“Lay aside immaturity and live…” – Wisdom, mystery, brilliant preaching, and a pair of spiritual refugees

Wisdom has built her house,
    she has hewn her seven pillars.
 She has [prepared her feast], she has mixed her wine,
    she has also set her table.
 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
    from the highest places in the town,
 “You that are simple, turn in here!”
    To those without sense she says,
 “Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
 Lay aside immaturity, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

Proverbs 9:1-6

So that was interesting. For the first time in forty years, Rebekah and I got up on a Sunday morning, ate a leisurely breakfast, made a last-minute decision on where to go to church, and then just showed up. It was kind of nice and kind of terrifying at the same time – plus more than a little bit sad.

We drove into Raleigh and parked ourselves in the pew for worship at White Memorial Presbyterian Church. The senior pastor there, Christopher Edmonston, is probably one of the best preachers in The Presbyterian Church. No, I am not kidding. I have heard Chris four or five times and his messages are consistently eloquent, thoughtful, deep, challenging, and animated by his passion for following Jesus.

The central idea of the message – and I am dramatically cutting to the chase here – is that real wisdom is all about humility, and continual learning, and listening to others, and understanding that it is not only impossible to reduce everything to bite-sized tidy facts it is inadvisable to try and – besides – that is not what wisdom is.

Because wisdom is not about me being right and someone else being wrong, it is about aligning ourselves with the righteousness of God.

First of all Pure:

I immediately thought about the way the idea is formed in the New Testament Book of James: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:16-18).

This is why when we are invited into Jesus we are invited not into being right but righteousness; not into the practice of law but the practice of love; not into pat answers but patent mystery – the kind of mystery that reveals the truth of God without trivializing the divine via bite-sized proofs. The mystery of “the wisdom from above” is that it is not doctrinal, partisan, harsh, pushy, domineering, or coercive; but pure, peace-loving; considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit; impartial and sincere.

“Lay aside immaturity,” Proverbs invites us, “and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

There is nothing in authentic Christian witness that takes pleasure in one-upmanship or divisiveness. The way of Jesus is the way of peace, and those who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Thanks for the thinking prompt, Chris…

But I did miss WFPC!

– Rebekah and Derek at WFPC

But I missed – oh how I missed – the buzz of life and expectancy that filled not just my soul but the whole campus when we were with our Wake Forest Presbyterian Church family for worship. And, yes, I do understand how this is very much a cumulative and interactive phenomenon, in response to the love we have both given and received, the relationships we have built, the imprint of Rebekah’s life and faith and way of doing ministry, and the sense of irrepressible spiritual buoyancy that has always been so real wherever we have been privileged to serve.

So Sunday was step one of this journey into retirement. But it is a journey that will always involve Sunday worship with the family of God.

Even though, for a while, we are spiritual refugees – at home with Jesus but without a particular home of our own… – DEREK

One comment

  1. “Spiritual refugees.” I understand the concept. I, too, am newly retired from pastoring a small church and trying to figure out what next. I’m also living in a new community. But I constantly told people that God’s love is with us no matter what happens and that much is always true. Blessings on you all in this new season.

    Liked by 1 person

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