*I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give 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?" 1 Kings 3*
Charles de Gaulle, hero of the French Resistance during World War II and later, France's President, once famously said, as he wrung his hands in frustration over a political matter, "How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?"
Solomon, the new, wet-behind-the-ears king of the Hebrews, may not have yet had the experience that de Gaulle had accumulated, but Solomon's question to the Lord might have been what de Gaulle was calling forth in his uncertainty.
"Who can govern this, your great people?" Solomon implores. He had, blessedly, enough sense to know that a) he was following a tough act - David, Israel's greatest king; b) the circumstances of his ascent to power were, at best, questionable; and c) he had no idea what he was doing. So, in a stroke of genius, he acknowledged to his God that he was no genius, and needed a full measure of wisdom to do his job. "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people", he asked. Not, we might note, a mind filled with facts; nor a mouth stuffed with strong opinions.
What is wisdom? When we posed this question this past week at our discussion group at the Care Center, we wrestled to come up with a working definition. "Common sense" was a candidate, but we agreed that it isn't actually that common, or at lest seems to get lost in the crowd of voices that sound like smug certainty.
Notably, the Book of Proverbs, many of whose wise sayings are traditionally, if not accurately, attributed to Solomon, describes wisdom as being a woman, or a feminine spirit. Given the Bible's regrettable tendency to focus on the deeds, thoughts, and primacy of men, this is an astonishing acknowledgement. Wisdom lives in the background, much as women seem to do in the stories of Scripture.
We are fortunate in this country to embrace the notion of the separation of church and state. By this we mean that our government should not insist on religious or doctrinal belief in order for its people to take full part in the affairs of community. But we often confuse this idea by saying that "religion and politics don't mix".
Granted, a dinner table conversation that focuses on religion, politics, and/or the combination of the two might well send the guests home early and angry, depending on who's invited. But among the many things that the Bible is about is the hard question of how we learn how to live together (what we call politics), and how matters of the spirit (what we call religion) might inform the choices we make in our public life. This is not an easy razor's edge on which to dance.
But an awful lot of us would deeply appreciate it if some candidate for political office stood up and said, "I have my convictions, but mostly what I want to do if elected is draw out the wisdom of everyone - even those with whom we might have the greatest disagreements."
Actually, as things stand today, we might laugh that candidate off the stage for being a total wimp. We seem to prefer forcefulness to a gentle, questioning heart. But in the fullness of time, we almost always regret choosing leaders who come to the helm full of bluster and then proceed to make the kinds of mistakes we almost always make when we are overly certain, angry, simplistic, snarky, or sanctimonious.
What is wisdom? Maybe it has something to do with patience, humility, kindness, commitment to the community of all, and a willingness to reach across those chasms we tend to avoid out of fear, hatred, or anger.
Our Holy Scriptures have much to say about this, both in words and hidden in the spaces between those sacred words. And a gathering of people - what we call worship - also has much to say about this. The Spirit lives in such community; indeed it thrives in such places. And we become wiser by so gathering. There are 246 varieties of cheese, if you will, in any reverent gathering.nd each one is, in its own way, exquisite.
Oh, how Creation needs our wisdom, just as we need Creation's wisdom.
We worship at 10 AM on Sundays. It's a wondrous way to start, and to gain strength for the journey we are all making.
Sabbath blessings- AFP