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Preacher: The Reverend Canon Michael Smith (Pastor)
Title of sermon:
Date/time/service: Sunday 2nd August 2020 Trinity 8 Evening Prayer
Passage of scripture: 1 Kings 10.1-13 & Acts 13.1-13
With all due respect, the Queen of Sheba seems to have a very peculiar idea about what constitutes wisdom. First of all, she came from Sheba to visit the notoriously wise King Sololmon, ‘to test him with hard questions’. And then the passage goes on to say, ‘When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt-offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.’ Is wisdom really all about being able to answer hard questions and being really, really rich? Well, I suppose that might have been the understanding of what wisdom is in the Old Testament but I hope we have now moved on a little.
Solomon is famous for making a wise judgement when two women were brought to him who both claimed to be the mother of the same baby. Solomon’s judgement was that the baby should be cut in half so that each woman could have part of the baby. The one who was lying agreed and the one who was the real mother gave up her claim to be the mother to protect the baby. In this way Solomon worked out who the real mother was. This story reveals the wise way Solomon used his understanding of human nature.
So if wisdom is not about hard questions and wealth, what is it about? A dictionary definition is, ‘the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.’
Within a few clicks on Google I came across a ten step plan to help anyone acquire wisdom, it wasn’t bad, it started with ‘Try new things’, then ‘Step out of your comfort zone’, ‘talk to people you don’t know very well’ and ‘Be open minded’.
If these are the steps to wisdom then I think Jesus is the example of a wise person we should emulate. He was constantly doing new and unexpected things, walking on water, talking to outcasts, making a Samaritan, member of a hated race, the hero of a story … the list is endless. It seems that for about 30 years of his life he lived within his comfort zone, presumably in Nazareth working as a carpenter, but then he marched right out of his comfort zone into dangerous places where he regularly spoke to people he didn’t know, in fact he made a point of speaking with the very people everyone else was trying to avoid talking to! And, of course, he was open minded. When he saw a tax collector, or a prostitute or a leper, he never did the lazy thing of characterising and judging them by their outward appearance. He spoke to them politely and respectfully and as a result, many of them found that their lives, once stuck in behaving the way everyone expected them to behave, were transformed by their encounter with Jesus.
Wisdom seems to be in short supply today and the problem, it seems to me, is that gaining wisdom is challenging and quite hard work and most people seem to be lazy. Most people seem to be content to steer well clear of trying new things, never straying far from their comfort zones, ensuring that their friends in real life, and in their online life, are people like themselves, people who broadly share their views, and allow their views and opinions to be shaped by a society that seems to close of debate and discussion.
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