Scriptures: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 John 6:51-58
LET US PRAY: Holy, still-speaking God: open our ears to fully hear Your Word; open our hearts and minds that we may live our Your message every day. Amen.
Once upon a time: there was a brave people … who lived for generations, oppressed as slaves … who wandered for a “lifetime” in unfamiliar territory with no clear direction and only a vague destination in mind … who arrived at that destination, only to find it occupied by others.
Once upon a time … there was a community of people … who were survivors against enormous odds … who were now settled ~ with homes, centers for life and worship … who were ruled by a strong, powerful King with a proven track record in battle and government.
Once upon a time … a new, young King was anointed to rule the people of God … who lived in the magnificent palace built by his power father, King David …ANDthis new King recognized one very important fact:
“I’m too young to do this! I haven’t got a clue what to do! How can I possibly fill my father’s shoes?!! What have I gotten myself into???!!!” HELP!!
At least … that’s what I would be thinking … if I were in Solomon’s shoes!
And, as we hear in today’s Old Testament lesson, God spoke to Solomon and said “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
NOW: let me ask you? IF you had 3 wishes … WHAT would you wish for?
You know … our popular culture is filled with lots of stories about wishes made and wishes granted … like: There are lots of
- stories about fairy godmothers who are more than eager to grant the young princess’ wishes and save her life.
- Wonderful story about peasant boy, Alladin, who cleans up a filthy, old bottle and a genie pops out, ready to do his master’s bidding.
- And, staring up at the sky and reciting: “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight … I wish I may, I wish I might … have the wish I wish tonight.”
AND, deep down inside, haven’t we all wished that our deepest wish could be so easily granted???! However, truth be told: would our wishes ~ made on the spur of the moment ~ really bring us true happiness? I don’t know about you … but I was raised with the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for! You just might get it!!!”
Coming back to our Old Testament text: God asks Solomon: “What do you MOST want and need?” And, after all of the soul searching that he has done … Solomon asks for 1 thing only. It isn’t riches or wealth or fame. Rather, Solomon asks for WISDOM!
The gift of WISDOM lies at the core of the Deuteronomic teachings … that is, the law that God spoke to His people ~ through Moses ~ as they wandered in the wilderness. This gift of WISDOM that the Law of God speaks about is manifested in and as …
- An “understanding mind” with which to govern … and which can keep you from jumping to conclusions too quickly
- A listening “heart” ~ I love this one … in essence, this is the gift to sit quietly and to truly listen to the entire story of another without interrupting or judging prematurely
- Ability to discern between good and evil
- Ability to discern what is right in any given situation …AND, to choose what is best for everyone and everything.
And, as we know from the very famous story involving 2 mothers and a baby … Solomon immediately puts his precious gift of WISDOM into use … and becomes a wise and great leader in his own right.
But there is an even better ~ though lesser known ~ story about Solomon’s great wisdom that is included in both 1 KingsAND2 Chronicles … a story that spotlights Solomon as the administrator who not only organized but completed the building of the Temple.
Chronicles is a wonderful book that doesn’t appear in our lectionary readings. In short: it is literally the recorded history of the major families … you know, the list of who begat who for generations and who was married to who … as well as famous battles, territory gained and lost … you know, all the wonderful things you can put on a list!
You know, we have the same sort of thing in our church today … in our large, bound books recording births, deaths, marriages, baptisms and confirmationsANDin the yearly archived minutes from Consistory and Ministry team meetings. But, the “chronicle” that I love best is the binder in the kitchen … listing the recipes for vegetable soup to feed 100 people; the recipe for enough pot pie noodles to feed 300-400 people; and the menus and costs for special meals! And, they go back MANY years!!!
Well ~ according to this story: 4 years after becoming King, Solomon is ready to begin the project that his father, King David, had wanted to build … but God said NO! First, strengthen my people. Building theTemple is a huge undertaking … it is a massive building that will be built from the finest cedar, pine, gold, silver, ivory and bronze. And it is much more than Solomon and the local folks can achieve ~ by themselves.
- And so Solomon wisely contacted the kings and leaders of neighboring countries … first of all, seeking the finest materials that could be found in the known world.
- He then offered a generous salary for their finest craftsmen: stone cutters, wood workers, seamstresses and needle artists, gold- and silver-smiths … as well as supervisors and laborers.
In essence, by engaging and including people of every status in the process ~ from kings to common laborers … well, 7 years later: the magnificentTemple~ the house of God and home of the Ark of the Covenant ~ was completed!
Well, I believe that the Church today could certainly take a page from Solomon’s notebook! And, I’m not talking about St. Paul’s ~ or any one congregation ~ or any one denomination ~ but the entire church, universally. I believe that, as the church, we are really good at recognizing the scope of work that needs to be done ~ in our communities, in our churches, in our world. And, I believe we are good at finding creative ways to accomplish great things for our people and for our God.
And, we also have a lot of people with a wide variety of gifts and abilities: who can cook / bake / tell stories / knit / crochet / play games / teach / play music / sing / good at computers and technology / write / paint / work with wood or metal / electric / plumbing … I think that where we fall short, though, is in putting out generic requests for people to help on a project instead of speaking to specific people and asking for specific help ~ just like King Solomon did.
Our world has changed so much that we don’t have the luxury of relying on just ourselves in order to accomplish what God is calling us to BE and DO as church. To effectively minister to our 21st Century world ~ and beyond ~ it will take … not just one person here and one person there doing it ALL … but every one of us ~ pooling our combined resources in order to achieve our goals.
AND, we don’t have to be perfect at what we do, individually, in order to make a difference in the life of our world … because, when you put all those different abilities and gifts together ~ well, you wind up with more beauty and strength and resourcefulness that you could ever imagine … or accomplish on your own!
And, this isn’t just my optimistic dreaming that’s speaking here! We have the perfect example in the caring and outreach that is being offered to the clients of Interfaith Hospitality Network … simply because members of St. Paul’s AND St. Andrew’s are willing to share their gifts with the members of the host church, St. Stephen’s.
And, right now, I am in a conversation with Pastors from 5 other area churches that, God willing, will lead us to an exciting, fun and faith-filled ministry for the youth in all of our churches.
My friends, God gifted Solomon with the gifts of wisdom and an understanding mind so that he could faithfully govern the people entrusted to his care.
God gifts us, also, with the gifts of wisdom and a listening heart and an understanding mind so that we might … not just discern what God is calling us to do … but so we can also make God’s vision for this world a reality. And, I know that we can do … whatever that vision might be.
Just like these colored bits of clay that I have been playing with can be blended into a beautiful NEWcreation … God gives us the strength we need to NOT be afraid to take a chance … the courage to try something new … ALL so that we can blend our gifts with the gifts of others … and share joyfully what we have and who we are ~ as we faithfully serve the world and the people that God has entrusted to OUR care.
WHAT AN AWESOMEGIFT!!!