Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gaining Wisdom

This post is the reflection I offered at chapel Thursday at LTSG. It is based upon the daily lectionary reading of I Cor. 6: 1-11 which you really need to read in all of its detail before you read this reflection. For me a lesson to read the lesson for the day you are signing up for before you say “yes.”
To quote Dr. Oldenburg, “ Do you Really want to say ‘Thanks Be to God’ for this text?” We will spend some time reflecting upon it in a moment, but we will not be discussing any of the labels.
To the Summer Greek –ers: You’ve almost made it halfway through in your quest for Greek knowledge. The fact you see me here is proof you can do it. For all of us we are beginning another time of learning. All of this knowledge will help you dazzle parishioners, and peers. And lest you think learning Greek is in vain, I can tell you that in my time as a summer chaplain intern I did have a patient ask me about aorist tense verbs in Greek- no lie! Dr. Carlson did not pay me to say this.
This time last year, I was sitting where you are now, and I was starting to feel like things were not so bad. I had made it through the first week without running away. Turns out that Dr Carlson was pretty OK too. I thought maybe I had figured it out after all. And then, WHAM! I hit my Greek wall. I found out I had to learn 24 ways to say the word “the.” A simple three letter word- 24 ways! And I found myself in need of a helping hand. I remember going to Jason my tutor, handing him my translations and saying, “ If they are right, I don’t know why, and if they are wrong, I don’t know how to fix it.” He was very patient. Thank you Jason, though you may be wondering if you should have helped me. When I hit my wall, I began to ask myself if I was really called, should I really be here, can I really do this? I gave up a “perfectly good job” to be here- I wonder if I can get it back? It all came crashing down, but my friends here helped me, not just to learn the words, but to get me over the stress and to remember it would all be OK. Summer Greek can be that time of bonding in the face of common adversity, but here at Seminary there will also be times where your personal adversities will clash, times when being in close proximity to each other, or having to navigate a group project gone wrong, or that big test on Friday, will create disputes and test the limits of your patience. Community has its challenges, and some day so too will a congregation to which you are sent.
Being here at Seminary is as much about the gaining of wisdom as it is knowledge. So how do we make it? By the grace of God to be sure, but more specifically by being engaged in community with others. Not by judging others, or comparing ourselves and our wisdom or worthiness, but by seeing each other how God sees us- sinners who are washed, sanctified and justified by God through Christ.
In our lesson from Corinthians today, Paul is chastising the Corinthians for their faulty and inflated view of their wisdom. He has been telling them: just as Israel was to purge itself of abominations, so also the church must purge itself of ways of conduct inappropriate to the kingdom of God. Earlier in this letter, he has lost his patience when he asks if he should come at them with a stick in discipline, or a spirit of gentleness. Note to Dr Carlson, please don’t get out the stick. Paul criticizes how they are resolving disputes among themselves. His rejecting of the courts stems from the belief that disputes should be handled within the community of faith. To go to beyond it is to breach the unity of the church. He asks, "Can it be that there is no wisdom among you?” This is bitingly ironic in view of the Corinthians' claim to possess a special wisdom and ability to judge others. Paul calls them on it and says that if they are going to judge the world, surely they should be able to judge trivial matters among themselves. True wisdom we are told is to be found only in conduct that sustains and builds up the community. Rather than live in judgment of one another, Paul urges- remember we are all the same- washed, sanctified and justified and now for you, called to this place.
Here at Seminary, the true wisdom I hope to share with you is that last year we got farther in our time in Summer Greek, and the first year in seminary when we remembered to see our fellow Christians as a part of the community where we all experience joys and struggles in our quest to know God and ourselves better and more deeply. We called it “No Seminarian Left Behind.” So I encourage each of you, to seek the wisdom- that comes in community here in this place. Amen.

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