The United Churches, March 4, 2018
3rd Sunday of Lent
Proverbs 1: 20-30
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “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; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
Don’t you love the book of Proverbs? It is fun to browse the pages and pick out your favorite. One of my personal favorites is: Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. We have certainly seen a lot of repeated foolish behavior as of late. And that is the point isn’t it? We keep repeating foolish behavior until wisdom invades our bones.
Proverbs is a series of collections of wise sayings that are attributed to Solomon, as are Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. However, Proverbs didn’t receive final edits until the sixth century, so we know that Solomon didn’t exactly write the book. The collection we call Proverbs is that of ancient near eastern sages…counselors, bureaucrats, and teachers…the intellectuals of the day. The book is filled with diverse literary forms and contains the worldview of the intellectual elite.
The overarching message of Proverbs is that knowledge of God is gained through the study of creation and the study of human behavior. Isn’t it cool that we learn about God from the intricacies of this beautiful creation and in our relationships with one another? The other KEY IDEA of the Book of Proverbs is that actions produce reliable consequences. ACTIONS PRODUCE RELIABLE CONSEQUENCES. So, we learn from the book that a WISE person carefully considers the consequences before they act.
I confess that I am more a feeler than a thinker and more impulsive than not, which can be fun and energizing at times, especially at a party, but as I am a grown up and have a very responsible job, I have to put a priority on thinking before acting. Really taking stock and thinking through what consequences my actions might produce. It is what we try to teach our children…natural consequences right? Most of the time it is very hard for us to watch them suffer the consequences of their actions. But if we don’t let them suffer the consequences of their actions, then they will not learn.
The book of Proverbs has two kinds of fool. One fool is the young person who is trainable. They make a mistake and learn from it. Most of the time, learning is guided by a parent. I could tell a thousand stories on my parent’s guidance…but here is one:
My parents gave my sister and me a car to drive when we turned 16 that had belonged to our grandfather. It was a 1963 Ford Falcon, low miles. As a teen, I went to school, I was very active in my church and worked at a roller rink. I felt like to get everything done I had to go fast. One early evening when racing from school to church, my mind on the steps that I needed to complete to be prepared when I got there, (mentally cramming) I abruptly realized that every car in front of me was at a standstill and I was still driving about 50 miles per hour. It seemed as though everything suddenly went in slow motion. It felt as though I slowly watched the hood of my car crumple up like an accordion toward the windshield. It was a heck of a crash. Secured by only a lap belt, perhaps it was this crash that led to my recent neck surgery. My parents were called, first responders, insurance people and the like. I don’t know what happened to the other driver, only that there was a law suit that my insurance handled. I’m sure my parents were livid but waited until they calmed down to talk to me. To this day I will never forget my step-dad’s lecture…something like: “If you had a bottle of 100 pills and you knew that 10 of those pills would maim you for life and two of them would kill you, would you take any of those pills?” “Of course, not” I responded. He continued “That is what you do every time you get behind the wheel of a car.” The nugget of wisdom stuck. Topping that, they made me buy the car from them in monthly payments and start paying for my own insurance. Natural consequences? Parental consequences? Consequences none the less. I feel as though I have to add that in 1975, driving a 1963 Ford Falcon was NOT cool.
So, the first kind of fool in Proverbs is the young person that can learn from their mistakes. The second kind of fool in Proverbs is the person that is just without sense. The sage says it is the one that “hates knowledge,” or as I like to call it: the know it all. You all know at least one person like this. The know it all has nothing to learn, and believes that they alone can fix things. The know it all knows what is BEST for everyone involved. The know it all is impervious to new information, from the wisdom of creation or the wisdom of others, young and old. The know it all has nothing to learn.
And so wisdom has to continue to cry out in the street; in the squares she continues to raise her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? When I savored this passage this week, the image of lady wisdom came to me. It was Emma González. Emma Gonzalez is the 18 year old Senior who survived the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Emma has been one of the student leaders from her school speaking out against gun violence. (Play Clip)
(Quotes from the clip) “We are speaking up for those who don’t have anyone listening to them, for those who can’t talk about it just yet, and for those who will never speak again,” she wrote. “We are grieving, we are furious, and we are using our words fiercely and desperately because that’s the only thing standing between us and this happening again.” She chastised those who have criticized her and her fellow teen activists for being too emotional. “Adults are saying that children are emotional,” she wrote. “I should hope so ― some of our closest friends were taken before their time because of a senseless act of violence that should never have occurred. If we weren’t emotional, they would criticize us for that, as well.” And she had a clear message for any adults who believe that she and the other teens are being disrespectful. “Adults are saying that children are disrespectful. But how can we respect people who don’t respect us? We have always been told that if we see something wrong, we need to speak up; but now that we are, all we’re getting is disrespect from the people who made the rules in the first place. Adults like us when we have strong test scores, but they hate us when we have strong opinions.”
No matter what your opinion is about the second amendment, I hope for a minute that you can hear Emma as lady Wisdom. Proverbs 1 says: Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Emma like her classmates lived through a terrible trauma that she does not want to see repeated. As lady wisdom says: how long? How long people?
Emma is calling us to wisdom. Can we learn from our mistakes and change, or do we think we already know what is best for everyone? Wisdom is often born from a painful experience. If you think back over your life of the things that you have learned, how many of your greatest lessons and deepest wisdom have involved a painful situation? Keeping our children safe involves all of us wising up. Are there other areas in your life where you are being called to wisdom?
Proverbs says that wisdom leads to life…to life. That means that the painful situations in which we find ourselves can be those that help wisdom seep into our bones. Are we willing to learn, to grow? Are we willing to listen to lady wisdom as she shouts in the street? Or do we already know what is best for everyone? In this season of lent, we have been invited to listen…listen.