Sunday of the Reformation (NL1) John B. Valentine
1 Kings 3:4-9, 16-28 October 30, 2022
“THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON”
So let’s start off this morning by playing the “Thumbs Up” game.
That ... if I remember correctly ... is one of those teaching strategies that my beloved used to bring home from Del Rey School ... and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that ... if it can work for a bunch of second-graders ... it can work for you ... just saying ........
The way the “Thumbs Up” game works is this:
I’m going to ask you a question ... and when you’ve got your answer ... your own answer to that question ... I want you to give me a “thumbs up” ... and ... no ... it doesn’t mean that you’ll have to share your answer with the larger group ... because THAT would be a “Turn and Talk.”
Okay? Just give me a “Thumbs Up” when you’ve got your answer.
I want you to conjure up in your mind a mental picture of the smartest person you know.
Think about who it is that is the SMARTEST person you know ... and when you’ve settled on your answer ... give me a “Thumbs Up.”
And ... NO ... you don’t get extra credit points for conjuring up a mental picture of ME!
The SMARTEST PERSON YOU KNOW .......
Now I want you to conjure up in your mind a mental picture of the wisest person you know.
Think about who it is that is the WISEST person you know ... and when you’ve settled on your answer ... again ... give me a “Thumbs Up.”
Now ... survey time .... “Show of Hands” ....
• How many of you conjured up the same person as being both the “smartest” AND the “wisest” person that you know?
• How many of you found it easier to determine the “smartest” person than the “wisest” one?
• And how many of you found it easier to determine the “wisest” person than the “smartest” one?
Good! Now .... the puzzler.
SO WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING “SMART” AND BEING “WISE”?
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Actually ... I asked a handful of different people this week ... and I got some really insightful answers:
• One said that the difference between “smart” and “wise” had to do with “being logical” as opposed to “utilizing logic in conjunction with emotional and relational and spiritual stuff” in making decisions.
• Another waxed eloquently about being “people-smart” and “street-smart” as opposed to being “book-smart.”
• And another reminded me that the difference between smart and wise is that a smart person knows what to say ... whereas a wise person knows whether or not to say it.
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You see ... this morning’s Bible story invites us to consider the wisdom of Solomon ...
How it was that these two women came before the King and asked him to adjudicate between them ... as to which of the two women was actually the mother of a given child ...
And how Solomon asked for a sword so as to cut the child in half and share it equally between them ...
And the one pleaded ... “No, no, no ... let her have the child. Don’t kill him” ....
And the other said “Do as you will, your Highness” ...
To which Solomon responds ... “Give the first woman the living boy ... do not kill him ... for she is his mother.”
AND ALL ISRAEL HEARD OF THE JUDGMENT THAT THE KING HAD RENDERED; AND THEY STOOD IN AWE OF THE KING, BECAUSE THEY PERCEIVED THAT THE WISDOM OF GOD WAS IN HIM, TO EXECUTE JUSTICE.
But part of the point of that story ... it seems to me ... is not to just stand in awe of the wisdom of Solomon ...
But rather to consider ... as it were ... how we might appropriate something of the wisdom of Solomon in our own lives ....
HOW IT IS THAT ... WE TOO ... MIGHT BE NUMBERED AMONG THE WISE??
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So the question before us is ... to put it bluntly ... “Do you want to be wise?”
Because there’s a program ... a regimen ... a recipe for that ... you know.
Or ... “at least” ... I should say ... there’s some equipment we can use to strengthen our wisdom ... even as there are some equipment we might buy ... like one of those Peloton bikes ... that we might use to strengthen our bodies.
The first of them is ... no surprise here ... Holy Scripture.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” ... asserts the Bible on multiple occasions.
Not “fear” in the sense of “cowering” ... but “fear” in the sense of “awe”
You see ... having a fear of fire is a good thing for us to have ... is it not?
Lest we get into a situation wherein fire may get the better of us.
Having a fear ... an “awe” and a “respect” ... of God is similarly good.
Lest we think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
And in turning to ... and listening to ... the Bible ...... “putting ourselves under the authority of Holy Scripture” as it were ... we’re drawn to a heightened awareness of:
• Just how big and beautiful and complex and amazing the totality of Creation is .... and
• Just how small and insignificant and we are ... and
• Yet realizing ... at one and the same time ... that we ... for whatever reason ... still matter to God.
