Strength, Wisdom, and Favor

My wife’s maternal grandmother is a saint.  She might even qualify to be a Saint according the rules of Roman Catholic Sainthood, except she isn’t Roman Catholic.  She’s a Pentecostal, who loves the Lord with all her heart and seeks to do his will in every way.  I always assume I’m on the right path when she “likes” a post on this blog over on Facebook.  We don’t get to see her very often these days, but I’m glad she gets to keep up with her great-grand-daughters through the marvels of social media.  One of my favorite memories of the short time in which we lived close enough to see her often comes from when we would say goodbye.  She’s always good for a hug, and without fail, she’d stand up on her tip-toes to whisper in my ear, “May you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.”  Which is, very obviously, a paraphrase of Luke’s concluding comments about the infant Jesus following his Presentation and his Mother, Mary’s Purification.

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40)

It is prayer that I hope to live into.  I’m not doing very well in the strength department, mostly because my schedule only allows time for running as exercise and I HATE RUNNING!!!  Still, I’m signed up for another Color Run in April, and I’m on the lookout for a treadmill to keep me from having to actually go outside, so I’m working on it.  The wisdom piece I take very seriously,  and I pray that will continue to do so throughout my years in professional ministry.  While I strongly believe that every Christian is a theologian, I think it is the duty and responsibility of the clergy to act as “Theologians-in-Residence” in their congregations.  To assume that everything I need to know I learned in Seminary is a foolish way to live.  Finally, the favor bit.  Realistically, the prayer can’t that I will “grow in favor with the Lord” because that’s just impossible, instead, I think it means that I will grow in my understanding of God’s grace (my translation of favor) in my life.  The assumption sometimes is that the deeper one walks into their spiritual life, the less sinful they become.  That’s a nice thought, but the reality seems to be the deeper one’s relationship is with God, the more aware they become of their brokenness and need for a savior.  I’m doubtful that I’ll become less sinful over the years, though if I do, that’ll be because of God’s grace and not my own actions, but I do pray that I’ll continue to grow in my relationship with God from this day forth and for ever more.

Chapter 2, verse 40 seems like almost a throwaway verse, a transition from baby Jesus into his adolescence, but thanks to Grandma S’s prayer, it has come alive for me this morning.  And so, I’ll pray it for you, dear reader, as well.

May you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.  Amen.

Wisdom is a Verb

My Google Box defines Wisdom as a noun that means

  1. The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
  2. The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of such experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

But I know better than to believe everything I read on the interwebs.  For instance, I know that the Morgan Freeman isn’t dead.  I know that a 1% tax on all bank transactions isn’t happening.   I know that Mitt Romney wasn’t a draft dodger.  And I know, for a fact, that Wisdom is a verb.

Here’s the definition I’m choosing to use from the Letter of James, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.”  Wisdom is shown by good works and gentleness of spirit.

I know  that Wisdom is a verb mostly because I’ve seen plenty of people act without it.  I’ve received hundreds of email forwards that were filled with angry and fearful speech.  I’ve heard dozens of comments that are based not in gentleness of spirit on a myriad of topics from elections to education, from child-rearing to service music, from the cost of oil to the use of food stamps.  I’ve witnessed thousands of seemingly innocuous self-centered actions, that if only wisdom had been enacted, the world would be a far better place.

This is, of course, nothing new.  James didn’t have the joy that is email, but he saw plenty of wisdom lacking in his own world as well.  “If you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

I’m reminded today that one of the items on my regular prayer list should be Wisdom, all the while knowing that God won’t be giving me any nouns.  Rather, I’ll have the chance to live out God’s Wisdom as a verb.