Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Gift of Wisdom, by Rev Steven R Mitchell, based on 1Kings 3:5-14

The Gift of Wisdom

By Rev Steven R Mitchell

Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 8/16/2015

Based on I King 3:5-14

        How many of you can remember asking your parents’ permission to go do something with your friends only to be told “no?”  In the course of giving logical rebuttals to the objections that your parents are giving, you in one final ditch effort say, “Well all the other parents are letting their kids go!”   I don’t know how it went in your house, but the minute I used that argument, my parents would give their final closing arguments, “I don’t care what the other parents are letting their kids do, you are not going!”  Followed by, “I suppose if your friends were all jumping off a 100 foot cliff, you would follow them and jump off too.  Packed in that one sentence was the whole topic of ‘reasoning’, of ‘thinking through before you act’, of ‘weighing the consequences of your actions.’   In that one sentence laid the difference between the use of knowledge and common sense.

        In my first parish, one of the members of the congregation shared a hard lesson in her life.  She says that for years she use to pray for patience, then one day she received the answer to her prayer, when her husband was involved in an motorcycle accident.  Her husband had received severe head trauma, and through rehab had to re-learn every aspect of life; how to talk, walk, eat, process information, how to deal with his emotions, so on and so forth.  She said, “Pastor, I have learned to be careful for what I pray for, because I just might get it.”

This morning’s text speaks about the young man who became king and yet felt that he wasn’t prepared for the job. He might very well have not been raised to know how to act and speak like a king, as he had an older brother who by tradition should have been the next king. Yet the young man’s father, King David, on his death bed appointed not the elder son, but the younger son to take his place as ruling Monarch.  Now, putting all sorts of family drama aside, this tells me that David saw something in Solomon that he felt would make him the better ruler.

Yet Solomon states that he doesn’t know how to come or go as a King, so in a dream, Solomon has a visit with God. God asks Solomon what he would most like to have as a gift from God. Solomon replies that what he most needs as king is “Wisdom” so that he might serve the people to the best of his ability.

Why wisdom? Why not riches, or prestige, or revenge toward his enemies?  Possibly because as king, most of these things he now possessed.  What seems to be missing is that self-confidence that one needs when in a leadership position.  The definition of Wisdom is: The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight; Common sense; good judgment. Most translations use the word “mind” in connection to “wisdom”, but I think the word “heart” better describes the essence of “wisdom.” Our minds can think critically, but wisdom goes deeper than just critical thinking. It also involves “feeling” and “intuitiveness”, and these specific attributes we tend to apply to the heart.

Rev Thomas Blair, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, Maryland says: the marks of true wisdom have to do with the acknowledgment of our need, our want, and our emptiness.  This is not an exercise in selfishness, seeking a quick fix for a newly found need, but an open, honest, and long-term quest to be other serving and not self serving.  It all goes back to our “”alignment” with God – that is how our souls are aligned with what God wants and intends for us.

Rev Blair continues by saying: People bring their own orienting systems into each new situation they encounter, especially those that demand creative responses.  An orienting system is made of our habits, beliefs, relationships, and previous experiences; some are positive resources, while others can be burdens.  We access them in different ways.  They are like deposits in a bank waiting to be withdrawn.  When key events arise in our lives both the resources and burdens of our orienting systems may be called into action.

Orienting ourselves according to our burdens makes responding to situations more difficult.  Orienting ourselves according to our resources helps us take on situations creatively and positively.  Of course, in order to bring out our best resources, we need to know both what they are and how to appropriate them for use in any given situation. Feasting on the Word, YR A, Vol 3 pg 268 When a healthy person goes into a deep depression because of some overwhelming event in their life, this can be an example of a person’s resources (their own wisdom resource, so to speak) being over shadowed by their burden. 

Have you ever come across a person who seems to be “limp”?  Where there seems to be no life or fire in their eyes?  I find when I take the time to ask a lot of questions about their earlier journeys in life, there is usually some experience that ignites a “spark”.  That is the wisdom resource of that person’s life.  In the movie “Tales of the City”, Mrs Madrigal meets Edgar Housien who was extremely depressed over the news of his incurable cancer.  Mrs Madrigal gets Mr Housien talking about his early army days.  You can see as Mr Housien is telling his story how his whole physical persona changes from flat to vibrant.  Then Housien asks Mrs Madrigal, “Why did you let me go on like that?”  She responses with, “You don’t seem very happy with who you are now, and you needed to remember who you were then.”   It is important for us to constantly stay in touch with our wisdom resource, those bank deposits of earlier years.

We are at the start of another year of negativity as candidates for the Office of President of the United States start their campaigning.  In each speech that these men and women give, they will be presenting all sorts of idea’s and solutions to the nations troubles.  There will be a lot of facts and figures thrown out as testimony to the knowledge that each of these candidates possess.  But knowledge does not equal wisdom.  This is what Solomon understood as he embarked on a 40 year reign as King.  To Solomon, he needed something more than just knowledge; he needed wisdom, the ability to discern the truth, so that he could bring justice to his kingdom. 

What is it that you ask God for in your daily life?  Is it more money, so you can meet the bills that lay on your desk?  Is it for patience, so you will not fly off the handle so quickly, or be so quick to judge?  Do you ask God for a special person in whom you can share your life with?  Maybe you ask God just to be able to get through this day.  Had Solomon asked for any other gift other than wisdom, that gift would have been a self-serving request, but with the gift of wisdom Solomon was asking to be other - serving.  

 Most of us have more knowledge than what we need, but how do we gain that “wisdom” that Solomon was asking for?  I think the key is in the last sentence of this morning’s text.  If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments …, I will lengthen your life.  The key to wisdom is that intimate relationship with God.  If you sense yourself walking around, limp, glassy-eyed, over burdened, then maybe it’s time to go back and remember a time that awakens your mind, body, and spirit to the life it once knew; of what your wisdom resources are.  Maybe it’s time to go back and remember a time when your relationship with God was exciting.  This particular story of Solomon, teaches us that God is desirous for us to possess wisdom, to be in alignment with God.  All we need to do is ask for it.   Amen