Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Challenge Contunues, Day 207: Ecclesiasties 1-3; Psalm 19; Philippians 4

Everything Is But A Puff
Wisdom is a great thing. Beyond just being smart, or possessing particular intelligence, having wisdom means knowing life. It means knowing the why of mlife, as well as the what. It means being possessed of a skill to observe and then make use of those observations so that life is improved. Wisdom forges meaning from life, right? That would make the best sense.

Not so we learn in Ecclesiastes, hear in the Psalm and witness in Paul's concluding testimony to the Philippians. Wisdom brings understanding, deep understanding. What it does not fend off? Depression or frustration with the fact that life is cyclic in nature. "Nothing is new under the sun." That is the great burden that the possession of wisdom installs in us. We can see what is good, even what is best...but we also see the futility of it all. We can fix what is broken...but it won't stay fixed. We can build, but all things eventually fall down. We can establish a goodly heritage...which will eventually be forgotten.

Once, a long time go in my ministry, the Vestry-our governing body in the parish-made a decision to change some policies with regard to the use of its endowment. The rector, my boss, was on vacation. She had left just after the meeting in which this vote was taken. It was a good decision. The previous policy had been meant for another time in the life of the parish. The new policy meant a better fit for the fund and its role in supporting the parish. That made sense to the current leadership, but it offended some of the former leaders who had installed the old policies. They had intended those policies to stand for all time. They were not happy.

Less than three days after the vote, I had several of those former leaders in my office. They wanted to vent about the reversal of the policy that they had created. You can understand that the explanation that time had changed simlpy failed to mollify them. Would that I could have quoted Ecclesiastes by heart, or Psalm 19 in that moment of struggle, or even the concluding paragraphs from St. Paul to the Philippians. I didn't have them at hand. I am sure they, too, would have failed to pacifiy the upset, but that is not wisdom's point. Perhaps they would have received some sense of consolation...

What the Teacher offers in Ecclesiastes is a willing exploration of the dilemmas of existence that would otherwise overwhelm us. He struggles to give us a way to live in the present moment, fully, while acknowledging at the same time that nothing save God is truly eternal. Yes, it means everything we know will eventually fade into the dust of history. It also allows us to work, love, laugh and play to the glory of God and to see our hope for meaning in life fulfilled. The one thing we can demand of wisdom? Oddly enough...the one, unobtainable thing is certainty. That is the first and most lamented casualty of our struggle for wisdom in this life. But once we let go of certainty? Then anything is possible....

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