Sermon – 19 August 18 – 10am – David

Bishop David on Proverbs 9:1-6 and John 6:51-58

Considering the Jews were fiercely monotheistic, they didn’t half have a lot of Gods other than Jehovah. Like ruah – the spirit of God that brooded like a dove over the dark matter at the beginning of creation, willing life. Or chokmah – wisdom personified in our reading this morning as a housewife who has successfully set up a beautiful home, a safe place drawing in the simple and the senseless and giving them insight.
Quite often that drawing in has very erotic overtones. Wisdom is not so much a divine Mary Berry, catching people’s attention with her walnut fancies, but rather wisdom lures people like a Nigella Lawson, with a sexy glint in her eye.
Wisdom dominates the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job, but also is a strong theme in the Psalms and Daniel and much of the Apocrypha. It is three millennia ahead of its time in that it sees the universe as homocentric, its laws just waiting for humanity to emerge to discover them. Wisdom essentially is the universe calling to us to discover it. Not just looking at the night sky in sheer wonder at all the stars, but actually chancing upon the laws that drive them.
Usually those laws are very simple. The general rule is if they are complicated we’ve got them wrong. We did not concoct them, we discovered things that are already there, that already power the show. Equations like E=mc2, S=KLogW, F=Gm1m2/d2 literally make the world go round. Whereas concocted equations like how to predict next Tuesday’s Financial Times index
involve numerous letters and figures, such as the number of cucumbers sold at Proudfoots
to the power 0.3478 divided by the number of shelves in the food hall, multiplied the sine of the number of till assistants with blue eyes. And even then, it will still be wrong, badly wrong. Wisdom, chokmah in Hebrew, is God playing hide and seek with us, presenting his world as the ultimate Sodoku just begging to be solved.
The most religious thing I’ve done for years is to revisit my Maths A level and stretch my mind to breaking point trying to get my head around it all. Rather than wallowing in a pool of my own prejudices it draws me out, challenges me with new horizons, calls me to a new country where I may or may not flourish. Reading a novel, learning a language can have the same effect, making you realise that you are definitely not the centre of the universe, but nevertheless that ineffable centre is accessible, is calling to you.
chokmah is a feminine noun, hence the personification as a woman. As Christianity came to birth and struggled to put the whole Jesus-event into words, it hit on the idea that he was Wisdom made flesh, which as I say was already around in readings like ours from Proverbs this morning. Jesus of course was male, so with a clunky change of gears which would have made a even a learner-driver wince, they decided that Jesus wasn’t chokmah made flesh but logos made flesh. logos was masculine the macho main-stay of the Greek philosophers, with traits very similar to wisdom, wonders waiting to be discovered.
I think I would have left it with Jesus being chokmah made flesh, and not worried about confusing gender identity. Because describing him as logos made flesh bought us into a whole load of Greek gobbledygook that have taken us 2000 years to unscramble. An unscrambling helped by Jesus in this morning’s Gospel who says with apologies to the Jungle Book’s King Louis, ‘If you want to be like me, talk like me, walk like me, be wisdom incarnate like me: eat me,
drink me.’
That’s it really. If you’re finding it hard to get your head around the most fiendish Sodoku, or the plot twists of your latest novel, or the subjunctive perfect of Portugese, or the Binomial Theorem, why not take communion, digest a bit of Jesus, wisdom made flesh and let him take the strain.
I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I was in Holland and Barrett the other day, the place was full of people  looking for alternative therapies, including those who believed that  a good dose of oat bran  would reveal to them the secrets of the universe. It might reveal to them the secrets of their insides, but the universe? I think they were aiming a bit over high.
Why not go for the bread and wine, the body and blood?
Alan Bennett’s wonderful play the History Boys has Scripps, one of the lads receiving communion before cycling to school to receive his A level results, eating and drinking
the ultimate wisdom before seeking wisdom.
Or if Alan Bennett isn’t your thing, then stick with John Betjamen’s poem Christmas:
And is it true? and is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.
Or as I say,
After Communion you go out with the taste of Christ on your lips. Give people a taste of him in your lives! And let that taste be wise!
(c) David Wilbourne 2018