Wisdom’s Call - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 17B (Proverbs 1)



Proverbs 1:20-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 Wisdom cries out in the street;
    in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
    have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25 and because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm,
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel,
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
    and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure
    and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

                        ********
            
    How long before Wisdom’s call will be answered? The failure to heed the call of wisdom has important consequences. Should we hate knowledge, should we choose not to “fear the Lord” disaster awaits us. The word we hear in this passage is not encouraging. That it is found in the first chapter of Proverbs should serve as a warning. Ignore Wisdom to your own detriment. So, wake up. Look around. Pay attention. Give heed to knowledge. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Wisdom has taken her place in the streets, on the street corners, crying out at anyone who will listen and heed her warnings? Perhaps like the preacher who stands and the corner and shouts at the passersby, we ignore her words. The word here is that we do so at our own peril?

It’s easy to ignore the sidewalk preacher. We scoff at the message and the messenger, and yet perhaps there is a word that needs to be heard. We live at a time when people are uncertain about the future. We are skeptical of our leaders. We don’t trust them. We’re willing to entrust our government to inexperienced hands, and even hands that might be dangerous. Only time will tell, but are we listening to Wisdom’s counsel? Or are we simply wandering around in a daze, heading off a cliff?

What should we make of this word? As I ponder this word from Wisdom herself, there are many situations that come to mind. Having lived through the hottest summer on record, I’m ready to heed the warning that climate change is at work. In my homeland of California and Oregon, fire season is getting longer and more devastating. Why? Heat, drought. Climate. Of course, not everyone agrees with the science, nor, apparently, their eyes and ears. But Wisdom warns us—ignorance is not bliss. We ignore the warnings at our peril.She tells us that if we give heed to her words, she will pour out her wisdom. If ignore them. Well . . . 


There is good news. If we heed the words of Wisdom, we will dwell secure. That offer of blessing might be a bit premature, but it is a reminder that in most cases, when we pay attention to the facts we will be better off. Not in every case, of course, but normally. Whenever I read the Book of Proverbs, I keep in mind the counter voice of Job. He was righteous. He did was right. Bad things still happened to him. Bad things do happen to good people. But, while that is true, we can, should we choose to heed Wisdom’s warnings, work against those bad things, and perhaps turn things in a different direction.

Life is filled with choices. We can heed the warnings, or we can ignore them. It is true that if we tune Wisdom out, Wisdom may cease calling out to us. Again, that is at our peril. We don’t to wait until its too late to listen. Listening is best done in community. J.B. Blue writes: “Life is lived in community, and we who seek to live wisely bear responsibility to consider the consequences of personal and social choices.” We must listen for those consequences in every area of our lives. [Preaching God’s Transforming Justice, p. 396]. 

Wisdom calls out to us. Wisdom warns us of danger. Wisdom points us in the right direction. Will we heed the call?
               
Picture Attribution:  Lamp of Wisdom, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54977 [retrieved September 8, 2018]. Original source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowanbank/5815103193/.

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