Proper 19b 2012: Wisdom speaks

“Wisdom cries out in the street.”  Wisdom is not a call to an exclusive few; wisdom is not called out to those who are rich, at a distance, or are locked up in academia and study.  Wisdom is called out “in the street,” for all to hear.  “In the squares she raises her voice … at the busiest corner she cries out.”  “I have called you,” she says.  “Wisdom shouts loudly amidst all the other voices that claim truth, but she has the only answer that will remedy humanity’s ailments: ‘Fear the Lord.’” [http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/article/entry/3065/sermon-options-september-16-2012]  Wisdom is proclaiming truth, shouting for us to “fear the Lord.”

“Oh, simple ones, will you love being simple?”  Oh yes, we will.  Being a “simple one” is not about education or age or intelligence.  Being simple means that we would sometimes (often time?) rather bury our head in the sand than look at the truth.  Looking at truth might tell us that we eat too much, drink too much, do not pray enough; that we have found all kinds of ways to avoid doing our best to follow our Lord.  Truth might tell us that it is not okay to gossip, even a little bit.  Truth might tell us that we need to follow Jesus the Christ and not our own ideas.

We do not like what Wisdom has to say:  “Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity….”  Such words are shocking to us!  Who could laugh at calamity?  God, where are you NOW?  We forget that Wisdom called and we who like being simple refused.  We take an offensive stance:  Who is SHE to tell us what to do?  Who is SHE who tells us how to live?  I know truth and I know my savior.

Really?  “Who,” Jesus says, “do people say that I am?”  What do “they” say?  We know “them” – they say to exercise, they say that coffee is bad for us, they say that a hurricane is coming, they say that we should study before a test; “they” know everything, it seems, and yet “they” know nothing at all.  For “they” say that Jesus is John the Baptist, or Elijah, or a prophet.

Jesus moves past what “they” say and makes the question personal.  Who do YOU say that I am?

Peter tells the truth:  “You are the Messiah.”  Peter is right; Jesus IS the Messiah.  But Peter’s idea of a messiah is not who Jesus is.  Remember?  A Messiah is a war king, a victor, one who comes in with horses, armies – legions, and one whom the people not only obey but worship.  Peter knows the word Messiah, and his knowledge of Jesus the Messiah is incomplete.  God wasn’t going to save the world in the way of Peter’s thinking.  God is not going to save the world in your way of your thinking or of mine, either.

Hear again that Wisdom speaks:  fear the Lord.

What does “fear the Lord” mean?  When angels show up in the bible, what words do we often hear them say?  What words did the shepherds hear?  That’s right, “fear not; do not be afraid.”  Our brains tell us that we are not supposed to fear, fear is a bad thing, and not something that we have to do in the presence of God or our Lord.  Fear not.  In fact, we don’t like to think about a punishing God or a God with flames and smoke who might look like some heavenly Wizard of Oz.  We like the God robed in white, with fluffy clouds and clean white sheep at His feet.  That’s God.  (We love to be simple, don’t we?  Me, too!)

“Fear” in our ancient world is not a word with only one meaning.  There is fear, yara in Hebrew, that means “dread, or terror.”  That’s our “fear not” word.  There is fear, yara, that means “to stand in awe,” (in reference to a king).  There is fear, yara, that means “to revere, to respect (as toward parents).  The appropriate fear for this section of the book of Proverbs is awe, respect, and reverence.  We are called to stand in awe, with respect and deep reverence, before our God, whatever God may look like.

Now we can hear the words of wisdom as she shouts from the street:  Fear the Lord!  We fear (revere) the Lord when we turn away from evil in all its forms.  We fear/stand in awe of the Lord when we participate in taking care of God’s creation.  We worship the Lord in this place, and we are called to worship and proclaim Him in every part (and place) of our lives.  Fear the Lord.  Seek to hear real Truth from the many voices that call out to us.

This walk with Jesus is not easy.  We do not understand the cost.  We cannot comprehend that Jesus is not the Jesus of our understanding, but of God.  We cannot put this Jesus into a box, fit him into our world.  Instead, we are supposed to fit into Jesus’ world, and that is not simple at all.  We who love to be simple must give up ourselves, put aside our egos, and listen for the word of God.  What is the will of God for our lives?  It is THAT personal.  The disciples learned today that Jesus would not be their Messiah in the way of their choosing.  Think, my friends, about who Jesus is.  Think beyond saying the words that we know:  Mary’s baby, God’s son, our Savior, Lord, and contemplate how we might be compelled to live in light of those words.  How might we live?

I close today with words from Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…”
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Who do you say that I am?

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