“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on? Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”
Jesus was a wise sage, steeped in the ancient wisdom of the Jewish Scriptures, who formed a community of learners who welcomed his message about a new Way to be human. He offered an alternative Way to live and a fresh way to see the world. While some of his teachings opened new vistas of possibilities, much of it called people back to the well-worn wisdom of his ancient heritage.
Jesus was raised in a “wisdom culture” that cherished the Proverbs of Solomon and other Jewish wisdom texts, and was taught to revere the old wise men of his village for their rugged life experience and years sitting at the feet of the sages. One basic aspect of wisdom culture and literature is the idea that the Creator has embedded into the created order (and human beings themselves) a certain divine order or harmony to be respected and guarded. There’s a right way and wrong way; there’s the way of wisdom and the way of folly. You can disregard this order, go against the grain of reality, and insist on your own way, but you do so at your own peril.
This divine harmony and order at the center of reality came to be personified as an alluring female figure in the Jewish literature known as “Lady Wisdom.” She is described as roaming about town trying to get a hearing, standing on Main Street calling people back to the good life God always intended for his creatures. Her opposite is the seductive harlot, who lures drooling men away into her bed of ruin. In the text below you get a snapshot of Lady Wisdom’s loving offer:
Lady Wisdom has built and furnished her home;
it’s supported by seven hewn timbers.
The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted,
wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers.
Having dismissed her serving maids,
Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place,
and invites everyone within sound of her voice:
“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
roast lamb, carefully selected wines.
Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”
(Proverbs 9:1-6 The Message)
The Christian tradition saw in the person of Jesus the Messiah the perfect embodiment of divine Wisdom in human form. Jesus went about the Galilean countryside singing Lady Wisdom’s song and inviting lost and confused people to his own table. Look at this text above with an eye to how Jesus’ ministry fulfilled Wisdom’s role.
Jesus is building his house, the new Temple, in the form of his church he left on earth. It’s built on the rock of his teaching and firm foundation of the apostles. He instituted his own eucharistic meal where his followers gather at the Lord’s Table to remember his sacrifice by parting of bread and wine. Then he sends out his servants, you and I, to invite others who are looking for an alternative to the insanity of our world to “leave your impoverished confusion and live.”
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life — life to the fullest” (John 10:10). Like Lady Wisdom, he wept over the crowds of lost and hurting people, weary from too many trips down Folly Lane. “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). Without a shred of shame or condemnation, he invites “all who are weary and carrying heavy loads” to “come to me …and find rest for your soul” (Matt. 11). His people are to go about town doing the same.
I’m blessed to lead a small community trying to follow the Way of Jesus, pointing people away from the dead-end streets the lead to pain and sorrow. We call ourselves “MainStreet” because our vision is to be people who, like Lady Wisdom, go out and love people “beyond the church walls” at the intersections of everyday life. So, if you’re curious to learn more, I echo Wisdom’s invitation today and say, “Walk up the street to a life of meaning.”
We’re celebrating U-turns and fresh beginnings this Sunday at our annual outdoor service at Surfside Beach in Mound where we’ll celebrate baptisms and a potluck. Come join us!
“The banquet meal is ready to be served!”