Above: Christ Pantocrator
Heeding Wisdom’s Call
The Sunday Closest to September 14
Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
SEPTEMBER 13, 2015
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Proverbs 1:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):
Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city she speaks;
How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called you and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
They will not call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my counsel,
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
and be sated with their devices.
For waywardness kills the simple,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.
Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults?
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.
Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1 (Revised English Bible):
She [Wisdom] is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness. She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation. Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail. She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Isaiah 50:4-9a (New Revised Standard Version):
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens–
wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
Psalm 116:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
2 The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me;
O came to grief and sorrow.
3 Then I called upon the Name of the LORD;
“O LORD, I pray you, save my life.”
4 Gracious is the LORD and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
5 The LORD watches over the innocent;
I was brought very low, and he helped me.
6 Turn again to your rest, O my soul,
for the LORD has treated you well.
7 For you have rescued my life from death,
my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.
8 I will walk in the presence of the LORD
in the land of the living.
James 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):
My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement. All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body. When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal. Or think of a ship: large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses. So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.
What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark! And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world. It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue. It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom. We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and curses. This should not be so, my friends. Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet? My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs? No more can salt water produce fresh?
Mark 8:27-38 (Revised English Bible):
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,
Who do people say that I am?
Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.
And you, who do you say that I am?
You are the Messiah.
Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards. He spoke about it plainly. At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him. But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.
Out of my sight, Satan!
You think as men think, not as God thinks.
Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,
Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it. What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life? What can he give to buy his life back? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 19, Year A:
Proper 19, Year B:
Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle (January 18):
Wisdom of Solomon 7-8:
Matthew 16 (Parallel to Mark 8):
Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 8):
Thou Art the Way:
Be Thou My Vision:
The lessons from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon personify divine wisdom as a woman. The Greek word for wisdom gives us a female name, Sophia. As one who admires (yet does not understand) womankind, I find the idea of wisdom as feminine (while sheer might is masculine) sensible. These are metaphors, of course, so we ought to look through them to the truth behind them. God exists beyond our notions of sexuality and gender, but we do not.
Anyhow, the theology of Sophia did influence that of the Logos, which the Johannine Gospel identifies with Jesus. That is a summary of part of the history of Christian thought. Just making objectively lineage does not interest me, however. The implications of the Sophia-Logos connection do fascinate me, but I leave those for another day. The existence of that connection does provide me with a beginning point for theological rumination.
If people knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, they obeyed the words of divine wisdom, a figure which the Wisdom of Solomon describes as
a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
–7:26, New Revised Standard Version
Thus we read, for example, of the afflictions of the suffering servant in Isaiah 50, the dangers of the wrong uses of the tongue in James 3, and the impending suffering and execution of Jesus in Mark 8. If more people knew what is good for them and were to act accordingly, they would heed the words and example of Jesus, the Logos of God. If more historical figures, long since dead, had known what was good for them and acted accordingly, they would not have crucified Jesus or consented to his execution. There would have been less suffering. The suffering servant did not have to suffer, but the combination of his fidelity and the perfidy of others caused that suffering.
I like to study the lives of the saints, canonized and/or beatified or not. In my tradition, Anglicanism, history makes saints. And, as the keeper of my own Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I do not depend on even my own ecclesiastical authorities to define who is a saint worthy of recognition. So, as I research church history, I read about many people I have come to admire. A vast number of them are martyrs and many others have suffered greatly due to their Christian faith. Often the persecutors have belonged to other religions or have been Atheists, but sometimes professing Christians have oppressed and even killed each other. I wonder how I would have acted had I been in the places of the saints I admire. The honest answer in my conscience troubles me; I would most likely have used my tongue to curse, not bless. I have done done so in less trying situations.
I have much yet to learn from divine wisdom and the Logos. In this I am far from alone. So, setting aside all recrimination, especially self-condemnation, may we, aware that we are in the same boat, support each other in our journeys toward lives of increased wisdom.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 20, 2011