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Light and Warmth for the Journey


Passage: Proverbs 1:20-33

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stephen Graham

Sue and Mike, friends since grade school, recently joined us in Santa Fe for the celebration of our 50th Wedding Anniversary. I recalled many years ago when Sue was our pianist and stood beside me as the congregation affirmed her. the choir and full orchestra after a stirring presentation of The Messiah. The choir was a combined choir from three church choirs with over a hundred voices. Sue was still glowing when later she said to me, “I have always dreamed of playing with a full-orchestra. Tonight, my dream has come true.”

I found myself recalling the evenings and afternoons long ago when all of us kids would be playing somewhere out on the block. It never seemed to fail that when we were just beginning to have a really fun time, Sue’s mother would yell for her from the front door calling her by her first and middle name, “Mardonna Sue!” When a parent calls you by your first and middle name, you know it’s serious. Mrs. Richey’s cry was no different. We knew exactly what it meant! It was time for Sue to go home and practice the piano.

Sue’s journey to that presentation had been graced by light and warmth at so many points along the way. Her mother had the wisdom to interrupt her outdoor play and call out to her, reminding her of dreams yet to be fulfilled.

In the Proverbs, we learn that wisdom is gained from knowledge of God’s creation, our experience, and our observations. My Native American friends remind us that everywhere you look you are reminded of the creator God. It’s prudent to learn from your experiences. And if you put 2 and 2 together, you will observe you have four.

However, Wisdom is not only the product of one’s own knowledge, experience, and observation. In Proverbs, Wisdom is an active voice, a dynamic interaction, personified as a magnificent woman. The book ends by describing the valor and extolling the virtues of this Lady Wisdom. Our text portrays this woman positively, yet at the same time the book also caricatures women as temptresses who lead innocent men astray--though it’s been along time since any of us men were innocent. These texts arise from a society where women’s voices could only be a derivative of men. It is not surprising that women are portrayed stereotypically: either placed on a pedestal, on the one hand, or run down and debased on the other.[1]

Lady Wisdom offers a speech valuable for us to hear. She shares light and warmth for the journey, light and warmth for our pursuit of wisdom. When our powers of observation fail to enable us to learn from our natural surroundings and when we cannot learn from even our most painful experiences, Wisdom, the scriptures tell us, calls out to us. Like the prophets who cried out in the busy marketplace, Wisdom also speaks in the public arena of commerce, on the street corner, at the square or in the courthouse. Wisdom speaks.

No one is left out of Wisdom’s offerings, not the elite, or the simply common. To acquire wisdom all you must do is seek it. Or perhaps stated with more theological accuracy, all you must do is let it seek you. The search for Wisdom is aided by Wisdom itself. “Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center she makes her speech. In the middle of traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out!” (1:20-21).

We are given light and warmth for the journey somewhat like our granddaughter encouraging her mother when they were shopping for her first ballerina outfit. Three-year-old Madeline had already told her mother she wanted a purple outfit. However, because there were no purple outfits, Debbie, our daughter-in-law, was reaching for a pink one, but only to check the size she would need. As her hand went toward the pink outfit, Maddie reproved her mother’s effort by saying, “Purple, purple, purple.”

When our lives head in directions that would miss the mark, Wisdom expresses itself. The discerning person recognizes this and responds. Wisdom calls out to us, but we do not heed its call. So, Wisdom turns up the light, increases the warmth. Why should it surprise us that the fire that warms also burns? She cries in alarm, “Give heed to my reproof.” (Vv. 22-23a). Reprove means to encourage with love. “Listen, listen, and listen! I can revise your life. I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you. I’m ready to tell you all that I know” (vv. 23b-24).

We learn in Proverbs 8:22 that God made Wisdom even before God created anything else. Wisdom is first. It is basic. Not only are the tangible things created by God, but so too are wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom is God’s “daring and delight” (8:30). To treasure wisdom is to value God and God’s creation.

All things bright and beautiful,
All things great and small,
All things wise and wonderful.
Our God made them all.[2]

Let all things in creation and in your experience lead to God, the true source of all things bright and beautiful, great, small, wise, and wonderful. Everything was made by God, and God was in Christ reconciling all things!! (II Corinthians 5:19). Let Wisdom be light and warmth for your journey in living skillfully with God.

We attain Wisdom little by little. A foolish person looks at a huge hill and says, "I could never move that.” But a wise person looks at the same hill and says; “I could move one basket of dirt today and another basket of dirt tomorrow.”

“Revolution,” said Igor Stravinsky, “means turning the wheel.” So Jim Collins noticed this principle in companies that had evolved from good companies to great companies. His research team discovered that companies never become great in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no solitary innovation, no lone lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembled relentlessly pushing a giant heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.[3]

So, too, we can think that the ways of God are too difficult to know. We can conclude prematurely that we can never discern the will of God for our lives. But when Wisdom is assisting you on the journey you know that if you study and pray day by day, that with the help of Wisdom’s voice, you can reach what may now seem unreachable.

While the way of God is too lofty for some, others climb step by step to reach its heights and to embrace its depth. As Wisdom was God’s companion before creation began, let it guide you into and through each new day.

Together let us acknowledge the collective Wisdom of those who have come before us. Let us discern that which we fill is most wise. Let us ask for God’s guidance and light and warmth for our journey! Hear the word of the Lord, trust the Spirits leadership, and know that Wisdom is calling you to practice, act, and live, the grace it expresses! Let Wisdom fill your backpack.

[1] Old Testament Women

[2] Cecil Alexander, 1818-1895, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

[3] Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: Harper Business, 2001), p.14.