Tag Archives: Wisdom

Jesus, Wisdom of God

Readings
Proverbs 8.1–4, 22–31
John 16.12–15

It used to be the conventional wisdom of New Testament scholars that predication of a divine nature to Jesus came about as a result of the impact of Hellenistic culture outside Israel and the ideas that culture had about the Divine. The assumption was that early Jews in tune with their monotheistic language would not use such language of anyone but Yahweh. The oneness of God ruled out speaking of multiple persons in the Godhead. — Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christian Understandings of the Trinity, quoting Ben Witherington & Laura Ice, The Shadow of the Almighty

The reality that Second Testament and early church texts that speak of Jesus in relation to Woman Wisdom do not articulate a clear trinitarian self-understanding is not, in itself, an insurmountable problem. Across the early Jesus movement this is the same, as convictions about Christ and the Spirit are not clearly enunciated in a trinitarian doctrine. However, what is evidenced in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 is the claim that some early communities were experiencing the Spirit and the risen Christ, and understood these experiences in relation to Woman Wisdom. It was from the ground-bed of such experiences that later trinitarian theology arose. — Sally Douglas, Early Church Understandings of Jesus as the Female Divine

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In today’s psalm, Psalm 8, we read 

When I look up at your skies,
at what your fingers made—
the moon and the stars
that you set firmly in place—
what are human beings
that you think about them;
what are human beings
that you pay attention to them?                       Psalm 8.3–4 CEB

That’s the psalmist being awed by the night sky, but honestly he had very little idea of what the universe really is like. (Do you remember Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy among other things? Adams said something similar, in his own inimitable style)— 

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. 

We live in an amazingly huge universe. The distance from Earth to the observable edge of the universe is 46 billion light years. What’s beyond the edge? We don’t know, there may be something, maybe more of the same. Or not. 

We live in an amazingly old universe, some 13.8 billion years old. The earth we live on is 4.5 billion years old. 

We live in an amazingly odd universe, where light may have the properties of either a particle or a wave, where there is dark energy which can only be inferred, and in which if you know how fast a particle is travelling you can’t know exactly where it is. Or something like that.

We live in a universe that I can’t comprehend. When I say it’s 13.8 billion years old, or its edge is 46 billion light years away, I really don’t get those numbers. I can probably visualise a few thousand at most, but I’m throwing those ‘billion’ numbers around without any understanding of how big they really are. 

I can’t comprehend the universe, and I can’t comprehend God. 

I can’t comprehend the universe, yet I believe in God. 

Should that be like a confession, something from a twelve-step program? Hello, I’m Paul. I can’t comprehend the universe and I believe in God. It’s been six weeks since my last feeling of awe and wonder. 

How may I know anything about the God who spoke this universe into being? How may I have any knowledge at all of the God who gave birth to such an odd and weird place? 

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A deficit of wonder

Readings
Proverbs 1.20–33
Mark 8.27–38

 

There are four things that are too mysterious for me to understand:
an eagle flying in the sky,
a snake moving on a rock,
a ship finding its way over the sea,
and a man and a woman falling in love.
Proverbs 30.18–19 (GNB)

Here’s the thing: in an era when there can seem to be a deficit of wonder, swifts are like the sky: once you start, you can’t stop wondering about them. Frustratingly, though, their elusiveness and pace mean you rarely get more than a glimpse of what they are up to in a town. The edge-land, however, reveals a wider perspective… — Rob Cowen, Common Ground, Kindle ed’n, p.208

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Our daughter lives in Chile, and so (of course!) does her daughter, our granddaughter Emilia. Emilia is nearly three. They visited us a while ago, and it was just a delight to witness Emilia’s joy and wonder at everything she encountered.

Frankly, I don’t miss a lot about being a child. But if there’s one thing I miss it is finding wonder in learning new things, in animals in all their weird shapes and forms, in the expanse of space, in everything really. 

I suppose it’s pretty normal not to experience so much wonder as you get older. You have to pay the bills, cook the meals, get to work. You realise that the world is a pretty messed-up place. You worry about the future.

But then you see a newborn baby, or look up at the night sky away from the city lights, and that feeling of wonder is right back there again.

It may be normal for that sense of wonder to fade as you get older; but it may be fading away more in our time in history. Today, some people are experiencing a ‘deficit of wonder’.

A deficit of wonder. I have seen that phrase twice in the last week, yet I’d never seen it before in my entire life.

A deficit of wonder. I read it in a British nature book (Common Ground, by Rob Cowen) set in the local area where I was born. I read it also in a quotation from Tom Waits, the gravel-voiced blues singer whose work some of you will know.

