Revd Joachim Foot's Sermon Second Sunday before Advent,15th November 2020

 

Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.

 

 The reading from the Book of Wisdom which we have just heard this morning comes from the Apocrypha, which the 39 articles tells us are  ‘for example of life and instruction of manner’ but aren’t to be used for Doctrine. So we are safe to use it, as long as we do so cafefully! Wisdom is a very old theme that runs through the Old Testament. So old that the book of Proverbs says that the first act of creation was the creation of wisdom:

 

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

 

The Bible often praises Wisdom with some very great epithets. Wisdom is something to be sought above other worldly concerns. King Solomon, for example was praised for being a great king because of his immense Wisdom. The praise of wisdom is not limited to the Old Testament either, as we heard Jesus praising wisdom in our Gospel reading this morning, and even, in St Paul’s letter ‘we do not want you to be uniformed brothers and sisters’.

 

Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. I have known some extremely intelligent people who have also managed, somehow or other, to be exceptionally daft. Wisdom is not about seeking knowledge per se, it is more about good discernment. What we have seen throughout the pandemic is a complete lack of wisdom as societies across the world have simply reacted in fear to the unknown. I do not blame governments entirely for this, God bless them all, their jobs are impossibly difficult, and I feel immense sympathy for them. But fear itself, when it is misplaced, shows a sincere lack of wisdom.

 

In the book of Job we find the question

But where shall wisdom be found?
    And where is the place of understanding?

 

Our reading from the Book of Wisdom this morning offers us this The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her. You cannot be wise, after all, if you aren’t ready or willing to learn. As I mentioned earlier, the apocrypha is listed in the 39 articles as being for ‘instruction’, and, rather neatly, that is what it is telling us to do. In the Book of proverbs chapter 9 verse 10 we get something a little stronger ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Our fear should be reserved for God alone, and not for a pandemic or anything else really. I am a real believer in the importance of reminding ourselves that God is to be feared. I don’t mean a cowering under the bed sort of fear. What I mean is more akin to the fear described by Thomas Hardy in a novel he wrote called Two in a Tower, anybody read it? I love Hardy, his novels managed to be both wonderfully brilliant, but at the same time the most wonderful drivel. One of the characters in the novel is an astronomer, who describes what it is to look out at the universe. He describes gazing into the heavens, not as inducing wonder, but complete fear. Fear because in looking to the beyond, he realises how immensely small and insignificant he is in the face of the sheer enormity of the universe. That is the fear we should have in the face of God, realising how utterly pathetic and wretched we really are, we can’t even follow the most simple instruction to love one another for goodness sake. And yet, God, in all his wisdom, sent his son to die for us, and redeem us from our sins, because we were too pathetic to manage on our own.

We should strive to seek out wisdom, by placing our fear properly in God and not in a pandemic or elsewhere, and we should strive to seek instruction in wisdom from the Lord alone, through his Holy word and his most Holy Sacrament.

In the name of ...............................

                                                      


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