And likewise ... “putting ourselves under the authority of Holy Scripture” means realizing that our priorities ... our life trajectories ... are not focused on the unholy trinity that is ‘me, myself and I’ ... but rather on “loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind; and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.”
THE FIRST PIECE OF EQUIPMENT WE NEED FOR A WISDOM-WORKOUT IS THIS ... THE WORD OF THE LORD.
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Now the second station at the wisdom gym involves ... A MIRROR.
There were two great images involving ‘mirrors’ that came out of the ancient world.
• One of them is a decidedly negative image ... remembered as the story of Narcissus ... that fellow who fell in love with his own image ... and felt himself to be the most wonderful person in the world of the world. And he was revealed to be a proud ... and vain ... fool.
• But the other of them ... embodied in the phrase “Know Thyself” ... is a call to self-awareness that apparently originated with Socrates.
Not that any of us can ever “know ourselves” perfectly ...
Not that some people haven’t used that call as an excuse for self-absorption ...
But being aware that what we do ... and fail to do ... and how our words impact those around us ... is at the heart of what we call wisdom.
Now granted ...
While it may be easy-peasy for us to identify and talk about other peoples’ missteps ... iIt is far HARDER to identify and talk about our own.
• Third-person conversations about misbehavior ... we do that all the time! “Look at what he or she or they did!”
• Second-person conversations ... well ... those may be a bit more awkward ... but many of us will venture to accuse ... “You were wrong ... you erred ... on this one.”
• But first-person conversations ... as in “I really made a foolish decision in opting for this sort of behavior ... or opening my mouth and saying that” ... fuggedaboutit!
But if you want to be wise ... you’ve GOT to see ... and know ... and own ... who you REALLY are ...
Not just who you’d like to think yourself to be.
Hence THE SECOND PIECE OF EQUIPMENT WE NEED FOR OUR WISDOM-WORKOUT IS A MIRROR.
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But at seems to me that there is at least one more piece of equipment ... one more apparatus that we need to put to use if we hope to be numbered among the truly wise ... and that is this ... A PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES.
These ... to me at least ... are a reminder that wisdom is found particularly among those who are willing to move.
You’ve got to be able to move because wisdom will demand that you consider things from a variety of perspectives and angles.
Just staying put and hunkering down may confirm your worst suspicions ... because from your perspective things are the way they are ... but wisdom demands that you take the time to consider things from a variety of viewpoints ... and that means moving ... realizing things that you’re wrong about ... and relocating yourself on account of it!
You know the proverb: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”??
It’s a reminder that surgeons think everything can be cured with surgery ... that engineers see everything as an engineering problem ... and that carpenters think everything can be fixed with a hammer.
But ... more broadly ... it’s a reminder that ... if a person is fixated on a certain, singular perspective ... they may think that their viewpoint is the only valid approach and that they have the only valid solution.
But people who seek to be wise also have to be willing to move because wisdom sometimes involves change on our part.
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Today is what day around here?
It’s Reformation Day ... isn’t it? You know ... our Marty Party and all.
It’s a day to celebrate that a certain Augustinian monk ... some 5 centuries ago now ... allowed himself to be moved ... changed ... relocated by the Spirit of God ... “re-formed” as it were ... to a radical understanding that we are saved by grace alone ... by faith alone ... by Christ alone ....... apart from works prescribed by the Law.
The first “reformation” that had to happen in order for that event we’ve come to call “the Reformation” to take place was within the heart and the mind and the spirit of one Doctor Luther.
He had to move ... or maybe “be moved” ... to a new perspective and a new awareness and a new insight.
Luther couldn’t stand before the Emperor ... be asked to recant his teaching ... and reply by saying ... “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason – I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. God help me. Amen”
Unless he had been re-formed ... re-located ... moved ... to that new and different place in the first place.
And if we would hope to be Reformation People ... re-formed and re-forming people ... and if we wish to be possessors of godly wisdom ...
We need to be willing to be moved .... re-located ... re-formed by that one and same Spirit of God.
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You know the workout ... folks ....
The only real question is “Do you want to be wise?”