Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom

One of the first things that came into my mind last week as I started to reflect on this passage from 1st Kings were those famous words from the Saint John Lennon, When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary come to me, whisper words of wisdom, Let it Be, Let it Be.

Wisdom comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the quiet whisper of a trusted friend, or a sage saying. Wisdom sometimes comes through lived experience or time spent in prayer.

Solomon’s wisdom comes in a dream as a gift from God. And Solomon could have had any number of things when God tells him, “Ask what I should give you.” Which is a little different question then we normally hear and very different from what we hear in the gospels. (Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you will find.)

It’s a touch question because it asks Solomon and all of us to discern the mind of God. “Ask what I should give you.” What is it that God wants to give us? That God wants to give Solomon?

So in his dream Solomon discerns that the gift God should give him is wisdom. Unlike other kings of the time who might have asked for riches, or long life, or the death of an enemy Solomon asks for wisdom.

Then having received wisdom as a gift from God, Solomon is asked to adjudicate a case between two of the lowest members of society. As a soon to be parent it’s a case that makes me shudder.

Two mothers stand before Solomon, one having accidently rolled over on her newborn in the middle of the night, killing it. There was a bait and switch and now Solomon is left to decide who is the rightful mother of the living child. Solomon makes a simple but shrewd statement about cutting the child in two, and sees which of the two women is the better mother to be (if not true mother of the child).

It is a bizarre scene for in its display of Solomon’s newly received wisdom he demonstrates what can be considered a poor pastoral response (at best) to a grieving mother.

Solomon’s verdict also changes the question from what is asked from God to what one does with that gift after it is receive.

Once we receive the gift, whether it’s wisdom or something else, the question then becomes, how do we move on? How do we move forward based upon our new understanding of who we are and our new gifts?

In his poem Start Close In, David Whyte puts it this way…

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,

don’t take
the second step

or the third,

start with the first


close in,

the step

you don’t want to take.

So with the gifts we are given, where do we go? What steps do we take to put them into practice?

When we have a gift, whether it is our money, or a special talent, or giving time to a worthy cause, we must spent time developing and cultivating how we put that gift into practice.

I remember being in high school, when I was first starting to realize that my musical gifts might be something I wanted to develop further. I would often hear my cello and piano teachers spout the line that “Practice makes perfect.” Then one day my mom put a little card on my music stand that read “Perfect Practice make Perfect.”
It changed the way that I spent time cultivating that musical gift. Because it wasn’t about just sitting down behind my cello for an hour or two, it was about the intentionality that came with it.

When we practice our faith, we aren’t seeking perfection. But rather we are seeking intentionality to the different faith practices.

Two weeks ago Becki McConnell and I were sitting in my office talking about what it means to be Presbyterian, and what it might look like for her to become a member of Good Shepherd. After she shared her faith journey with me, and we spent some time reflecting on grace, she shared with me a gift she was hoping to use here at Good Shepherd, and she gave me permission to share our conversation.

She shared about being a nurse, and her love of being with people. And how at Good Shepherd she hopes to use her gifts of compassion and care to visit those who are homebound and in the hospital.

That’s an intentional way of practicing faith.

So this fall, as you consider how you respond to the call to practice your faith here at Good Shepherd, I hope and pray that you will take some time to think long and hard about how to respond. That you would be intentional in whatever way you choose to respond in giving your time, talents, and money. That next Sunday you would make a pledge about how you hope to practice your faith in the coming year.

The 16th century mystic Teresa of Avila is attributed with this beautiful quote,

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
the compassion of Christ must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.

When we put our faith into practice, when we are wise in how we use our time and treasure, we become the hands and feet of Christ, building the kingdom of God. Here. And Now.