SERMON by the Rev. Jim Stickney for Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023

Among the mature we do speak wisdom
though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.
This phrase from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the inhabitants of Corinth
really grabbed my attention this week. It took me back in time to a seminary class
concerning the marvelous Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament —
several lesser known books of the Bible — often written in Greek, not Hebrew.
These books deal with questions like: why good people suffer for doing good;
or how we should conduct ourselves when surrounded by the evil of this world.
The focus of Wisdom Literature is on this present world, since these authors
lacked the perspective of Resurrection — of life transformed after the death of the body.
During a summer break I took a pilgrimage to a hermitage in Big Sur —
a rather remote place, with days spent in silence like the hermit monks who live there.
They did permit speaking for spiritual guidance, and I asked for some.
When I spoke to the monk assigned to me, I asked about wisdom, and I was surprised
by his seemingly hostile reaction to my questions about the search for wisdom.
It took us a while to find common ground, and he needed my assurance
that my questions were not just to attempt some spiritual short-cut
to “enlightenment,” or a quick fix to avoid the challenges  of the spiritual quest.
Among the mature we do speak wisdom
though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.
That hermit monk resembled St. Paul in making sure we’re dealing with true wisdom.
The “wisdom of this age” that Paul rejects is not just taking a spiritual shortcut.
It’s “go along to get along,” of not making waves, of not standing up for what’s right.
The “rulers of this age” for Paul were even larger than imperial dictators,
or those bullies who manage to get a little bit of power and then make people suffer.
Paul had a cosmology that populated the heavens with hostile forces,
fallen spirits who were at war with God’s wisdom, and now with God’s Son.
I’m reminded of one of the promises made by the Candidates for Baptism:
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
So far I’ve referred to what Paul rejects, and as I’ve done so, I’m quite sure
that you’ve been thinking about some of this world’s evils, perpetrated by people
whose view of life permits them to gang up on innocent people and harm them –
especially those who abuse their powers of policing instead of truly protecting.
So much for what we should renounce, at Baptism, and every day of our lives.
What do we embrace? Again, I turn to the promises made by the candidate at Baptism:
As I recite them, why not reply yourselves with a heartfelt “I do!”
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
Among the mature we do speak wisdom
though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.
Now St. Paul proceeds in an attempt to describe the true Wisdom found in God:
“What no eye has seen or heard, not the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Next he sets out a simple human analogy to help us take a step closer to God.
“What human being knows what IS truly human
except the human spirit that is within?”
In other words, No one else can tell you what it is to BE you
except your own self, your soul? Then, just take the next step —
“So also, no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.”
But — “we have received the Spirit that is from God (and why?)
so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”
It amounts to this: that we actually do live a spiritual life, powered by God’s gifts.
And these gifts that we’ve seen (from the mind of God) are manifold —
and listed, or even catalogued, in other places in Paul’s writings.
I’ll end this sermon with one such list, from his Letter to the Galatians (5: 22-23)
“The fruit of the spirit is lovejoypeacepatience
Against these things there is no law.”
Among the mature we do speak wisdom
though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.