Wisdom and discernment
180819 Pentecost 13B 1 Kings 2:10–12; 3:3–14, Ephesians 5:11–21 John 6:51–58
There are many examples we can heed throughout the scriptures when we listen to the stories of other’s lives and in the stories of today’s readings we have some excellent advice concerning discernment and wisdom and John tells us what this means in our lives and for the world.
When given a chance to have anything in the world, Solomon asked for wisdom – for a discerning heart – in order to lead well and to make right decisions. We can ask God for this same wisdom. Can we remember that Solomon asked for discernment to carry out his job? He did not ask God to do the job for him. He has given us an example. So can we ask God to give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to follow through on matters affecting our everyday lives? Solomon asked for wisdom not wealth, but God gave him riches and long life as well.
While God does not promise riches to those who follow him, he gives us what we need, if we put his kingdom, his interests, and his principles first. Setting our sights on riches will only leave us dissatisfied because even if we get the riches we crave, we will still want something more. But if we put God and his work first he will satisfy our deepest needs.
Solomon did receive a wise and discerning heart from God, but it was up to him to apply that wisdom to all areas of his life. Solomon was obviously wise in governing the nation, but he was foolish in running his household and listened to his foreign wives rather than God. These wives with their multitude of foreign Gods, were the means of Solomon losing his focus in his later life.
Wisdom is both the ability to discern what is best and the strength of character to act upon that knowledge. While Solomon remained wise all his life, he did not always act upon his wisdom.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a timely warning to avoid the fruitless deeds of darkness or things that might lead away from God. Paul even gives the instruction to expose such deeds, because our silence may be interpreted as approval. God needs people who will take a stand for what is right, and Christians need to lovingly speak out for what is true and right. The way of those who follow Christ is not just about navigating in a lost world; it is also about redeeming it. Often a wakeup call is needed to get us back on track and Paul says, “Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Paul probably uses the words of a song or hymn to remind the people of Ephesus not to be disobedient and slip into bad habits because their lifestyle will be exposed by the pure light of Christ.
We need a similar sense of urgency in our time because it is just as difficult for us to keep our standards high, act wisely and do good wherever we can as it was for the people of Ephesus.
It is not the aim to keep our Christian vocation only as something to be defended or protected from outside influences. Outside influences will happen in spite of what we try, but we still need to be God’s messengers of the Good News to others. Once we recognise, or discern God’s will for what we are to do with our lives, we can’t do it if we are distracted by short term excitement. Can we be wholly devoted to God, be filled with the Holy Spirit which gives lasting joy and submit ourselves daily to him?
By doing this we will find depression has gone, monotony and stress will not concern us and the strength and wisdom we need will be readily available to us. If we are devoted to God, submit to his leading and draw constantly on his power, we can take heart, whatever our situation, and know that in all things God works for our good. God can and will call us and use us in his redemptive saving work in the place where we find ourselves. Once we realise that we are totally loved by God, we can understand how Jesus submitted his will to his loving Father and then we can honour Christ by following his example.
This is true and unconditional love. When we submit to God we become more willing to obey his command to submit to others. That means we are not a door mat, but we subordinate our rights to their rights. We put others first, just as Jesus, our servant King did. Once we are living in this frame of mind we become the bearer of God’s salvation to others. This is our true vocation and it enables others in turn to become wholly devoted to God. Jesus came to earth to show us how and this is what his life was about. Through love we bring the reality of God’s salvation to the attention of others around us.
We have sought the wisdom and have discerned the love and direction for our vocation. In today’s gospel John shows us that the challenge is to maintain the truth of the Good News, even in the face of misunderstanding and rejection and to abide in Christ. When challenged, even though others give up and reject him, Jesus did not give up or reject them.
Jesus remained true to his word saying “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” and this is exactly what he does in his crucifixion. As presented in John’s account, Jesus’ Jewish rivals are unable or unwilling to change their idea of him and his relationship to them. They have failed to discover the wisdom and the blessing of abiding or making meaning out of what Jesus was teaching them. They did not find meaning in the life of Christ or try to follow, or copy his lifestyle.
Abiding is about discipleship and relationship, and the symbol is in the Eucharist itself. Sharing in the Eucharist through faith creates a mutual and deeply meaningful bond of abiding between Jesus and us and also includes us in the abiding that is between Jesus and the loving Father for we are all considered “Children of God”. The wisdom of this is that we have eternal life.
Can we as the Cathedral community through the wisdom we have been given, and the faith we share, devote ourselves to living as Christ-like servants of others? Can we share God’s love with people of all ages, and especially the families who bring their children for the sacrament of Baptism in ways that are relevant and true in the world in which we all live? This mission has commenced with the Cathedral App using modern wisdom and all that it offers.
Continue to pray for and support the ministry to our community and families. God has given us the spiritual wisdom we need and when we abide in him, we have the power of the Holy Spirit. All we need to do, is to share it and be the means of transforming the community of Grafton and our part of the world. Amen.