First Mennonite Church
May 30, 2021
A Call to Live God’s Wisdom
1Corinthians 1:18-31, James 3:13-17
In the book of Proverbs, in the Old Testament, wisdom is portrayed as a woman. She raises her voice in the streets, city squares, and the busiest of places, offering her wisdom. Lady Wisdom claims that human tragedy and suffering can be avoided if people would accept her counsel and words of guidance (Proverbs 1:20, 21, 26, 27).
But what is more amazing is what Proverbs eight says about the origin of wisdom. Once again, Lady Wisdom claims she was created by God before he ever created anything, as recounted in Genesis. God created Lady Wisdom, and she accompanied God as he created the earth, the seas, humanity and every form of life. Wisdom claims she was by God’s side and was God’s delight as God ordained the order in creation. However, when Wisdom offers herself to guide and make humans achieve their divine purpose, it is not because Wisdom knows the foundation and the divine principles of creation. She does not claim to be of utmost important to humans because she knows how and why God created us human beings when he created them. Rather, it was because the “fear of God” is the beginning, the pathway to wisdom.
The Bible presents wisdom as essential to life, not because it provides knowledge, but because it is the demonstration of a God-fearing life. God’s wisdom is intended to move us beyond ourselves, enacting the will of God in and for the world. God’s wisdom is given to his people for the purpose of engaging the world in the spirit of Jesus Christ. God’s wisdom is more than knowledge of the will of God, it is the dynamic force that brings about God’s will to be enacted in the world. In the words of Paul, “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will (to have the desire) and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
One of the greatest hindrances that prevents churches from engaging in missions and community outreach is not necessarily the lack of money or human resources. It is fear of failure. It’s the fear of not being able to identify clearly what to do or how to go about doing what it wants to do. But the greatest of the greatest is its lack of know-how. This lack of knowledge is more than simply not having good information about what to do or how to do it. Lack of know-how that prevents social engagement or community outreach by a church is a sign of not understanding God’s heart for the community in which the church has been placed by God. God’s wisdom is what reveals to the church where God’s heart is, but it is also what give the church the faith and creativity to meet the needs God is showing her. The church has been given a message to deliver. Almost always, this message does not make sense to the world, and often times delivering such a message poses an inconvenience to the church.
Let us hear what St. Paul writes to the Corinthian church.
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 1:18-31)
Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, says verse 24. Christ became our wisdom from God, says Paul in verse 30. And we are to live Christ, God’s wisdom, every day. We have been called to enact and to incarnate God’s vision for the world. But we are also called to respond to the world’s needs in the way Jesus would. We are called to demonstrate God’s vision of how healthy human relationships look like. We are called to show the world God’s way of dealing with the daily problems and challenges. Therefore, God’s wisdom is not necessarily having more or better information, not even more biblical information. God’s wisdom in us is the ability to know how to handle the everyday problems we face as a testimony and as living evidence that Jesus is the answer and solution to human’s problems. We are in the world and there are all kinds of troubles. But as those whom God has given his Wisdom, Christ Jesus, we navigate through those troubles and challenges differently than those who do not know God.
God becomes real and present in our world when our friends and neighbors see how God works in us and through us. When our friends and neighbors see how we handle our daily problems, how we relate with our children, how we deal with sickness, how we deal with conflicts in the workplace, how we deal the loss of loved ones, the uncertainty of life, with the tug of war that seems to pull everyone to either sides of the social and political conflicts, they see what the real effect of being a follower of Christ Jesus is in us.
In the same manner, when the church discerns the will of God, he also gives the church the wisdom on how to respond to our community’s needs around the church. Around the church there is homelessness, children left alone because both parents have to work and are away from home. Even as we know, there are members from our congregation needing help. God’s wisdom also give the church the creativity it needs to meets those needs. It all begins when God impresses in our heart that something is amiss according to his shalom, something makes God’s heart to ache. But God also gives us the creativity to help those situation and to bring about God’s shalom, even if in a small measure. God’s wisdom causes solutions to germinate in order to respond to the needs God is showing the church.
In 2019 and 2020, we had the most inconveniences due to homeless people coming around the church building. We had trash, graffiti, encampments, and people being around the church all the time. One thing most people came by for was to charge their cell phones. Sometime at the end of 2019, the board was discussing this “problem.” Cindy came up with the idea of giving out mobile solar chargers to these people. That was a sign of God’s wisdom in the face of a need. We gave out 8 solar chargers. Those who got it could not believe their eyes we were handing out these brand new devices, still in their boxes, to them. One gentle man came back to give an offering of five dollars to the church for it. “I am very thankful for the charger,” he told me. And guess what, all of those who used to come to charge their cell phones here, stopped coming.
God’s wisdom helps us deal with life’s complexities. Not only our own challenges in life, but also those of our neighbors, friends and the community where God has called us to serve him.
Our passage in James reads:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (James 3:13-17)
We will not be able to fix all of the world’s problems. And we are certain God is not calling us to do that. But we can start with the small problems, maybe those directly related to our own church family.
There are several church members who cannot even come to the service. One of them told me how sad he feels that he cannot be here with us regularly. He even felt like being unfaithful to God for missing out the worship services. Some of our members are not only home bound, but they are depending on others to bring them food, to clean their homes, and so on. I know we cannot provide fulltime care or take care for all their needs, but shouldn’t we, can’t we make a little effort to show our love for them? Think about organizing ourselves to come to the church kitchen, once a week, perhaps, or every other week and prepare a meal to deliver to this brothers and sisters. Imagine the joy for this loved ones to at least have one homemade meal a week as an expression of our love and concern for them.
God’s wisdom is not only knowledge. It is God’s solutions to the complex problems of human life. We are called to live worthy of Christ, who is God’s power and wisdom. God has called us to live life in community where the world can see how God bring about his healing, his solutions, and his presence to one another. And we do that by solving the problems and needs within his family, the church. Our success in communicating the effectiveness of Jesus as the problem solver to the world begins here among us. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, says James.
I, therefore, want to appeal to you, if you feel God is calling your attention about something, or if you have an idea about how to achieve something, do not hesitate to share those thoughts. Follow God’s leading. Your ideas and suggestions might be gifts of divine wisdom to the church.
Life is very complex. While some are celebrating the birth of new members into their families, others are bracing for the inevitable for their loved ones. While some are striving in their work places others are worried they cannot find a job. While some are happy with their children, others are grieved because of a rebellious child in the family. Even Christians are not exempted from life’s vicissitudes. But we count on God’s wisdom to deal with them and to help others when they go through them.
God’s wisdom reveals to us what his will is for human life, his shalom. But either because of the transition in life’s stages or other adverse circumstances life can become difficult at times. But God’s wisdom is what gives the grace and creativity to address them. Sometimes it takes the community of faith to address those needs. It, therefore, becomes an imperative that we as a community seek to live the wisdom of God. Amen!