Reflection on Proverbs 1:20–33, Psalm 19, and Wisdom of Solomon 7:26–8:1
Listen to Wisdom, and we will
dwell in trust,
be at ease,
(have) no dread of distress.
The call of Wisdom is, here, a call on a woman’s voice.
In Proverbs, wisdom is not only insight, understanding, a rule or way of life. Wisdom is a woman. Wisdom is with God. From the beginning. Part of the Divine act of creation. The voice of Holy One calling the people to God’s way of life – a way for life!
That Wisdom – woman – calls in the streets and at the gates, is to put a woman’s voice in the arenas of men. It is provocative. It paints a picture of the internal diversity of the wholeness of God. And it demands the attention of its audience.
The call of Wisdom is, here, not a voice of condemnation; but like prophetic voices, names the natural consequences of foolish ways for those who turn from Wisdom. This naming seeks to warn the hearers, and invite them to turn back to the way of Wisdom, of God, of – for – life. True, full, whole, life as God dreams for us.
Heed Wisdom – live well.
Ignore Wisdom, live with the consequences, live in your own folly.
To heed Wisdom is to pay attention for her voice, however it may speak, especially for Wisdom speaking through unexpected means, through the humans we with more power all too readily dismiss.
After the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 sociologist Diana Butler Bass noted that when Europeans decided to settle in the area now known as New Orleans, First Nations voices spoke of hurricanes and the folly of building a city in their well-worn path.
Wisdom was ignored. And hundreds of thousands of people lived with that folly, with the deaths, illness, financial burden, displacement – the consequences of that folly.
The call of Wisdom here, is however, not a naming of events such as Hurricane Katrina as punishment from God. Not at all.
The call here is to heed Wisdom, to learn from past errors, to turn back to the way of Wisdom so as to, from now on, live well. Wisdom says, heed Wisdom, live well. Ignore Wisdom to your own ( and others’ ) cost.
with Proverbs 1:20–33
On the main street at noon,
when the pavement is crowded,
vendors hustling, consumers
bustling, dealers wheeling,
printers reeling – one voice
rises above it all, one
woman strides her own path through.
Wisdom is here again,
calling to all who will listen:
‘How long? How long, my guileless
children, will you choose to remain
in the dark? How long
remain naive, how long will you keep
your ignorance? Listen to me!
I would give you all I have –
if you would listen, turn, follow.
‘I laugh at your stumbling, for I
would have helped you to stand.
I mock at your drowning, for I
would have calmed the storm.
‘Listen, my children, please
listen to me: you can live
at ease, find peace,
if you would only listen
when Wisdom calls to you.’
Heed her call
But enough of the ignorance.
Let us turn to the positive act of heeding Wisdom. Of following her way so as to live well. And I want to consider in particular the last sentence we heard from Lady Wisdom today.
The one who listens to me will dwell in trust, and will be at ease, no dread of distress.
You may notice I have translated the Hebrew differently to the translation read aloud today.
The one who listens to me will dwell in trust, and will be at ease, no dread of distress.
As Wisdom does not say Hurricane Katrina was sent as punishment for human action, so also Wisdom does not say Hurricane Katrina would not have happened if New Orleans was built outside of a hurricane corridor.
Following the way of Wisdom does not remove catastrophic events. It changes where we stand in relation to disaster.
What following the way of Wisdom does give us is security and ease, trust and confidence, habits and practices that equip us for healthy responses in times of challenge and crisis; equip us to make life-affirming choices under stress; equip us to live into our wholehearted fullness of life.
the one who listens to me
Do you hear the heavens sing,
the sky, the clouds, the air?
Do you hear the sunlight,
day’s bright proclamation?
Do you hear the nighttime’s whisper,
its stars, the moon, the dark?
They speak without speaking,
voicelessly voice their praise;
listen, you will hear them
declare their knowledge of the Holy.
All creation teaches all
that Wisdom herself has taught them,
reviving and rejoicing, enlightening
eyes and eyeless sight.
This teaching is more desired
than dripping honey gold,
its joy abounds unbound by time
So may our declaration,
like the heavens, sound so sweet;
may my foundation be your Wisdom,
Holy One, Holy Three.
Do you recall from James’s letter the practice of ‘quick listening’ that we heard a couple of weeks ago? To listen to the Word, or Wisdom, with a readiness to enact the Word, Wisdom?
Let me hold a mirror up to us, a community who listens:
Each week we gather together to practice listening, ‘quick listening’, shaping ourselves as those who listen to Wisdom.
We hear the Word read aloud in our midst, we hear a reflection on that Word, and we pray and sing with the Sacred Story and our living of it day to day. quick listening.
Quickness to listen is hearing the declaration of all creation and joining in the song of praise to our Creator.
Quickness to listen means we hear the Word and its calling out of our turning away – and our enactment is to pray our confession.
We hear the affirmation of forgiveness, and we enact it in our turning back to the way of God.
Our prayers for others are not merely words, they are our embodied commitment to enact God’s peace and healing through our relationships every day.
I wonder what other practices of listening carry us through each day, shape our instincts for healthy responses in the midst of the covid-compounded challenges we currently face?
studies and discussions.
praying together and alone with God.
Creativity and presence in creation.
Podcasts, books, music, poetry …
As we listen, in all the ways we listen, we deepen our dwelling in trust.
those who listen to Wisdom: you will dwell in trust
I’d like to share with you a picture of this Wisdom, in whom we trust, from the alternate lectionary reading in Wisdom of Solomon for today
Wisdom of Solomon 7:26–8:1
She is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of Their goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for light is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.
She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.
God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with this Wisdom.
This is who we trust – our God who delights in our choosing the path to our wholeness and wellbeing.
Oh, yes, well may we rest at ease, with trust Holy One who seeks our best interest.
Those who listen to Wisdom: you will be at ease, no dread of distress
As I have mentioned already, ‘no dread of distress’ doesn’t mean we need expect no distress or challenges to come our way.
But we need not dread it, because the way of Wisdom shapes our habits and practices so that our instincts in times of distress will lead us into life, not folly
During the past few years I have gradually and intentionally built habits and practices as I listen to wisdom. The wisdom of my body, and my own experience; the wisdom of the experience of others; the wisdom of health practitioners.
So I have established a rhythm of work and rest through the week, to sustain energy. I have observed what foods heighten muscle inflammation and aches, and removed or reduced them in my daily intake. I felt my body yearning to be held in warmth and water, and so my regular water-therapy sessions of swim and spa.
When I follow these practices, enact this wisdom, I now respond to the inevitable stresses of life without experiencing a ‘fatigue crash’ – or not so often or devastatingly as I have in the past.
Living Wisdom’s way is enacting wisdom every day, building habits and practices, honing our instinct for life in response to what challenges will come.
To close, we return to Psalm 19 – an expression of commitment to daily practice Wisdom’s Way.
As in the heavens
with Psalm 19
We come to worship,
to sing with the heavens,
ceaselessly singing your praise;
may our voices be heard
through all the earth,
singing praises to Holy One.
We come, grateful as the sun
for the tent in which we dwell,
shining with your splendour all day.
We come, grateful for Wisdom’s Way,
a trustworthy path leading to life,
and we sing, joyful, shine your light.
We come, into the Presence
of Perfect Love, to enter grace,
and sing, our innocence restored.
We come, and may the words of our mouths,
our hearts’ meditations, be pleasing
to You as we sing, our blessed, Holy One.