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Wisdom and Understanding

There are moments, perhaps even in the middle of a conversation with one of you, when I stop and become completely detached.  (My mother used to say, “You have always got your head in the clouds.”  Usually, she would say that when I had neglected to bring in the coal or something like that.)  However, what has happened is that something you have said has set my mind hunting and groping for an associated idea.  It might be one that is complementary or perhaps in opposition to what you have sparked off and between the two there is a thought, something new and an understanding that I am trying to reach.  Sometimes it comes and then I have to hastily find a notebook, for memory is something else entirely, but more often it doesn’t and so, as happened the other day, I find myself at the crossroads with Barnfield College having meant to turn off at Turnpike Drive wondering what it is I am doing there.

“Does not Wisdom call and understanding raise her voice?”

You note immediately that wisdom is a woman (something that will come as no surprise to at least half the congregation) but then we learn that “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work.”  Wisdom you see is older than the universe itself, she was present at its creation.

“When there were no depths I was brought forth, before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, when he established the heavens I was there.”

This takes us of course to the beautiful words of the opening of John’s Gospel, read each Christmas Eve and written in a way to draw us back to the opening words of Genesis.  “In the beginning was the word.  And the word was with God and the word was God.”  The Gospel of Mark begins as we have recently heard with Jesus’ baptism and the accounts of Matthew and Luke with the story of Jesus’ birth.  However, very strikingly, John starts much farther back.  As we have heard in Proverbs, Wisdom was personified and in this way was both of, with and yet separate from God.  She is a divine attribute.  The Word, as identified by John, although there in the beginning, was in the same manner of and with God.  You may be wondering why this matters.

Well, in a short while we will say together the creed:

“We believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.  We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ."

Reinforcing what we mean, we go on to say:

“True God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father”.   

And this is why John’s prologue and Proverbs 8 are so helpful, for in these verses (Proverbs dates from the tenth century before Christ), we already have something that is God, of one being with God and yet identifiable, the Word (logos) or Wisdom.

Somehow, it is easier and was so even for the early church, to postulate that wisdom or word can be God, because they are ethereal, than it is to imagine Jesus being both man and God.  But there is the holy mystery, Jesus like word and wisdom was both God and human, begotten not made, so importantly not a creature, not created.  He was the word made flesh and He lived among us.

Here is great hope, the word made flesh and living among us.  Let us listen once more to the opening line of Proverbs 8:

“Does not wisdom call and does not understanding raise her voice?”

God’s word is not meant to be hidden from us but is beckoning to us and we are meant to listen and wonder and ponder and she, wisdom, is most attractive; not lost in dusty books at all but where we can see her rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

So if I do disappear with my head in the clouds from time to time when listening to you, I apologise, but then, not too much!     

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