04 Aug God’s Wisdom and Shutting Up – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12 – July 30, 2023
Preacher: REVD Ian Gallagher
Sermon 2023.07.30 · NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Given by the REVD Ian Gallagher at the Church of Christ the King Frankfurt
1 Kings 3.1–12 · Psalm 119.129–136 · Romans 8:26–39 · Matthew 13:31-33,44–52
There is this thing called X. Yup, simply X.
Not X-Factor, not the X Box.
Have you heard of it? Me neither.
Evidently, Twitter is now X.
Gone is not just the name, but also the logo, that depicting a plump sky-blue bird in flight and in song.
Not most folk know that this didn’t come out of nowhere, but has a rich history going back centuries in the Christian faith.
In iconography, the great learned minds in Christendom, often at their writing tables shown with a bird perched on their shoulders, tweeting to them great insights that will then be poured out in bold lines of uncial calligraphy.*
The bird in that case? It’s a representation of God the Holy Spirit, the purveyor and conveyor of godly wisdom.
This brings a new meaning to the phrase, ‘A little bird told me….’
I really don’t know which I prefer to visually represent the Holy Spirit, though, the newly retired blue robin, or the traditional rendering of a pale pigeon.
But the coming of godly wisdom isn’t just for New Testament types. Our first reading goes back to Solomon and chapter three of the first book of Kings:
…[T]he Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”
(Put another way: ‘What do you want for Christmas, kid?’)
And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.’
Great preface to a prayer of petition. It is a great bit of gratitude to God for many blessings. A cynic might think God was trying to butter up the Almighty before he asks for a pony or something.
It’s wisdom. You think it’s a big ask, but it’s not. Sure, he is asking for a big thing, something only God can provide, but the asking itself isn’t big at all. In fact it’s welcome, because Yahweh is so very relieved that Solomon asked for what he did, and not for a what most mortals would request if granted such a wish, like fame
SOPHIA. The godly personification of Wisdom. Something we should all be praying for.
What will it mean for us to truly be open to God’s wisdom, to those ‘sighs too deep for words’? For many, many people, whether they are Christian or not, the easiest explanation is the power of music to capture, express and convey things on a much
more visceral level than mere words.
Music, no matter how heavenly, how inspired, is still conveyed and transmitted through humans—composers, songsmiths, performers, and more relatively recently, record producers and (I dare say it) DJs.
And yes, there is wisdom and insight that has human conduits— out of the mouths of babes.
But speaking of such, we have these opening lines to our psalm, which I will paraphrase:
Your instructions are wonderful; For that reason I obey them with all my heart. When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple-minded.
This, friends, is instead wisdom directly from God.
I would argue that we won’t be receptive to the Spirit’s insights if we are unable or unwilling to shut up.
Shutting up physically is actually rather easy. A generous piece of gaffer or duct tape would prove rather effective.
But no friends, I’m not advocating that. The question is this, though: How in the world do we shut up spiritually?
Don’t misunderstand me, here. I do not mean spiritually closing ourselves off. What I mean instead is making it possible for us to be receptive. To our being, and yes becoming, a receiver. A receiver to what God is transmitting.
Let’s admit it freely, folks. We are in church, and so it’s the right place for it. How many of us would own up to admitting that our souls are not quiet—that they are otherwise distracted, restless, agitated perhaps. Disturbed, I mean in the way the surface of a lake can be disturbed…but no, not in a disturbing way!
I would call upon each of you ask yourselves how you pray. How much do you allow yourself to be still for the presence of the Lord?
These are again, the opening words from the reading from Romans:
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
It will be my prayer that you will be receptive.
That wisdom is that pearl of great price, that treasure hidden in a field. And yes, the wisdom is something that grows, that spreads, whose impact and import is far reaching, like that mustard seeds, taking root and putting forth branches. Wisdom is so very much about the Kingdom of God, because it’s not a kingdom built on human stupidity and vanity and folly.
Even Solomon, just like his father David before him, may have been great kings, but by no means were they wholly blameless throughout their lives before God. Not by any stretch.
But even in our abject sinfulness we can quieten our hearts to listen for the still small voice. Those sighs too deep for words.
Yearning for the words, the instructions, of God that delights the heart, that sends light into the world.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the embodied Light, the Word who walked among us.
Until Jesus returns, let us strive for a kingdom ruled by godly wisdom, and may we allow ourselves to be receptive, allow ourselves to receive that wisdom directly, unfiltered, uncensored.
We can then let go of the thought of something tweet-tweet-tweeting to us, whether that’s some plump feathered friend (or now the letter X) and let the Spirit speak her wisdom in us. But for that, we need to shut up, for God’s loving sake.
Let’s keep some silence together.
* The painting illustrated above is of St Thomas Aquinas, bird poised on his shoulder, though with a book of his collected insights (doubtless hand calligraphed) and bound in a book.