This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news
1 Kings 3:5-14
5At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ 6And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.
They say that wisdom comes with years but I haven’t noticved this in my own life. Wisdom comes with wanting it rather than the other things I tend to run after. The legend of Solomon’s choice preserves the truth that we become wise because we choose to be and work at it. Solomon’s wisdom is celebrated in the Bible by attaching his name to the books of Proverbs, Eccelsiastes and the Song of Songs which are in fact collections of the wisdom of the Jewish people, expressing their shrewd understanding of life, its blessings and its disappointments. Wisdom, we might say, comes from listening to the experience of generations and respecting it. Jesus, in his use of parables and proverbs shows how much he learned from the wisdom tradition of his people. In our time we have easy access to the world’s wisdom by means of the internet, but we tend to prefer tweets sand soundbites. Maybe our shallowness derives from our lack of any transcendent perspective on our lives. If we don’t think our lives will be judged, what need is there for wisdom? But if we believe we are answerable for our choices, we will look for the wisdom to make good ones. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
5After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew* Beth-zatha,* which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed.* 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ 11But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ 12They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in* the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
The lectionary excerpts form the Gospel of John focus on the “signs” or “mighty acts” of Jesus recounted there. Tbey are all in one way or another to do with the fundamental contrast between a life-giving God and a death-giving religion. Here a man has become accustomed to sit and beg his life away, waiting to be healed by religion. Jesus asks the fundamental question, “Do you want to get well?” and takes action, commanding the man to stand and walk. When the man obeys he is assailed by religious people for whom the most evident thing about a newly -healed person is the mat that he shouldn’t be carrying.
I could leave the story as a critique of false religion, but at new year, facing again the basic questions about my own life, and recognising how easily my own practice of religion buries those questions in a welter of observances, I should listen seriously to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?” And know that if I say yes, he’s going to tell me to stand up and take that mat with me….