140921 – Human-Nature – Listen

Yr A ~ Creation 2 ~ Psalm 104:24–30; Job 12:7–10

[Minister jumps up and down, shouts “Hey!”]

So now that I’ve got your attention, listen to my wisdom!
That’s kind of the way it works. If you want someone to listen to what you need to communicate to them you have to first capture their attention.

Every week I walk down those steps and stand here in this place and say “Let’s pray,” and because we all kind of know how church is supposed to work you all bow your heads and off we go.200483368-001
You do a remarkable thing every week.
You give me your attention. You open yourself to what I have to say, and you thoughtfully and faithfully ponder it.

You don’t necessarily agree with me all the time and you don’t have to. The point is, the gift is, that you let down your guard and allow me to share what the Spirit communicated to me during the week when I let down my guard and allowed it to speak to me.

But I have a confession today. I usually finish my message on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. I’m pretty disciplined about that rhythm. But not this week. I didn’t even really start until Friday morning. (I know, some ministers don’t start until Saturday night, but for me Friday is super late!) The problem was that I couldn’t get myself quiet enough to listen. I had too much going on, too many meetings, too many projects, too many thoughts swirling around.

Not too much work! I’m not complaining about anything. I’m just saying that I had a really tough time being present to God’s presence this week! The Spirit was staring at me, and jumping up and down, and shouting “Hey!” at me, but I still wasn’t paying attention.

Finally, on Friday morning, it happened. Not a lightning bolt, not a parting of the clouds with an angelic chorus, I simply got quiet enough to notice. And the Spirit said to me, “So now that I’ve got your attention, listen to my wisdom!”

I’ve spent a lot of time preaching this year about being present to God’s presence. Last week I talked about awakening to that Something More, that Presence that is everywhere and always, and then not just noticing it but seeking harmony with it and allowing ourselves to be delighted by it.

We explored delight – delight in all we see and do. Delight in nature. Delight in food. Delight in people. Delight in learning. Delight in prayer. Delight in music. Delight in work. Delight in one another. Delight in love. Delight in God!
Several people even told me that my message was, ahem, delightful!

And that’s all great. It’s wonderful to notice God’s presence and be delighted. If our faith journey wasn’t grounded in joy and delight I’m not sure why anyone would bother! Notice God’s presence and delight in it. Sense God’s presence and savour it.

But that’s really just the very first step. Your sensing and your savouring, your noticing and your delight, is God jumping up and down and capturing your awareness. And then it’s like God is saying, “You’re delighted. Perfect! Now that I have your attention, listen to my wisdom!”

Wisdom is a really important word for people of faith. What does wisdom mean to you? The dictionary says wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting – wisdom is insight – wisdom is a deep kind of knowing.

Is wisdom different than intelligence, or information, or knowledge? Yes it is! You can’t just open a book and learn wisdom, it has to be lived, experienced, earned.

Close your eyes and picture a wise person. Was the person you pictured an old person? Did anyone picture a young person as the epitome of wisdom? No, we associate wisdom with age because you can’t have deep wisdom until you’ve done some deep living! So does that mean all young people are foolish and all old people are wise? Not on your life!

There’s a wonderful line in Shakespeare’s play King Lear where the elderly king is watching his life crumble around him because of all the foolish choices he’s made, and his fool, like his court jester, ridicules him by saying “Thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise!”

I think wisdom has become a forgotten thing. People throw the word around a lot but I think deep down we believe that we can find our own answers if we just search enough web pages! Like King Lear, we think we’re already pretty wise thank-you-very-much, when actually we’re pretty foolish. It’s human nature. We like to be in control. We like having all the answers, even when we haven’t got a clue. A big part of being wise is knowing when you haven’t got a clue!

If we’re so learned and wise why does the government need to legislate common sense so often? It’s against the law to be typing on your cell phone while you’re driving. Why does that need to be a law? What moron would think that hurtling down a highway at 100 kilometers an hour in a 2000 pound metal projectile was a good scenario to take the time to type a smiley face into a text message about nothing?! But we have to legislate that! (I am not 100% innocent of this myself!) We’re so smart and full of ourselves that we think we know better and that those silly rules don’t apply to us. Oh how wise we are!

Last week I claimed that the Something More that we call God is not malevolent or indifferent but is utterly benevolent and for us – that God’s intention for everyone and everything is goodness, harmony, and delight. But apparently left to our own devices we’re prone to disharmony and pain and mostly because of our foolish choices and distinct lack of humility and wisdom.

