Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pentecost 16 (proper 19)
Year B
Proverbs 1:20-33

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof.

If you've played Tile Rummy or other numbers games with teenagers or young adults - any game, in fact, which requires quick thinking and mental acuity - you'll be struck by how clever these young people are. They do calculations quickly. They see patterns of numbers with little effort. You'd have gotten there yourself - eventually - but you might feel as if you're toting your brain uphill like a heavy load. No question about it: These kids are smart! Time to start taking your vitamin E!

They may not yet be wise, though. In fact you know that they're not. This very same person whose brain is so adept at figuring out a limited set of tasks still lacks judgement, does not yet understand the paradoxes which abound in real life and cannot yet work in an able fashion within communities. Those of you who have supervised younger employees in companies, young doctors and nurses in
hospitals will recognize that situation where you stand there looking at somebody who has so much raw potential and yet is still not ready for certain responsibilities which require a sort of "smarts" which can only be given by deep reflection, by an experience of both success and failure and by a breadth of knowledge which raw organic intelligence itself does not give.

Our passage from the Book of Proverbs this Sunday speaks of a different impediment to wisdom - not merely "youth" which in most cases will give way to richer ways of being intelligent. In our passage on Sunday, Wisdom - a feminine characterization of God in this case - cries out to those who have chosen ignorance rather than wisdom. They love being simple. They delight in scoffing. They hate knowledge. The target of Wisdom's 'reproof' is a community of possibly quite grown-up people who decided not to embark on learning much about the world. They cooped themselves up in a small world. They may be critics - scoffers - who see the faults in others and who are adept at picking apart structures around them which do not meet their immediate needs but have yet to make their own costly contribution. Knowledge - new reflections on life in the world - is a threat to what they were taught. Coming to risk knowing something new gives us cause to reevaluate ourselves, to rethink the values of our home communities, to transform and to become wise.

On occasion we shame ourselves. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why was I speaking rather than listening? Was I the friend I could have been? Did I miss an opportunity? This Sunday's lesson gives us space to identify, and even mock, that part of each of us which refuses to grow up and be wise - to venture outside comfortable simplicity and to be bigger than we have allowed ourselves to be.