August 19, 2018

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost Year B

Today we are standing on the precipice of two paths, one that leads to life and the other to death. Two voices invite us, but only one has the true way, the other leads to disappointment and ruin. Their voices sound familiar and yet how do we distinguish the good from the bad, the true from the false, the way of wisdom from the way of foolishness? Wisdom and Folly call to us to join their feast and eat in their houses, but the food they offer could not be more different.

Wisdom stood alongside God at creation and worked with God to fashion the universe. Wisdom assisted God in framing the world and hanging the cosmic dry-wall. Wisdom is the heart-beat of God’s creative genius. Lady Wisdom teaches us about God and God’s ways, she instructs us on our place in the universe, a place of honor with a generous portion of humility. Wisdom opens our minds to understanding but without removing the veil of mystery at the heart of the universe.

Folly calls us to the way that is easy, convincing us that ease is better than hard work. Folly wants us to join her in giving up on the path that leads to righteousness and simply surrender to that which can never satisfy. She offers pleasure without price, fooling us into following her into ruin. She looks like a worthy alternative to wisdom, but inside her walls is death and decay.

Wisdom constructs her house on seven pillars, God’s number of a completed creation, God’s blueprint of six days of work followed by a seventh day of rest. Those seven pillars correspond to Wisdom’s teaching in the previous eight chapters of Proverbs, all framed by the maxim that the fear or awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So to complete your house of wisdom you must read and study Wisdom’s teaching, because Wisdom will show you true knowledge.

Today, we follow in the pattern of the early church where this section of Proverbs would always be read alongside our Gospel reading in the context of a Eucharistic meal. Jesus issues a comparable invitation inviting his followers to partake of the living bread, himself offered so that they might live to the fullest, and have eternal life. Theologians of the Patristic period 400 years after Christ, interpreted this personified Wisdom, who builds a house for herself in order to invite the simple to become wise, as a metaphor for the Incarnation, for the Holy Spirit to build a body within Mary for the birth of Jesus.

The invitation God offers to each of us in this passage from Proverbs also reminds us of the many ways Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being like a banquet and inviting those from all walks of life to come to the feast, the worthy and the unworthy. What is most important to remember is that through the voice of Lady Wisdom, God is inviting us to respond to the invitation to follow God’s way of wisdom that leads to life abundantly. A life of fulfillment and blessing, a life that involves sacrifice and hard work, but a life that is worth pursuing for its own sake, because it offers us a purpose beyond ourselves.

It is also important to realize that this life Wisdom offers is not one of faithful drudgery or morbid asceticism, but one filled with great satisfaction, deep meaningfulness, and enthralling love. It is after all a feast, but not just for us alone, but for everyone who will follow in Wisdom’s way, which is the way of Jesus. God intends an abundant life for us. The wine and food at Wisdom’s banquet are for all of us to enjoy, just like Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where the people thought the host had saved the best wine for last after Jesus’ turned the water into wine.

The way of Jesus is the way of love and the Christian life is to be lived joyfully and with passion. As followers of Jesus, God is throwing us a party and we are invited to enter in with our whole hearts. 

As we embark on a new school year of seeking knowledge and wisdom, it is a good time to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves the question, are we pursuing a life of wisdom, are we seeking to grow in the knowledge and love of God, and if so how?

Today is Rally Day at Grace Church and it is a day of celebration and of taking stock of the opportunities for growth and service we might be invited by the Spirit to engage in. Where do you hear Lady Wisdom, The Holy Spirit calling you?

“Come, eat my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of understanding.”

Amen.