s writings, the predestination of the wise and foolish is sometimes hinted at, although some people have made a lot more of that hint of predestination than others.
The aspect of wisdom that is common between the two authors is the fact that wisdom is a gift from God, whether or not we are born with it or are offered it later in life as a choice to make by our own free will. Wisdom is not something that we can produce. Most people now would agree that wisdom is something that all people are offered, and most people would also agree that although it is a gift, it is not fully functional when it is given. We have to show our gratitude and appreciation of God’s gift of wisdom before it can work in us. We have to be diligent in listening to other wise people and in calmly and humbly taking criticism from others, whether or not that criticism is meant to be constructive or destructive (sometimes we can learn more from destructive criticism than from the constructive kind, because even though it is meant to harm us, it is usually true, so we should be grateful for it and do what we can to help the person trying to hurt us). We also have to keep our appetites for food, sex, alcohol, and partying in check, because even though they are good gifts from God, they can easily take over our lives and cause us to be harmful to ourselves and the people around us if we are not careful. All four of these disciplines of gratitude, listening, humility and moderation are based on the truth that we are not the center of the universe and getting what we want when we want it is not the most important thing in the world. True wisdom consists in living the truth that God is the center and source of everything.
Each of us is only a part of God’s wonderful world, but that does not negate our importance, because without everyone living their parts to the fullest, we are all impoverished. Our world is a fallen world because when we choose to put ourselves in the center, we throw everything off-balance and leave a hole in our spot so that others can’t receive what they need from us. God has not built the world around himself because he wants or needs attention. God has built the world around himself because that is the only way the world can be built, and God does not want it to go to waste by being the only one to experience it. The problem for us is that the universe is so wonderful, we want to claim it as our own. There is no need for that, because there is more than enough to go around, and when we are so busy trying to run the world our own way, we forget the joy of watching God run it the way it should be. We deserve more than the tiny universes we create for ourselves; that is why God made the infinite one for us. God gives us the world, as well as the wisdom to realize how wonderful and beautiful it is, whether or not we can ever begin to understand how it works. Our job is to take the wisdom offered to us and live our lives in such a way that it can grow in us and help us live wonderful and beautiful lives in harmony and peace with all the other elements of creation.
God not only gives us the world, God gives us his own self (that is what our third reading from John’s Gospel is all about). We will soon gather around the table up here to be fed by God’s own being. All the wisdom in the world won’t ever help us to understand how that is possible, but wisdom will let us know that we need it. We might not be the center of the universe, but the center of the universe wants to be in us. God loves us so much that he wants to be taken into us. We are offered God’s own life as we gather together at God’s table. Just as we cannot produce wisdom on our own, so we can not produce life on our own. We have to take it from God, who thinks we are worth enough for him to give his own life for us and to us. Taking the center of the universe into us should be a much higher goal than trying to create our own tiny universes revolving around us. One important step to that higher goal is to realize and remind ourselves that the center of the universe desires to be in everyone else gathered around the altar with us also. With God’s gift of wisdom, we will slowly learn to live, think, and speak that truth. It all comes from God, but we have the choice of accepting it or denying it. We will waver between the two every day and every moment, but by admitting that life and wisdom are solely gifts from God, God will help us take those gifts and make our lives better than we could ever have imagined on our own. AMEN