Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.”
“they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.”
"they had argued with one another who was the greatest."
Now what does that remind me of? Ah yes the debate the other night.
Who is looking forward to Election day tomorrow? You know, I secretly like watching election day. It must be the excitement of the thrill of nervous dread.
Most of you who know me, know that I am a big sports fan. And I really like it when people who don’t like sports ask me about it. My favourite question I have been asked, is “why do you care so much about something that you have no control over”
Good question, you can ask me that later if you like.
I also heard someone this week make the comparison that watching election day coverage as the votes come in around the country is like watching the ‘out of town scoreboard’. This is when we watch all the other results from around the league come in. And the only enjoyment you can get is in hoping that other teams lose.
Of course, one thing is very important here, and one is just a game. I do realize that. Besides, my enthusiasm for watching election night should definitely be challenged. I feel like I have had some bad out of town scoreboard watching in recent years. Watching the Brexit referendum until 4am, or spending my wife's birthday in 2016, watching in disbelief as someone who we have thankfully not talked about for a while got elected.
I know that here in BC there have been elections that have been decided before our votes are even counted. One of the great paradoxes that we live in, is that we absolutely have the power to change the world, and yet our voice can seemingly feel so inconsequential.
As a permanent resident, I don’t get to vote in this election. And don’t worry I am not going to tell you who to vote for.
I am just going to echo what I read journalist Frances Bula say:
“Repeating the most useful ‘how to vote in an election’ advice I’ve ever seen.” (she says) “Voting is not about finding your love match. It’s like transit, finding the bus that takes you closest to where you want to go. So many people I hear want to be in love”
Good advice eh?
Right. Moving on.
I can hear you all breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Ok. So now, I want you all to close your eyes. Clear your mind.
And I want you to notice the first thing that comes into your head why I say the word:
When I say the word ‘wisdom’ what do you see?
What do you hear?
Is it the old magician with a long grey beard?
Is it the sage on the mountain top?
Is it an elder who gave you a piece of advice?
Our reading from James has a description of Wisdom, and I’m going to add another.
We have a book in the extended canon of scripture called Sirach, which is often referred to as the Book of Wisdom.
And this is what it says about Wisdom. It says:
“Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.”
If you did not know this. The people of Ancient Israel, like King Solomon here, used female language to describe the Wisdom of God. A common interpretation that we typically use here, is to gender the Holy Spirit a female as a reflection of this.
And this really is helpful language. Because when we speak of the Holy Spirit at work in the world; as an expression of God’s creativity, God’s compassion and God’s grace. We look at wisdom in the way that we see the good that takes place through each other.
We generally think that when we call someone, ‘wise’, we are describing a person that makes good decisions or teaches us their ability to ‘get things right’ or achieve the ‘best possible outcome’. But the reason that this is so abstract is because we so often disagree about what is the best possible outcome.
When I think about wisdom in stories, those images that I named earlier. It is not that the wise achieve greatness, but that those stories connect through someone. See, we only name Wisdom as being Wisdom when we recognize her for ourselves. That means that Wisdom is not abstract, she is experience.
We experience Wisdom, through our interactions with others, and that is how we determine the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
Let’s go back to Mark’s Gospel reading.
"They came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. Jesus sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
Whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.
If we connect the theme of wisdom to this passage, it is clear that Jesus is describing the argument about who is the greatest, as foolishness compared to what it means to be servant-like or child-like. The servant and the child are the people with the least power in this setting.
When Jesus is responding to the argument about who is the greatest, he calls them to pay attention to the powerless in the room. By his birth, life and death, Jesus demonstrated the life of a servant. He did this so that we might learn that wisdom is found amongst, and to use Jesus’ words: ‘the least of these’.
Which means that we need to listen to and raise up the voices of those with the least power in the room. That is what the compassion and humbless of Holy Wisdom is beckoning us towards. She wants us to lean in and hear the voices of the least of the least of these.
That means looking for wisdom in places that might not be the first that come to mind. That is what good pedagogy teaches us, that the teacher learns from the student as the student learns from the teacher. (I know that we might have 1 or 2 teachers here this morning, who can back me up on this).
Next Sunday Godly play begins again at Christ Church Cathedral. And once again we will be making space in this place to learn through the Wisdom of children.
As well, in the coming weeks we will be preparing youth and adults for confirmation in the Church. The experience of wisdom takes place when we share lessons with the younger generation, and we have the sense of wonder and curiosity that allows us to be challenged and taught by them.
I’m going to end with a story that I remember from when I was younger.
I was studying politics in high school as a teenager, too young myself to vote.
And when I was talking to my dad about politics, (which I could tell at the time he had much less interest in than me).
He listened to me talk about the issues that I cared about and he asked me who I would vote for if I could.
I told him who I would vote for, and he went to the ballot box and cast his vote for me.
And I knew that this was a choice that he wouldn’t have himself made.
I don’t know how much thought my dad put into this.
But I remember so clearly the experience of having my voice heard.
I felt like I had done something by listening to what I thought would make the world a better place, and I was allowed to act upon it.
Wisdom can be found in unexpected places.
Listening to the person with the least power in the room doesn't always happen in the way that we might expect.
Sometimes, we have to look a little harder,
Listen a little deeper
Allow ourselves to be surprised
Allow ourselves to be changed
By even the least of these.
And maybe we might see Wisdom herself as we encounter God.