Proverbs 9: 1-6; Eph. 5: 15-20; Jn 6: 51-58
Baptism of Charlotte Jane Cooper
Good morning all and grace and peace—and a special welcome from all of us at St. Andrew’s this morning to all in Charlotte Jane Cooper’s entourage—godparents, family, and friends who are here to worship with us and to celebrate this great sacrament of Christian Baptism. A wonderful day.
“Regard O Lord, the supplications of thy servants, and grant that whosoever in this house shall be received by Baptism into the congregation of Christ’s flock, may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and may continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end. Amen."
On the radio this week I heard an interview with Ned Colletti, an old baseball guy who is now General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. (I guess no comment about that series. LA has been rough for us this year.)
Anyway, he was talking about some of the moves that both the Dodgers and our Pirates had made at the time of the trading deadline at the end of last month, both in terms of impact in the current season and in years ahead. And talking about some of the best players rising in the Dodger Minor League system, he said, “you have to give these players time to play. You can’t rush them. You just can’t microwave the kind of experience you need to have to play in the Major Leagues. It takes time.”
I don’t actually want to say that everything I know I learn on Sports Talk Radio. But I think what Colletti had to say caught my attention because of the way the lessons appointed this morning center on the idea of Wisdom. On what true wisdom is. On how we become wise. On what that even means. On how we come to share in a deep and transformational way in God’s wisdom. And that sounds like a good topic on a baptismal day . . . .
There isn’t anything wrong—and in fact there is a lot that is incredibly important about knowledge, expertise. Book learning. We have great many advanced degrees around us this morning, and certainly that fact is one that enriches our lives in this congregation and in our community in many ways. And there is a kind of practical knowledge about the way of the world that is so very important also. My dad used to talk about certain people as “savvy.” Meaning that they knew how to make things work, how to get along, how to be successful. But not necessarily well read or highly educated. Different genres of knowledge. We know perhaps some who may speak three languages and understand the inner workings of the atom, but who may seem utterly clueless when it comes to the affairs of everyday life.
But when we think about wisdom, we know this is even again something of a different category. Knowledge, reflection, life experience gathered over a long period of time, the fruit of mature contemplation, psychological and emotional and spiritual balance and depth. Hard to pin it down exactly. Maybe we know it when we see it. Wisdom not so much something you can seek as a goal, an object, but a kind of spiritual gift, if you don’t mind that word. A matter character that may gradually emerge over time as our lives unfold. Not something you can make in a microwave, anyway. Maybe not even something we ever actually “have.” Something that is deep in the character of God, and that we can share. Participate in. A little vague, I guess, but I hope this is suggestive.
I’m reminded of the title of a book that impressed me a great deal 30 years ago, when I was in seminary and in the midst of the time of discernment that we call by shorthand “the ordination process.” By the Presbyterian Eugene Peterson, which is about the characteristic of wisdom and maturity in Christian life, called, and I just want to put the title out here now: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” All those words challenging for us I think. Long, when we center so much with the desire for instant gratification. Obedience, when we so often seem to twist the prayer to say, “not thy will, but mine, be done.” And “same direction,” when freedom and flexibility always seem to be what we seek to achieve. Not about something we zap in a microwave. Not something we own or control. A gift.
Thinking about the prayer we will pray for Charlotte: “Sustain her O Lord, In your Holy Spirit. Give her an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”
Come, Charlotte, as the wonderful invitation this morning, “eat of this bread, drink of this wine.” I love reading this section of the Proverbs. “ Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Or as St. Paul has for us today, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time. Be filled with the Spirit. 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.”
Because that is what true wisdom is all about. The spirit to know and to love him. When there is this transparency. When what we do and what we say and the character of our lives is congruent with him, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And as Jesus in the sixth chapter of St. John. “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”
O come, thou Wisdom from on high—as we sing in the second week of Advent: O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
The source of true knowledge, the seen from which all our human wisdom will grow. Emmanuel. God with us. That he may dwell in us, and we in him.
You can’t take a class for it. There is no diploma, no certificate of accomplishment, no credential.
But what we can do is immerse ourselves in his presence, to stand in the river of his love. To open ourselves to his presence in the Holy Scriptures. Reading them, knowing them by heart, letting them fill our imaginations. To open ourselves to his presence in the life and worship of the Christian family. To open ourselves to his presence in the pain of this world, among the poor, the sick, the broken. To let down our guard and acknowledge our sin, and to accept the gift of his forgiveness. And grace and healing and new life in him. And see what happens then. Not so that we have a wisdom of our own, but that we share in his wisdom. And then to see what he makes of us, in this life and in the life to come.
It’s a prayer for Charlotte Jane this morning, and it is for all of us. May she grow into wisdom and true godliness all her days. True wisdom, true godliness. Amen.