August 14, 2015

The Welcome Insult of Wisdom

Bread and Wine by He Qi
Wisdom has built her house, 
     she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
      she has also set her table.

She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls 
     from the highest places in the town,
“You that are simple, turn in here!” 
     To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
      and drink of the wine I have mixed.

Lay aside immaturity, and live,
      and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:1-6)



Hey, stupid, come here!

How's that for a greeting? Nothing like getting someone's attention like insulting them. But, in Proverbs, when Wisdom speaks, she tells you like it is: Come, simple people, come get wisdom. Come immature children, come and grow up into maturity.

Wisdom and maturity are great themes. But once you realize that the calling is first to your lack of wisdom, and your lack of maturity, then it comes first as an insult, a bruise to the ego, a recognition that you are not as far along as you thought.

A lot of religious and spiritual talk seems to promote our own need to prove what we already know, or show off what we already have, or hold on to what we have already experienced. Wisdom, that great feminine expression of God in Scripture, says compared to what there is yet to know and have and experience, you are in infant, a simpleton, an immature child.

And that is the grace of it. Yeah, I know, it sounds like an insult. But it is an invitation to eat and drink up more. Only, if you don't know you're hungry for the food being offered, you'll eat at the same old greasy spoon, settle for the familiar, and claim your own accomplishments and status and knowledge attained already. And you'll never learn, grow, or mature beyond where you are right now.

Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.

There's some other food and drink, some nourishment and sustenance we need in this life. If we're going to get it, the first step is humility, admitting we don't have it, and naming and feeling the hunger we have for it.

I'm watching a lot of political news lately, most of which has been about Donald Trump. He recently spoke about his faith, and how he has never asked for forgiveness. He seems to be the kind of guy who always has to promote what he already has, how much he has accomplished, how great he already is compared to everyone else. He has no humility to say he needs something else in his journey of spiritual growth and maturity, which is probably why he seems not to attain it.

I'm thinking continually about our racial problems in America. It seems the first step for white Americans is to say we don't get it, we have some growth to do, we need to listen to experiences other than our own, we are hungry for what we do not yet have in relationship with African Americans and other persons of color. Without naming the deficiencies and feeling the hunger, not much healing, growth, or maturity can come.

Jesus comes on the scene in John's Gospel as the incarnate Word of God, the Logos in Greek. Many biblical scholars think that John was implying that Jesus was Wisdom from the Old Testament, but John couldn't find the right words to say it in Greek for various reasons, not the least of which was using feminine words to describe Jesus. Seems to have a been a non starter back then.

Jesus comes to his people in John's Gospel and brings both the recognition that people do not fully see God, do not yet eat the bread and wine of his self-giving love. So people respond by either feeling insulted and rejecting him, or saying: Give us this bread always. Then, he gives the bread and the wine of his very life for the whole world, so we might all be fed by the endless love of the divine.

Hey stupid, Wisdom is calling. Hey, immature child, God is calling you to grow up. Hey hungry one, Jesus is offering to fill us up with the very life of God. Instead of being insulted and getting defensive, hear the gracous invitation from God: There is bread and wine we have not yet tasted, and it is being offered freely. And the first step is to admit we need it. And the second is to enjoy it.

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