Let me hear the question that teaches me to hear the question
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Source of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your intentions and commitment enlightened you may know what is the hope to which he has called you…. (Ephesians 1:15-23)
What was Paul suggesting to the community of the Way, the disciples of the resurrection? The first thing to unpack in this excerpt is that heart in Greek has less to do with feelings and more to do with moral character and resolve.
The other comment to consider is the nature of wisdom and revelation. Wisdom traditionally means the capacity to learn from teachings, teachers, and experience. To be wise in Hebrew Scriptures requires humility, discipline, and trust in the Holy One, regardless of the circumstances of our lives at any given time.
Revelation, rather than being what we learn, relates more to our awareness of the working of the Spirit; it lies in our openness to recognizing the Holy and the activity of holiness in our midst.
Paul and the early church were working through what it meant to feel this mysterious but powerful calling to Christ, and how to understand this calling in the light of their traditions. For Jews, Christ sounded like many of the Wisdom teachers. They recognized him as a rabbi. He embodied the qualities of humility, discipline, and trust that were the hallmarks of the enlightened person. His capacity for compassion and inclusivity challenged those first churches to be courageous, audacious even, in expressing their calling.
This new sect of Judaism found its faith to be a way of life, more than a set of doctrines or cultural rules. In many ways, I think they could hear the message of the prophets in these new expressions of faith. They re-invented or dismissed practices that collided with the mandate to love, to connect, to tell the good news of the power of life, and the power of freedom from fear and guilt. It must have been an incredible struggle as they sorted through what they valued, what had defined them and what they they were becoming. It is clear that Paul, too, was prodded by competing questions about traditional practice and worried about what to keep and what to release.
Despite the condemnation of Rome and others with power, people were drawn initially to the spirit of liberation and compassion that prevailed in those first communities. Even with the enthusiasm of converts, however, the fledgling communities had difficulty maintaining their focus.If you read the first chapters of the book of revelations, you will see that they too had failures and confusion about their mission.
The church became an institution, then we became a failing institution, because we forgot the Way, we forgot our purpose; we lost our moral imperative. Whenever we find ourselves in trying times, we need to remember that historically, when we forget our task: to be bearers of compassion, to be orators of hope, to love everyone, we are failing. There is only one way and it will always be blessed with the presence of the Risen Christ, not up in the sky but in the lives and faces of others. Our spiritual focus must be fixed on the sacred in the ordinary, on an openness to revelation, and a conviction that it is in sacrifice that we find wealth.
The hope to which we in the church have been called is to believe, with passionate fervour, that when we are in error we will be winnowed until we get it right again. And when we are serving the one who loved all people, we will experience the abiding presence of love and life, community and peace.
A prayer for Wisdom
Holy Wisdom, Sophia,
Word that is both intention and action
Be our guide
Teach us you truth, our experience broadened
by your insight, the breath that is Divine
In your gaze across the millennia,
The birth of and death of
Stars and civilizations.
Show us the holiness that began with you
That leads us to completion and new birth
Teach us to be slow as mountains and trees in knowing,
and quick to learn from your sacred teachers,
Who wear the marks of compassion and courage
Be our gateway and our companion
through our lives and throughout the
Garden of our world
May we learn Wisdom, the heart of the Maker
And the Spirit of Jesus