Last week I spoke about wisdom. At the risk of boring you through repetition I would like to speak about wisdom one more time. I am going to do so because I believe it is such an important spiritual quality and, one seriously lacking in the world. Wisdom, alongside hope and innocence are the three spiritual qualities I aim to work at developing this year.
I would want to say that Christian wisdom starts from a slightly different place than worldly, or secular, wisdom. Our Christian wisdom starts with the simple – or innocent – acknowledgement that God is the foundation for our lives, and that God is revealed to us in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Christian wisdom starts with a simple commitment, like Philip, to simply ‘follow’ Jesus. Christian wisdom is first and foremost a counter cultural commitment to be not a leader but a follower. Christian wisdom can only ever start with the words spoken by Nathaniel ‘you are the Son of God.’ Without first faith and then a commitment to follow there can be no Christian wisdom.
So having decided to first accept that Jesus is the Messiah and then to fashion our lives according to his, as followers, what do we then need to do to grow in wisdom?
Well, like Samuel, we need to learn the art of true listening; listening to what God might be saying to us and where God might be leading us. Like Samuel we too need to learn the art of saying ‘speak Lord for your servant listens.’ Like Samuel we also need to allow others, spiritual friends, to point us in the right direction, to the place where we can truly listen. And, if we are to listen we need to make the space and time to let God whisper his words of love, encouragement, invitation and challenge. We need to make time for God. Can I encourage you to carve out some time for God and simply use Samuel’s mantra: ‘speak Lord for your servant listens.’ One of my hopes for this church is that each and every member will find a way to pray and carefully read the bible for it is through these two spiritual activities that God speaks. Prayer should be the very oxygen we breathe.
We also need to learn to expect the unexpected and to rise above the level of cynicism. In the Gospel reading we heard the famously cynical phrase ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Well, the answer is that the ultimate, consummate, good came out of Nazareth. So looking to see where God is acting and allowing ourselves to be surprised by what we discover is to grow in spiritual wisdom. Recognising that God will act where God will act and that this is often in the most surprising of places is also to exercise the virtue of humility. Don’t we all, to an extent, want God to act where and how we would like him to act?
The problem is that if we place conditions on God, if we fail to accept that God will act how and where he wants, even out of wherever our modern day equivalent of Nazareth is, then we limit God.
God, often, frequently chooses to act from the periphery and not the centre, from places such as Nazareth. The growth in Christianity in this country has frequently come from the periphery. Think of the Celts for example. The implication for us, if we truly desire to grow in wisdom, is that we need to develop an acute sense of spiritual peripheral vision.
If we desire to grow as a church, both in holiness and in numbers, then we must learn the spiritual arts of listening, seeing and following; listening to what God is saying, standing in solidarity alongside Samuel and saying ‘speak Lord for your servant listens,’ and watching for where God is already at work on the periphery and at the margins, for then and only then will we catch a glimpse of the ‘new heaven and the new earth’ that John refers to in the Book of Revelation. We learn these skills, and acquire this growth in wisdom, through the practice of regular prayer and reading the bible. Wisdom is rooted in and routed from prayer. Let us this year as a community commit ourselves to growing in spiritual and distinctively Christian wisdom. Amen.