Tom Waits says

Everything is explained now. We live in an age when you say casually to somebody ‘What’s the story on that?’ and they can run to the computer and tell you within five seconds. That’s fine, but sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering. We have a deficit of wonder right now.

‘Sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering.’

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Suffering is not a problem (Year B, 4 October, 2015)

Readings
Job 1.1; 2.1–10
Mark 10.2–16

Like a weaned child on its mother,
like the weaned child on me is my soul…        Psalm 131.2

When I was a chaplain at The Wesley Hospital, we noticed something quite concerning. We chaplains saw the way a number of young couples responded when they were confronted with a stillborn child.

These young couples were absolutely floored, of course. They suffered terrible grief, as you would expect. It was something they would never forget. That is the natural reaction to an unnatural situation.

That’s not what concerned us. Our anxiety was because it was obvious that these largely middle class couples had never before come across a problem that couldn’t be fixed.

Even more than that, to them any setback at all was a problem to be fixed. If you or your dad couldn’t fix it, you paid a professional or a tradie to do it for you.

They asked the question common to nearly all people: Why me, why us? But they also asked, Why couldn’t our technology solve the problem?

For some couples, this was the very first time they had been confronted by something huge that just couldn’t be fixed. Their usual way of coping with things just didn’t help.

What they found hard to grasp is that in losing a baby they were not being confronted by a problem. They were being unwillingly plunged into an encounter with loss, with grief, with suffering too deep for words. They couldn’t fix it, solve it, or manage it.

What could they do?

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Religion — in public?? (13 September 2015, Year B)

Readings
Proverbs 1.20–33
Mark 8.27–38

Wisdom cries out in the street.—Proverbs 1.20a

Do religion and politics mix? Should people keep their faith to themselves, or should they let their religious faith inform their political opinions?

And what about members of parliament? Should they keep quiet about it? Should they keep their faith at home, and only let it out on Sundays? Or only display it in the company of consenting adults?

The (online) Australian edition of The Guardian newspaper published an article just last Monday by Kristina Keneally. You may recall that Kristina Keneally was the Labor Premier of New South Wales before their last state election. You may not know that Kristina is a Christian, a member of the Catholic Church.

This article is entitled Of course my faith influenced my political decisions, as did my gender. So what?

In some circles in Australia today, this is a provocative title. I read recently of a suggestion that politicians declare their religion, just as they declare their commercial interests. (Or at least they’re meant to declare them.) This person wants religion to be declared so that a religious politician’s views on things like euthanasia or same-sex marriage can be discounted. What else would you expect a Christian/Catholic/Moslem/insert other faith to say?

There are forces in society today that are determined to push ‘religion’ out of public life.

To them, Kristina Keneally says: Of course my faith influenced my political decisions, as did my gender. So what? Continue reading

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The Way of Wisdom—Sunday 24, Year B (16 September 2012)

Readings
Proverbs 1.20-33
James 3.1-12
Mark 8.27-38

Wisdom is absolutely crucial in the Bible; in fact, Wisdom is part of the Bible’s very structure. There are three groupings of books that make up the Old Testament:

  1. the Law (the first five books, from Genesis to Deuteronomy);
  2. the Prophets (including what we think of as the historical books); and
  3. the Writings. The Writings contain the ‘Wisdom’ books, which include

Job;
Psalms;
Proverbs;
Ecclesiastes;
Song of Songs.

There are two further Wisdom books found in what people sometimes call ‘The Apocrypha’ or the ‘Deuterocanonical’ books: The Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach. We don’t have these books within the pages of the Bibles we use, but they are important books, and they are significantly quoted in the New Testament.

You know, there is a Wisdom Book in the New Testament too. James is a book of wisdom. The wisdom of James teaches us the character of God. But we need to listen closely to hear Wisdom’s words.

It’s not so easy to hear the voice of Wisdom. Many different and conflicting voices clamour for our attention every day of the week.

Advertisers tell us what to buy so that we can be successful. So we wonder why we’re not the centre of attention now we use the right deodorant.

Celebrities remind us that our lives are achingly dull compared to theirs, so we buy magazine after glossy magazine to feel that we’re sharing their happiness too.

Airbrushed photos of skinny models imply that any woman can be like them, and eating disorders are on the rise—including among young men.

Politicians tell us that the other side is rubbish, and they alone have the answers we need. So we vote for them, and are once more disillusioned by the political process.

But there’s another voice too, the voice of Wisdom. Continue reading

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