The Gifts of Wisdom We Bring
Offered by Craig Weaver
To High Country UCC
For many years my father belonged to a club in Dallas, Texas, the sole purpose of which was to simply have fun over lunch once a week. Recited at each occasion, The Bonehead Club motto is: “Resolve: to learn more and more about less and less, until eventually we know everything about nothing!” — Unwittingly, I have lived into its promise!
Let’s take a look at our Biblical text for the day, John 14: 12-17 If you can get past John’s putting Jesus on a pedestal, here’s the gist of what Mike just read: the wisdom — and what to do with that wisdom is in us — just as it was in Jesus. The Spirit of God is here within us and around us — what Jesus calls the Paraclete or Helper or Spirit of Truth. The world does not recognize, much less understand, this Spirit — but any who are open to and following the radical love that Jesus lived will be able to recognize this Spirit of Wisdom and Her different form of power. Did you get that? Jesus actually said: anything he can do, we can do — and greater. That the Spirit of our Creator is in us just as much as in Him. Whoa! Really? Do you, do we really believe that Her wisdom and power is in us? Yet, Jesus assures us this IS REAL! Well, perhaps, you are saying, “Maybe in some, a few, but not in me. Jesus must have just been giving his disciples a pep-talk.”
Take a moment now and look around you — could this kind of wisdom be right here among us, within us? We all know there are lots of talents, gifts, skills, highly developed abilities here in this room. But the stuff Jesus tapped into — is it here, too? Is the wisdom of love and truth here also?
Today I want to say, “Look closer.” “Wake up!” This is exactly what Jesus taught: not that He is the Savior but the values, the perspective, the love, the truth, the joy He lived is right here within each of us. The Wisdom Way of the Spirit is within each of us and within all of God’s Creation. His way is not uniquely his. It is equally ours, too. That, my friends, is amazing. And humbling, I might add. More than a bit hard to believe.
And, yet, do not our children – any children – show us the truth of this every day, as we have just experienced? Did we not just hear “Simple Gifts”, wisdom available to all? Did we not just sing “This Little Light of Mine”? We KNOW this! And we sang “Be Thou my Vision”, affirming that God’s vision is ours, if we but follow its radical love and its different kind of Truth, its different kind of Wisdom. We are invited and challenged to receive what is already there, hidden within. What is so obvious in children is NOT so obvious in us! — Except every now and again we may glimpse it in ourselves or another, often imagining that they are further down the road than us. The funny thing is, those who we see as greater than we do not see themselves that way. Strong egos transcended do not present as self-conscious, self-satisfied, self-congratulating spiritual giants. What we encounter instead is an uncommon humility, love, gratitude, awe and hope, whether in oneself or in another. There is a joy that radiates from somewhere deep within. We recognize a wisdom that is very different from run-of-the-mill conventional wisdom. We may see something deeper that can recognize and affirm the polarities in this life, each necessary aspects or dimensions of life and of the universe.
And then, in ourselves or in another we may encounter the greater wisdom that is not learned but which happens to us, transforming us. This wisdom just shows up, breaks in, breaks out, stops us in our tracks, arrives in a dream or a vision, an encounter with a beloved, an encounter with a stranger or a poem or in the title of a book, like Help, Wow, Thanks, in which Anne LaMott lays out perhaps the three most important prayers, accessible by all.
I feel confident everyone here has had such events in their lives. Sometimes they seem to come from without, sometimes from within, sometimes quick, sometimes gradual — but they always have a quality of coming home to something you already knew — without previously knowing you knew it. These things are written in our hearts, in our very core, waiting to be accessed.
Clearly we have to learn to take responsibility for ourselves, and to make it in this world we have to integrate a lot of conventional wisdom — some of it good, some of it not so good, maybe even deadening. We have to develop the practices associated with such wisdom. However, sooner or later we have to transcend the very wisdom we had to work so hard to discover and apply. We find there are limits to this wisdom, that it can be confining or insufficient, that what we thought was settled is not at all so. We begin to experience a nudge or call or shout or shove to go deeper, to encounter a different kind of wisdom. Life, grace, upsets the apple cart. A new kind of wisdom finds us.
One of these experiences came to me in the spring of 1968 at Columbia University. I was a Union Seminary student from across the street, there to help keep heads cool, in the aftermath of students occupying certain buildings. On this day, I experienced New York’s Finest, police, you know, riot. I was right there up front, when the police broke rank, unprovoked, and started beating anyone who was there. I saw some police chase down and try to stop their buddies who were beating people. I knew in an instant I was changed forever, a deeper wisdom washing over me.
Do you remember Boo Radley, in “To Kill a Mockingbird”? After Scout and her brother Jim have been attacked in the woods and are now back at the house, Jim unconscious on the bed, Scout suddenly sees Boo — Boo the scary man-boy next door, who left gifts for the children in the hollow of the oak tree, creating mystery and intrigue — she sees him hiding in the corner of Jim’s room, and in an instant realizes he is the one who had just saved her and her brother. She reaches out her hand to him, going with what she now knows, and asks him would he like to come closer to her injured brother and touch him. What she had feared, she is now drawn to. Like her dad Atticus, she befriends the most vulnerable.
Just a few weeks ago, over Christmas, my 9 year-old granddaughter Makayla took me by the hand and led me out back of her house to the fire pit beside their patio. She said let’s build a fire and sit by it. We did — and she began to talk. Wanted to know, “Do you love Jesus, Grandpa?” I said I do and asked her about that. For 45 magical, utterly captivating minutes, we talked, she doing almost all the talking. She said, “I’ve been thinking, Grandpa, and I believe Jesus loves everybody just the same, just like God. And, you know, I think Jesus is no different from us. He’s just like us. None of my friends believe that; they think I’m crazy for believing that, but I still tell them that is what I believe. And you know what, Grandpa, everything is all connected, everything there is.” Marcus Borg died last week. Maybe someday she will read him and remember who she is and what she knows. Maybe she will wake up from a life of requirements and measuring up sooner or better than I. My prayer is that she keep a toe-hold on what she now knows for those years ahead.
Through stories, parables, aphorisms and bold, risk-taking actions and risky non-action, Jesus shows us this wisdom that is both alternative and subversive. It draws on intuition and sensing the essence of the moment and the person. It is a wisdom that sees power in powerlessness, that engages a violent, power-hungry world with non-violence of speech or deed, that can hold authority accountable without being reactionary or responding in kind, resisting without demonizing, turning the tables so that justice rains down, issuing in the peace and joy that accompanies deep compassion for those allied with the “least of these” — the poor, the different, the outcast, the weak, the despairing, the sick, the mourning, the enslaved, the imprisoned, the one groaning under crushing guilt or judgment or isolation, the one trying to do it all by himself, as our culture says we should, having lost all meaningful sense of community — any who need grace, a break, help, understanding, relationship, love. This is a wisdom that is of mind, heart and body, in our bones, so to speak, where the rules do not matter so much as relationship. Beyond the “Boneheadedness” of being caught up in the ways of the world.
For all peoples everywhere, this wisdom is available whenever, however we get our egos out of the way and learn to read a Creation which speaks volumes of God in all Her/His dimensions. There is a loving person, parent, child, sister, brother, neighbor, stranger in each of us. There is a Jesus, a Buddha, a Sojourner Truth, a Mary Magdalene, a Mother Teresa, a Mattie Stepanek, a William Barber in all of us, just as there is all manner of ordinariness and brokenness. The 97 year-old woman, who 50 years ago asked Dr. King to come to Selma, said last week, “I loved the movie, but we have a lot of work to do!”
To do the work of being the love we are capable of, we gotta get real.
I read to you from “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams: