Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
In our scripture reading from Proverbs today, Wisdom starts by calling out, by pleading, for people to listen to her. “On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads, she takes her stand; besides the gates in front of the town she cries out” - hoping that people will begin to listen to her. One of the reasons I am continually drawn to the Wesleyan, Methodist tradition is our emphasis on reading scripture not alone, but through the lenses of tradition, experience, and reason. Or another way of saying reason, wisdom.
We do our best to heed this call to listen to wisdom, to let it guide our reading of scripture and the way we live out God’s call on our lives in this world. One of the best definitions of wisdom I’ve ever seen came from an internet meme, of all places. I have no idea of the origin of this saying but it goes like this: Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Reading scripture on its own gives us knowledge about what the words before us say, but wisdom guides us to look at the context in which the words were written, the changes in translation as we read these words in English, not their original language, and wisdom guides us to the heart of love that is woven throughout all of scripture. Knowledge of scripture could lead us to say things like slavery is condoned, women should be silent in church, and homosexuality is an abomination. But wisdom of scripture has led us to realize that God does not desire for us to own other human beings, that God pours out prophecies on God’s sons and daughters alike, and that love is love is love is love.
I lament that the UMC as a whole is still drawing lines around who is in and who is out. I watched every second that I could of the special called general conference that occurred this last February, and I wept when the traditional plan was passed. At that moment it felt like not only did we not listen to Wisdom, we told her to go away, that she, too, was not welcome in this church. Thanks be to God, it is not quite that easy to send wisdom away, it would take more than a 51%-49% split vote to push out the power of the Holy Spirit. Since February we have seen a great awakening of not only progressives and centrists but conservatives who look at the Traditional Plan and do not recognize their church.
The winds of change are moving, as throughout the United States various annual conferences are electing progressive delegates to general and jurisdictional conference for the very first time - some completely unexpectedly. Progressives are getting voted in, in places like Missouri and Central Texas. The Dakotas approved a statement disapproving of the Traditional Plan. Wisdom has continued to cry out and we, God’s people, are finally starting to listen.
Here in Iowa, we elected a full progressive slate of clergy and lay delegates to both General and Jurisdictional Conference. I don’t know exactly what winds of change the Spirit will bring to the General Conference in May of 2020, but I know we are sending people who are ready to listen, who invite Wisdom into their lives, and who live by the Spirit. Here in Iowa, we approved, by a vote of 595 Yes to 280 No, a statement saying that we disapprove of the traditional plan, and reaffirm our baptismal vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
Wisdom is crying out - do you hear her? Will you listen?
God of all, who created wisdom before the form of the earth, help us to hear the cries of wisdom, to do our best to listen when she shouts. Then give us the courage to do what wisdom calls us to do - through the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.