Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,
"You that are simple, turn in here!" To those without sense she says,
"Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight." (Proverbs 9:1-6)
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-20)
“I am the living bread” (John 6:51)
Until I was a teen, we only had one TV and one phone. I remember my first TV could get about three stations; it had rabbit ears, and every now and then you had to give it a good whack on top or on the side to center the picture rather than have it run up or down the screen in a continuous loop – or you had to dance around the room to find just the right spot to put it for a clear picture, which often happened to be about 5 feet in the air in the middle of the room while being held by someone. The daily news came on at certain times in the morning and evening and without messages scrolling across the screen or behind the newscaster or commercials interrupting reports. Unless someone watched the news on TV or listened to them on the radio, they had no idea what had happened in the world until the next day at the breakfast table while reading the newspaper and if whatever happened was going on before the paper went to print. News took time and there was a lot more silence back then.
Today it is all so different. We hear about natural disasters as they happen and watch live feeds on TV and online. We know what goes on in places around the earth that we used to know only from maps or globes. If our hometown newspaper is not enough, we can read those from other cities, states, or even countries online. We no longer need to redial if we get a busy line but can get our message through via text messaging or email. Today news and other TV shows are, at times, cluttered with breaking news coverage running along the bottom, the stock market ticker on one side and maybe sports scores on the other. And there are interruptions every few minutes with advertisements that attempt to convince us that we need and want more products. Our lives have become ones of constant input and constant computing of messages.
We seem to know so much more now than we used to – and yet I wonder:
Are we any wiser?
Are we making better choices because of what we know?
Are we better able to filter the truth from fiction or lies?
Does an increase of knowledge equal an increase in awareness and attentiveness to the issues of this world?
Are we any closer to becoming the people God created us to be?
Are we any wiser than we were before?
Billboards, websites, robocalls, magazine ads –they all play on our seemingly insatiable need to be right, rich, popular, in the know, and in control. As a contrast to our consumerism comes our proverbs passage – picturing not a lavish feast of excess but a wisdom feast. Not a neon light vying for our attention but a gentle invitation, “Come.”
In our reading, God’s wisdom is personified a woman and she prepares an extravagant feast and invites us to partake. She has worked hard at getting ready. She has built her house and its seven pillars suggest an impressive dwelling. Wisdom prepared the feast by slaughtering animals, mixing spices with wine – an ancient custom – and arranging a table. Wisdom is the hostess, wanting those who will come to know that they are welcome. “Take off your jacket, sit down, and stay for food and wine,” she seems to say. Wisdom is ready and waiting for her guests and she has extended a personal invitation to all. No quick text message, no evite, no Facebook event to which to respond. Instead, a much more personal and simple invitation, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine we have mixed.”
The metaphor of eating and drinking in Wisdom’s house suggests that wisdom is a lavish gift supplied by God and that humankind is invited to partake of it as a gift. Wisdom’s call is to the “simple”; she invites those to feast at her table, who can acknowledge their own naivety and need for growth. The table is often a metaphor for learning in the ancient world, as it was a gathering place around which ideas where shared. Physical hunger is also metaphor, expressing the human need for God. Thus, the feast for the simple is an opportunity for learning for those who are humble, as well as an opportunity satisfy the hunger only God can fill. It is a banquet that brings life, appealing and abundant life, open to all who seek it.[i] Participation is a choice and hearers are open to either accept or reject the invitation. The choice is not an easy one. There are many cheap imitations.
Just a few verses past our reading we meet another woman who also invites to a feast. She is a “foolish woman” who tries to entice those who pass by. Folly or Foolishness did not put any effort into the feast. At her table you will not be filled but will leave hungry. According to ancient rabbis, the things offered at the table of Folly are taken away again as soon as one joins the feast, whereas the gifts of Wisdom are lasting.[ii] Folly serves a soup of quick, temporary satisfaction. Sort of like the take-out food that leaves you hungry again an hour after eating. Clearly, wisdom has more to offer: she’s the better person, offering the better feast. Still, we are to choose and some will pass by.
Just as Wisdom calls out to us and invites us to taste wisdom, so does our reading from the Letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 5 continues last week’s instructions on how to live a life worthy of our calling and of our transformed Christian lives. The short 5 verses from Ephesians 5 read a little like a wise grandmother’s instruction – and not without a little wagging of the finger: “Now, now sweetie, be careful how you live, don’t go around with those naughty people, be wise and make the most of your time, don’t be foolish, don’t go around doing things that are bad for you but be filled with the Spirit and make a joyful noise unto the Lord and give thanks for everything!”
Rather than the personal invitation of Lady Wisdom, Ephesians’s call feels more like a warning, like an elder telling us that they know exactly what trouble is – maybe because they have been there and done that - and that we do well to stay away from trouble and ought to do the right thing instead.
- Do not be unwise but wise
- Do not be foolish but understand
- Do not be drunk but filled with the Spirit.
“I am the living bread,” Jesus said. Some early Christians celebrated Christ as Wisdom incarnate and personified and many of Jesus’s teachings are about topics that were addressed by ancient Wisdom teachers – money matters, social relations, speech, family issues, and so on. Like the Jewish Wisdom Tradition, Jesus’s emphasis was on application of the teachings in daily life. The teachings are to nourish is and to shape the way we life and the choices we make. “Eating” the bread of life – chewing on it daily, digesting the messages, and allowing our lives to be changed and shaped by it – it is part of acquiring wisdom. Attaining wisdom means acquiring knowledge, combining that with native, inborn intelligence and the learning from the experience of others, and listening to the word of God.[iii] And we are invited and able – because the wisdom of God – Christ - has made its home in each of us.
And so here, as the summer comes to an end, is a good time to turn off the phones and computers and TVs and to take a little time for self-reflection and to listen for God’s will for us. It is a good time to wonder if we are pursuing the life of wisdom. Are we spending enough time with God? Are we applying the teachings of Christ to our lives? Are we allowing ourselves to be shaped by these teachings? Do we, as a church, follow the way of Christ and offer it up to others? Do we, like Wisdom, open our house and go out of our way to invite others in? Do we embody our faith or is there more that we can be or are called to be? Are we walking in the way of insight, the way of wisdom? Now is a good time for self-assessment and recommitment to wise living. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine we have mixed,” Wisdom calls out, inviting us to learn about ourselves, our lives, our lives as a community, and our lives in God.
May we all choose to accept Wisdom’s invitation into her wonderful home and feast at her rich table.[iv]
[i] New Proclamation Commentary, Year B 2012
[ii] The CEB Storytellers Bible, p. 786
[iii] New Interpreters Bible Dictionary, “Wisdom”).
[iv] Feasting on the Word, Year B