“Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you.” This is what God said to Solomon in a dream. “Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you.”
Hmm…what an interesting offer. It makes God sound like a genie in a bottle, or a fairy godmother. But let’s go with it and see where it takes us. “Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it to you.”
If God made the same offer to us, how would we respond? What would we wish for? The standard virtuous answers include world peace, a cure for the coronavirus, an end to systemic racism, healing our planet, and eliminating world hunger. The standard not-so virtuous answers include wealth, power, the ability to vanquish our enemies, and if we’re really brave…immortality.
The interesting thing about Solomon’s response is that he asked for none of these things. Instead, he asked for wisdom. He did this with great humility and concern for others: “I’m young and inexperienced. I know next to nothing. But I’m here, your servant, in the middle of the people you have chosen…Please give your servant a discerning mind in order to govern your people and to distinguish good from evil, because no one is able to govern this important people of yours without your help.”
God’s response is equally as beautiful as Solomon’s request: “Because you have asked for this instead of requesting long life, wealth, or victory over your enemies—asking for discernment so as to acquire good judgment—I will now do just what you said. Look, I hereby give you a wise and understanding mind. There has been no one like you before now, nor will there be anyone like you afterward.” [CEB]
When God offered Solomon to give him whatever he wished, Solomon chose wisdom. I think this is a brilliant choice. In this time of pandemic and civil unrest, I find myself wishing for the same thing over and over again. While I’m not “young and inexperienced” like Solomon, these days I feel like “I know next to nothing.” I’m flying by the seat of my pants! Perhaps you feel the same way, too!
I have found myself praying on more than one occasion, the same words Solomon said to God: “I know next to nothing…but I’m here, your servant, in the middle of the people you have chosen…Please give your servant a discerning mind in order to govern your people and to distinguish good from evil, because no one is able to govern this important people of yours without your help.” Amen!
Since the middle of March, I’ve been on a quest for wisdom. This quest began with a healthy dose of humility. Seminary did not teach me how to lead a church during a pandemic, nor is there a book available from Augsburg Fortress to guide us through these turbulent times. Instead, I take baby steps. I test the ground beneath my feet to see if it’s solid enough to support me and those I love. I take things one day at a time, or a week at a time if I’m lucky.
All the Type A planning I usually do during the summer months, has been completely thrown out the window. News from church and state changes so rapidly that the only sane option is to travel lightly and think on your feet. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I’m certain I’ll make a few more. So I’m counting on you to grant me a little grace as we go through this pandemic.
I hope you know that every decision I make is done with prayer, as well as listening to the voices of others. I trust that the Spirit’s wisdom will guide me, as well as Abiding Savior, as we navigate this uncharted territory together.
If you’re personally wondering what to pray for these days, perhaps a prayer for wisdom is the one-size-fits-all perfect prayer. Parents need wisdom as they creatively juggle home and work responsibilities. I’m not sure how you handle a split schedule where your kids go to school some days and do online education on the others. You have been, and will continue to be, in my prayers. Grandparents need wisdom as they try to find new ways to be a part of the lives of our grandchildren.
We all need wisdom as the days of social isolation drag on and on. It’s taking a toll on all of us. It’s hard to stay emotionally healthy without the usual support systems we used to take for granted.
The leaders of our communities need wisdom as they make decisions that affect the healthy and safety of their people. Those who see the dramatic shift in our national conversation about systemic racism, need wisdom to keep us moving forward. It’s hard to take concrete steps when we cannot meet in person.
The Church of Jesus Christ needs wisdom, as we use new technologies to keep us connected and proclaim the good news of Jesus. I believe these creative communication tools will not disappear once the pandemic is over. They will forever change the Church.
Wisdom is the gift from God that keeps us strong in difficult times. It teaches us that, quite often, the smartest thing we can do is be silent and listen to the stories of others before offering our opinion. Wisdom is the superpower we need to be able to “distinguish good from evil.” We cannot shepherd the people we love without it.
If there is one piece of wisdom we need to hear this morning, it comes from our second lesson which many of us have often heard being recited at funeral. St. Paul says with bold confidence “If God is for us, who is against us?” Or, maybe he said it with his knees shaking, and his voice trembling, trying to convince himself that it was true. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Wisdom’s answer to this question is the conviction that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [NRSV]
We need to hear this word of wisdom, especially on the days when we feel like we know next to nothing. We need to hear this word of wisdom when the way forward is not clear, when answers don’t come easy, and words of comfort and hope fail us.
Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. Nothing. We are not alone in these difficult times. God is with us always. Christ is moving us from death to life, from dead ends to new beginnings. The Holy Spirit is whispering words of wisdom in our ears.
You are God’s beloved, whether you feel like it or not. This wisdom has the power to transform you from the inside out. Because when you realize you’re God’s beloved, you begin to glow. You can’t help it. Your light begins to shine in the darkness our world is facing. You are EXACTLY the person you need to be at this time in history. Your love and wisdom and compassion are needed within your circle of influence and beyond.
So, take heart my friends. Be encouraged this morning. And on those days when you feel like you know next to nothing, ask God for the gift of wisdom. Amen.
Copyright ©2020 by David Eck.