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2014 02 02 Wisdom Sunday

(1 Cor 1:10-31; Micah 6:1-8)

Blessing for Prayer Shawls and Chemo Caps
Loving God, we thank you for many ways in which your love flows through us out to others. These prayer shawls and chemo caps were made by hands and hearts seeking to share your love in this particular way for people at a crisis time in their lives. Therefore we ask that your grace be upon these shawls and chemo caps, warming, comforting, enfolding and embracing. May these shawls and caps be safe havens, sacred places of security and well-being, sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones. May those who receive these shawls or chemo caps be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peaces and wrapped n love. Blessed be. Amen.

Story: Common Sense and Wisdom
Some children were playing in a park, tossing a couple of balls back and forth at first, and then throwing rocks at a nearby tree. Sally mentioned that she learned in school that all things fall at the same speed. The others looked at her and said that didn’t make sense. It was obvious that big things should fall faster than small things. They decided to test her claim. Another child put a small rock and a big rock in her pocket and climbed as high as she could in a tall tree. She carefully climbed out on a branch to where she could drop the rocks to the ground. The others watched carefully as she dropped the two rocks at the same time, and the rocks hit the ground at the same time.
Common sense is believing the same as most other people. Wisdom is believing what is true. Prayer: Loving God, help us know what is really true. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayer: Source of wisdom, our failings of pride, arrogance, ignorance, and self-centredness have led and continue to lead to destructive foolishness in the name of common sense. Dominators believe their power to dominate proves their superiority. People choose wealth, power, career, and fame for worship, causing harm. Our choices of foolish common sense over your wisdom make our lives less than what they could be. We thank you for persistence in providing us with more opportunities to make wise choices for better lives. We now offer to you our thanks for opportunities to redeem our harmful choices, for your gifts that helped us make good choices, and for new opportunities to choose wisdom in building relationships.

Message: An old riddle goes this way. A doctor arrives at an accident scene where a small boy has been hurt and the doctor says, “I can’t help him. He’s my son.” The doctor is not the boy’s father. Who was the doctor? Thirty years ago when this riddle circulated, it was a real head scratcher for many people. Common sense, system of shared beliefs, often forms harmful boxes around possibility, and sometimes lifts up false beliefs over the truth.

Conquerors believe their success is evidence of their superiority. European military advantages helped European nations gain dominance over most of the world. Having all this power over other people led them to believe they were superior over all other people, in spite of much contradictory evidence. I wonder if Champlain thought the Huron, who helped his small group survive their first winter in Canada were kind of stupid for being so generous. European history contains many failures to reciprocate generosity and kindness. Many people of European descent continue to think of themselves as superior to First Nations, Africans, and Asians.

And descendants of each nation often consider themselves superior to descendants from other European countries. This kind of view is shared with many other peoples around the world. Japanese often consider themselves superior to Korean and Chinese people. The Tutsis considered themselves superior to the Hutus. Anytime one group of people gains power, the inclination to consider themselves superior follows. Because these attitudes are shared by many or most in their group, they are common sense attitudes. The people in the media who offer simplistic solutions for the problems of others, such as First Nations people, are sharing common sense beliefs, even though they are almost certainly wrong. Wisdom is found in the approach being taken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in listening to people, hearing their stories and honouring them, in working to strengthen relationships and deepen understandings. We need to understand problems before we can begin to really solve them instead of applying bandages that sometimes cause more harm than good.

Today was chosen as Wisdom Sunday by people working for reconciliation between aboriginal peoples and the rest of us. It was named Wisdom Sunday because wisdom is essential for real healing to happen. Common sense is often associated with arrogance and judgemental attitudes: wisdom is associated with patience and humility.

Common sense, when it is tied to arrogance, dehumanizes those who are arrogant and, in their minds, dehumanizes the targets of their arrogance. Wisdom with humility humanizes everyone.

