An address delivered in Warragul Uniting Church, by the Rev Rosalind Terry

on Sunday, 14 September 2003


“Where can we find wisdom?”   Part One

We sang four times “God has spoken to his people, and his words are words of wisdom, hallelujah!”

I wonder how God has spoken to each of us?

I’d like us to think silently for a few moments about how God has spoken to us.

Which people have you known who have been voices of wisdom for you?

How did you sense that these people were wise?

What did you do with the wisdom they shared with you?

Are there people who would consider you wise?

In what way does this knowledge affect your relationship with them?

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If you were a great artist, with paints or musical instrument or pen, I wonder how you would portray wisdom?

Here is one of the ways in which the Bible portrays wisdom:  (Bible reading)  Proverbs 1: 20-33

The thing I find surprising about that picture of wisdom is not so much that she is portrayed as a woman, probably a young and attractive looking woman, yet one created at the beginning of the ages, if we go on and read Proverbs 8: 22-31.  No, the thing I find most surprising in that picture is that Wisdom cries out in the street, in the squares, at the busiest corner and at the entrance of the city where everyone must come and go.  So often we think of wisdom as something we gain from books, or in school, or by watching educational television shows, or by quiet discussions with friends. 

Proverbs tells us that wisdom is to be found at the very centre of everyday life.

But not everyone stops to learn from her.

We can be so busy in life that we never learn from God’s Wisdom.

From early times great Christian teachers have taught that it is wise to end each day in a time of prayerful reflection on the day which is past. 

I confess that I have often failed to do this.

The early morning quiet time I usually achieve.  I can look over the day ahead and make some priorities clear.

But at night often all I want to do is go to bed and go to sleep.

Yet to do so is to fail to listen to Wisdom, who meets me every day in my “marketplace”, in my daily activities, and calls out to me to learn from her.

Artists have portrayed this feminine face of God in various ways:  (Overheads)

Theologians have shown that Wisdom and Word and Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures are very closely linked.

We ignore the cries of Wisdom at our peril, our passage from Proverbs told us.


“Where can we find wisdom?”   Part Two

Wisdom can be found “in the market place” of our everyday lives.

But that is not the only place where God’s Wisdom meets us. 

Psalm 19 suggests two further places where Wisdom can be found. 

Let us read together (Bible reading)  Psalm 19: 1-6

So where does this passage suggest we can find God’s Wisdom? Yes, in the beauty of nature, in the quiet contemplation of God’s creation, both by day and by night.  Whilst neither day nor night speak to us with words, their voice goes out through all the world, declaring the glory of God.  This is why it is so important that each of us takes our Sabbaths.  Whether we spend them pottering in our gardens, or walking in the mountains, or relaxing by the sea, each of us needs a weekly time of refreshment contemplating the majesty of God’s creation, and refreshing our own Spirits.  Perhaps there will be times when the best we can manage is a few moments consciously appreciating the tree we can see out our kitchen windows as we do the dishes.  But we ignore the beauty and grandeur of God’s created world at our peril.  I wonder how much of the degradation of our planet could have been avoided if the leaders of industry and nations undertook this simple discipline? 

And there is more we can learn from this psalm.  Let us read together now the remaining verses,

Psalm 19: 7-14.

In the Hebrew Scriptures the word we translate “law”, the word Torah, means far more than just a set of legal rules.  Torah means the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through to Deuteronomy.  It means the whole story of God’s salvation plan as it was then known in the story of the Exodus.  As we contemplate the whole story of God’s creation and salvation of the world, we learn Wisdom.  We see how very tiny we are in comparison with the greatness of God, and we also learn how great is God’s love for each one of us.  Here, in the careful study of the Scriptures, “the … unique prophetic and apostolic testimony, … (we) hear the Word of God and …(our) faith and obedience are nourished and regulated”, as the Basis of Union tells us.  The Scriptures “testify” to God’s Word.  And like any testimony, we must explore it carefully, question it, learn from it and discover the truth of it, not just in our heads but also in our hearts.  We must not only know it, but live it, as we heard last week.


“Where can we find wisdom?”   Part Three

Now that has never been easy.  Even in the very presence of Jesus, the first disciples did not find it easy. 

Listen to (Bible reading)  Mark 8: 27-38

Peter knew with his head that Jesus was the Messiah.  But he could not accept with his heart what this implied.  Not until after the crucifixion and resurrection could these men even start to accept that God’s Wisdom involves accepting suffering for the sake of other people.  God’s wisdom leads to peace, by way of the cross.  This very human Jesus accepted for himself suffering, alienation and death, and says that all who follow him are to expect the same.

I like this message no more than Peter did.

Perhaps I understand it little more than Peter did.

Jesus took on himself the brokenness, the pain, the hatred, the scorn, the torture, of the world.  Throughout his life he listened, really deeply listened to the world’s pain.  And as we heard last week, he was willing to change his mind about who was worthy to receive God’s healing.  He came to realise that that grace was a gift for all people, with it’s only condition the acceptance of it by faith. 

Perhaps it was his very openness that cost him his life.  The religious authorities could not accept that he would heal on the Sabbath, or declare sins forgiven, or reach out to touch lepers or women, or eat with tax collectors, or let a prostitute touch him.  In all of this, he took on himself the pain of the world.  And he tells us we must do the same.  We must be willing, like him, to learn from an unclean “Gentile, Syrophoenician woman”, or her equivalents in our modern world.  There is humility.  And is not that one of the highest virtues in the list of the Beatitudes?


“Where can we find wisdom?”   Part Four

Now the next and last scripture reading we will hear this morning is a word directed towards me, and all the rest of us who dare to teach others.  They are words of warning and words of encouragement, for they point us forward to the time when God will complete our sanctification, and we will be whole.

(Bible reading)  James 3:  1-12