Today’s Bible readings are about the spiritual gift of wisdom. Solomon prayed for wisdom and God answered his prayer, giving him the wisdom for which he prayed, and riches and honor besides. The church as Ephesus is told, “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.” And St. John recalls Jesus’ command to the disciples to continue to come together week by week to receive the spiritual food of remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection in the bread and wine – the spiritual flesh and blood of the risen savior.
Practical wisdom is knowing and doing the right thing in every situation. In Ephesians it is “understanding what the will of the Lord is” and acting on that understanding. Wisdom translates the Greek words Logos and Sophia. Logos is also translated Word, as in the opening of St. John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, was one of the titles of Jesus, and it is the name of the great central church in Constantinople. Jesus understood the will of the Father and acted on that understanding. Our wisdom is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let me begin with the historical context of the Old Testament reading. Solomon reigned from about 970-930 B.C. Two great powers have historically struggled for control of the middle east, the great Fertile Crescent where civilization began: Egypt at one end and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria) at the other. In Solomon’s time both were weak. A new Egyptian dynasty (the 22nd) had just begun to rule. Solomon married a daughter of the first pharaoh of this dynasty. Mesopotamia was divided by internal conflict. (So what else is new) The Assyrian (Kurdish) empire just coming together. It would conquer the northern kingdom of Israel in 722, about 200 years after Solomon and the division of the kingdom. Because both great powere were weak Solomon was able to control the center part of trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Think of the trade route like I-40 or I-95. The trade route ran from Egypt back from the malarial Mediterranean coast to above the Sea of Galilee then through Syria and down the Euphrates River. (Imagine if a ruler of Lenoir/ Black Mountain captured Morganton /Asheville and put a toll on I-40, then traded say for horses with Winston-Salem and for moonshine with Asheville/Knoxville). Besides controlling the trade route Solomon sent ships through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to trade with Yemen and East Africa. We hear of the visit of the Queen of Sheba. The Ethiopian monarchs claimed descent from the queen’s child by Solomon. Solomon kept David’s army of mercenary soldiers. He continued and expanded David’s practice of marrying for property and political and economic alliances. A ruler who wants to get rich by trade needs peace. Any wars should be quick, cheap, and victorious. Peace is better. Keeping the peace requires wisdom, knowing and doing the will of God.
We read of wisdom in Isaiah 11, the description of the coming Messiah, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
The church at Ephesus is encouraged to be “wise” to “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.” Last week’s children’s talk reminded us of the importance of singing and making melody to the Lord.” We begin our prayer this morning that the bread and wine we offer will be for us the real and spiritual body and blood of Christ Jesus with these words, “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”
And finally, “Jesus said, ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’” Jesus did indeed give his flesh, dying on the cross to take away our sins, rising from the tomb on the third day as our first-fruits of resurrection and new life. By his resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit we begin a new life in him in our baptism.
Practical wisdom is knowing and doing the right thing in every situation. Our wisdom is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have been set free from the need to sin, and we have been given a new and eternal life. So let us serve our risen Lord this day and always, in truth, in power, and with wisdom, seeking always to know and to do God’s holy will. Amen.