In our reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul criticizes the Corinthians for breaking into factions, each claiming superiority over the others. Later in this letter we learn that claims of intellectual superiority and claims of moral superiority were part of this process, sort of like the conflicts in modern churches between those who pursue intellectual approaches to the Bible and faith and those clinging to traditions, each seeing the other as being deficient. Paul in today’s reading points out the cross is foolishness to both Greeks and Jews, and, if we did not have our history to teach us, most of us would agree with the Greeks and the Jews. How could execution on a cross be a path to victory? There is no common sense to our core Christian traditions, but the church has survived nearly 2000 years through changes that have eradicated almost everything else. There must be wisdom in what appears to be foolishness.

Arrogance, power, and status are not parts of our roots. So what is? In our reading from Micah, Micah first started with a brief review of their history, and then asked if God wanted some kind of sacrifice. Common sense then and now believes that, if we want God to do something for us, we need to do something for God, implying that God is somehow a needy being. Jesus preached about a God who needed nothing, but who sought our readiness to live in right relationships with one another, to live by the rule of love. God’s love flows to everyone, regardless of what they have done or not done. And we are called to imitate God, to let our love flow to where it is needed, unconditionally. Unfortunately, this is a hard message for most people, and it was in the days of Micah. So we have verse 8: “to seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

The hard part for me is the message that we are not expected to fix the world, just to live as best as we can with humility, respect, kindness, and love.

These are what we need to practice to demonstrate true wisdom. These are what we need as we take part in the process of reconciliation with all those who have been harmed by the arrogance of those who have gone before us. To heal our relationships with First Nations people will take copious amounts of love, patience, and humility. To heal our relationships with people of other races needs to begin with honesty: Canada has been a racist society from its start, and racism persists in many forms today – in language, in stereotypes, in practices. Canada has been a sexist society, and it persists: when I look at the sentences handed down by our courts, it appears to me that a woman’s life is worth less than a man’s life most of the time. And sexism pervades our society in many ways.

People with mental illness are another group that has been neglected for a long time – stereotypes, fear that we might be mentally ill, arrogance with judgement about the failure of theirs to be mentally healthy, indifference feed our failure to adequately support their care. Even though mental illnesses can be just as debilitating as physical ones, and even though they touch the lives of many people, our society in general is not prepared to provide the support that is needed. Suicides by soldiers, aboriginal people and teens are one indicator of our collective failure. Less obvious are the tens of thousands of people living isolated lives because we do not care enough to make connections with them.

There are many other groups I could identify, and most of the people here have probably felt at times how the common sense of society has left them feeling demeaned or abandoned.

The Good News is that it does not have to be that way.

The wisdom of God and the love of God has a place of belonging and importance for everyone of us. As we let God’s wisdom reside in us and flow through us, we find real joy in living. Taking time to talk to a stranger, listening to a friend’s story, volunteering at the Thrift Shop or knitting prayer shawls or one of many other ways, sitting back to enjoy a spectacular sunrise or sunset, feeling embraced by God help us assert our humanity, our place as God’s children. And research helps us understand our apparent weaknesses. We have mistaken instincts in a world rich with supernatural allurements. Instincts we needed 3000 years ago to survive in a world with concentrated are a handicap foods, visual stimuli, and social situations push us to eat the wrong foods, drift into addictions, make poor social decisions. Knowing the truth about how our minds and bodies work can ground our development of strategies to manage those instincts in choosing better lives.

The development of modern agriculture 6000 years ago gave us tooth decay, drug and alcohol addictions, and imperialism. Wisdom is accepting who and what we are, warts and all, and learning to live well with that. The mistakes made in the past can teach us how to live better in the future: it is not a time for beating up on ourselves: it is a time to learn to love and live better. The wisdom of the teachings of Jesus and the knowledge gained through modern science can help us live well in spite of and because of our human frailties and gifts. May the Spirit help each of us learn what we need and see where to go, walking humbly with our God who dearly loves us. Amen.

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