Why would God allow this to happen? Why would God leave us all alone like this? If only there was some way for God to communicate with us and help us! [sarcasm]

Let’s start with the bible. The wisdom of God is a big topic in the bible. Wisdom in Hebrew is hokmah and wisdom in Greek is Sophia. Ancient Greek thinker Plato was famous for philosophy, which is philo+Sophia which is literally “friend of wisdom.” Later, a man named Philo (odd, but true) tried to marry the concepts of Plato with the Hebrew wisdom tradition and came up with the Greek work logos – which is very familiar to readers of the New Testament.

Wisdom, Sophia, hokmah, logos, however you want to say it, this concept is always referred to in the feminine. The idea of God is typically portrayed as being masculine (not male, but masculine), and the balancing feminine is Sophia. Jesus as logos is imagined as both God incarnate and Sophia embodied at the same time.

Did you know that there are several books in the bible that are called wisdom books? The bible is really a collection of different genres of books including history, law, gospels, letters, apocalypses, and wisdom. Which are the wisdom books in the bible?

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

What’s the character of Wisdom books? How are they different from other bible books? If you read Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon you’ll find that they all grapple with life’s big, heavy, existential questions:

Why are we here?
What is the meaning of life?
Why does life seem unfair sometimes?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
How can I feel perfectly in tune and in harmony one minute and the next feel miserable and alone?
And really big questions like will the Leafs ever win the cup again? (Well, some things are even beyond God’s wisdom!)

Those are big questions. Those are our questions too. And God has something important to say about them. But we tend to not like God’s answers!

The quintessential wisdom character in the bible is Job. Job is a made up character upon whom every conceivable hardship gets piled despite him being a beautifully righteous and holy man. Job’s well-meaning friends harangue him for around 35 chapters explaining how he must have done terrible things to deserve this fate because that was what their human wisdom taught them.

In the end Job shakes his fists at God and accuses God of being evil and shouts at God, “Who do you think you are?”

And God answers, (Job 38:2-4) “Listen here you little punk (I may be paraphrasing a little), why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! I have some questions for you. Where were you when I moved this whole thing into motion? Tell me, since you know so much!”

And God goes on and on about how the things of God are far beyond Job’s understanding, and Job learns humility, and in the humility is wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says “Awe, wonder, and humility in God’s presence is the beginning of wisdom.” Now that I have your attention Job, listen to my wisdom!

Why do you think the bible speaks of wisdom so often? – because God’s wisdom speaks to the depth of human existence and meaning. God’s wisdom offers the way to harmony and delight. Hopefully we won’t have to go as far as the fictional character Job did to finally pay attention and listen.

But God’s wisdom is certainly not limited to a book! God wouldn’t be so foolish as to put the only keys to abundant life and harmony and delight in book that billions of people have but few actually read and fewer still actually get it.

No, God’s wisdom is like God’s presence – it’s everywhere all the time. It’s in everyone and everything. But just like the bible we have to take the time to open the darn thing and learn how to read it. We have to take the time to open ourselves to the wisdom of the earth and her inhabitants and learn how to read it!

God had tried to teach this to Job but Job wouldn’t listen. Check out Job 12:7–10 –
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”

Has an animal or a plant ever taught you anything?
Has a bird or fish ever told you something?
If not then you’re just not listening.
They know what we need to know: “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In God’s hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”

The natural world already lives in harmony with God. They know how to “be”. They know that God is the centre of it all, and that God is the very life and breath of everything that has breath. Aboriginal peoples around the world can teach us a lot about this kind of wisdom, about listening to the earth and her creatures.

Which animals get associated with wisdom? The owl who sits up high quietly watching and thinking and discerning, and the turtle who never rushes into anything, moves slowly and deliberately, and never seems flustered by life! They know who and whose they are.

St. Francis of Assisi’s perfect prayer for wisdom is “who are you, O God, and who am I?”

Wisdom is knowing who you are and whose you are.
Wisdom is knowing God is God and I’m not.
Wisdom is understanding that there is a fundamental Sacred vibration at the heart of the universe and striving to stay in tune with it and harmonize with it.

How do you hear God’s wisdom?
Do you read it in a book? Do you listen to the animals?
Do you hear nature speak? Do the oceans reveal it to you?
Do the trees sing you songs? Do the stars stir your senses?
Do you listen with humility? With joy and delight? With wonder and awe?

God is sharing God’s wisdom with you. It’s all around you. What’s stopping you from receiving it?

And when you’ve heard, what’s preventing you from following God’s wisdom?
Is it that you think you know better?
Can I introduce you to Job again?

As you leave this place and head back out into the noisy world, be sure to find some time to be quiet and humbly open yourself to the possibility of something wonderful being revealed to you.
And in that sacred quietness I believe God will speak:
Now that I have your attention, listen to my wisdom!

Amen.