Three parishes ago, (2005) I was pastor in Idaho Falls. The house where I lived was about two miles from the Church Office. It was a duplex, so not only did I live there, but so did the Associate Pastors. Towards the end of that assignment my good friend Deacon Rick Bonney and his wife, Bea lived on the other side. I had worked with Deacon Rick since 1993 when I was assigned as Pastor of St. John’s Student Center in Pocatello. Rick and Bea and I did a lot together. And one time, we had this great idea that we would save lots of gas if we bought scooters. So we went to the new scooter store in IF and each bought a scooter – It was a pretty powerful scooter, an Italian Aprilia 250. One thing that never occurred to me was that I would have to get an endorsement on my drivers license, which meant, I had to take a written test and a drivers test. I went to the DMV. I was looking for an Idaho Drivers Manual. At that time paper books were still available.
I read the whole book, getting ready for the test, I rode for several weeks on the freeway, in parking lots, back and forth to the parish. And I was prepared to take the first test. I went to the DMV and the woman pointed to a computer on which I would take the test. I asked for the test again, and again she pointed at the computer. I didn’t know how to get into the test and she had to show me how to turn it on. I was prepared for a paper test. By the time I got half way through, the computer told me I had failed… she told me I could come back in 2 weeks. So I next made an appointment to take the driving test. I had practiced, I was prepared, and the only time I ever dumped the scooter was at the feet of the DMV agent, right in the middle of the driving test. I asked my friend, Deacon Rick, how could I fail a scooter test? He laughed and told me that both tests were designed for fourteen year olds who were learning how to drive. Not a 50 something who had over prepared, over thought and over practiced to get the thing perfect. In two weeks I went back to the DMV and passed with flying colors. And I never dumped the scooter again.
I even had it with me when I moved to Moscow and frequently rode it to Genesee for mass. The book of Wisdom teaches us how to prepare for whatever life throws at us. And no matter how prepared we are, without faith in God (and faith in ourselves) we cannot be successful in life. Wisdom lists the Old Testament figures who are saved by wisdom, or condemned if they don’t put God first: Wisdom protected Adam and Eve, in spite of the fact that they went against God in the Garden. They learned from their transgression and made the best of this great world which has been handed on to us. But, Cain abandoned Wisdom: he destroyed himself by killing his brother in a fit of anger. Helping us learn that anger is rarely productive unless it moves us to faith that God will step in. Wisdom protected Noah. The earth was flooded because of sin and Wisdom guided a righteous man in his flimsy wooden boat, to safety with respect for a newly created world.
Wisdom helped Abraham. He had the strength needed to obey God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, his son. He learned to trust God and his trust was rewarded as his ancestors grew to be as many as the stars of the sky or the grains of sand along the seashore. Out of his trust and faith, we are those stars, we are the grains of sand, we are the ones who carry on that faith. Wisdom rescued Lot. The people of the destroyed cities did not listen to Abraham or Lot, and so along with Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar were the 5 cities slated for destruction by God; but Zoar was spared at Lot’s plea, as his needed place of refuge (Genesis 19:20–23).
Wisdom protected Jacob, who in greed had stolen the birthright of his brother Esau. Even though he stole the birthright blessing of his brother God had plans for him. He became a righteous man who had to escape the anger of his brother, and Wisdom guided him in the right way, to God. She protected him from his enemies, helping him realize that nothing can make a person stronger than
Wisdom rescued Joseph, a dreamer, in a beautifully colored coat, a righteous man sold into slavery by the jealousy of his own brothers, angry with him because he was his father’s favorite. Wisdom never abandoned him, but raised him up in the eyes of Pharaoh and She gave him eternal honor among the Israelites to this day.
Wisdom rescued an innocent and holy people from the clutches of Pharaoh. Pharaoh who refused to listen to the wisdom of Moses. Who was not prepared to listen to the truth about God, who lost everything out of anger and indifference to those who suffer.
And finally it was Wisdom who brought success to a holy people through the Holy Prophet Moses. They were brought into the Promised Land. Finally able to understand what God had in mind for them. It was to be a sojourn of only 40 days, but because of their obstinacy and ignorance, it turned into Forty years in the Desert. Moses, losing faith, just once, not listening to Wisdom, just once, was
not allowed to enter the promised land. A lesson learned, a consequence accepted, an acknowledgement that he knew he should have had faith throughout the journey. Using his own wisdom, not the Wisdom of God, he turned the people over to Joshua who led them across the Jordan.
God trusts us to use the wisdom given to us, passed down to us from the beginning of time. It is not a test we want to fail. But a life for which we must be prepared. Jesus says: Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.
Wisdom is not only faith. Nor is wisdom only obedience. Wisdom is also what prepares us to live in a world that is ever changing. God holds out to us a new Promised Land and a new Kingdom. And it is Jesus who tells us: Use the wisdom you have gained in your life. For you also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.