Sunday Reflection

15th August 2021

Readings for proper 15: Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:51-58

Today’s readings begin with a description from Proverbs of the house built be Wisdom. Wisdom is personified here as a woman. The Hebrew word chokmoth is feminine as is the Greek word sophia and the Latin word sapientia. Perhaps then it is not surprising that wisdom is seen as a woman. Her house is a grand, or maybe a perfect, place, having seven pillars. We aren’t told how these seven pillars are arranged, maybe in a circle? Seven is an important number in Hebrew suggesting completeness, eg as in the work of God being completed in seven days. It is a place of learning for those whose minds are simple – unencumbered, open minded, free from complicated superstitions or beliefs. Free too from feelings of self aggrandisement or superiority. For these people Wisdom offers a place to stay – to rest and/or live, to learn and/or worship – and a place where food and drink is served: nourishment that may be a metaphor for knowledge and learning. It is a house where those who enter are enabled to move from immaturity to maturity. It is a  place to gain insight and thus, life. 

Today’s psalm is also exploring the idea of being shaped by God’s wisdom. The word translated as fear, as in fear of God, can also have the meaning of being in awe, and indeed fear and awe can be experienced as similar. Such awe is gained through being open and child-like and of being metaphorically fed. In this way it reflects the idea from Proverbs of wisdom and openness and of being fed. It makes explicit the importance of seeking God, of wanting to be fed, of seeking peace and prosperity (for which we might read well-being if for us ‘prosperity’ implies a focus on ill gotten gains or greed). It is also clear that seeking God, seeking wisdom or the right way of living, is about choosing between doing evil and doing good. 

True wisdom is living with God, following God’s ways. 

The letter to the Ephesians is also giving advice as how to live wisely. Again it is about understanding the will of God and following that rather than the ways of debauchery. Here the source of instruction or inspiration is the Spirit – the breath that comes from God – which arouses in us joy and song and thanksgiving. 

The passage from John’s gospel is part of the long and slowly unfolding exposition on Jesus as the bread of life. One feels the writer is increasingly bogged down with understanding this as being both a physical and a spiritual experience. Perhaps it would help us to think of ways in which we use food and drink as metaphors. We may use the phrase ‘it is meat and drink to me’ to described the pleasure or support something gives us. Or we may talked about an activity as ‘being all consuming’ to describe how it takes over our lives again giving us joy and/or  fulfilment. In the same way seeking out, or living in relationship with, Jesus – and through Jesus with God – might be described using either or both of these phrases. And yet neither would fully describe our experience of knowing and of being known by, Jesus. Perhaps as suggested in Proverbs, it is easier to gain wisdom by being simple minded. 

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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