Pentecost 13 – (September 3rd, 2006)
The last couple of weeks our readings have highlighted the theme of food. Bread, in particular, as Jesus describes himself in John 6 as the “Bread of Life”. Today we turn to the Old Testament book of Proverbs, and see an extended metaphor – a picture of Wisdom personified as a woman – who throws a grand feast. But this is no mere detour into a quaint but irrelevant Old Testament passage, for Wisdom’s call to dinner brings us to Christ and the Cross.
Throughout the Proverbs, Solomon contrasts the concepts of wisdom and foolishness. The fool is anyone who despises God’s word, whereas anything associated with truth and faith and God is wise.
You’d be insulted if someone called you a fool, wouldn’t you? But that’s who is invited to this feast. To all those who lack judgment, “let all who are simple come in here!”
And so this invitation requires a degree of humility. It means you have to admit that you don’t know it all, don’t have it all together, that you are lacking. That you are not the wisest, or even wise. You have only a need. You are a fool.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as fools or foolish, but that’s how Proverbs would describe us in our sin. Sin never makes good sense, it is never wise, and yet we do it anyway. Sin sets ourselves up to be wiser than God, and can there be anything more foolish?
So much of our world wants to explain immorality and evil by a lack of education. But the lack of judgment and the simple-ness spoken of here is not simply a shortage of information. It’s not like if we only knew more we would be just fine. The foolishness here is a willful ignorance, a purposeful predicament we put ourselves in.
We are simple people really. We are sinners by nature. It’s what God says about us in his Word, and therefore it’s what we say about ourselves in confession. Poor, miserable sinners. Or in the words of Proverbs 9, fools.
But wisdom – God’s wisdom – stands in contrast to such foolishness.
Here the concept or idea of wisdom is personified as a woman (and ladies, before you point this out to your husbands, remember that later on “Folly” is also a woman). She is the host - busy preparing a feast and inviting her guests. Just who is this wisdom?
Let’s shed a little New Testament light on the idea. Paul speaks of wisdom and foolishness, saying, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” And, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”.
Wisdom, here personified in the Old Testament, in the New Testament is revealed most fully in Christ. He is the wisdom and word of God in human flesh. He is the heart and soul of God’s entire plan for us foolish sinners – that through him we would receive wisdom, that through him we would become wise unto salvation and ourselves be saved.
Now, God’s wisdom can be a little perplexing to us. It includes the suffering, sacrifice, and shame of the cross. Why would God, how could Jesus destroy our enemies by being destroyed? It’s like waving the white flag to win the battle. No man wise in worldly wisdom would do such a thing. But Jesus Christ can, and he does.
And what foolishness that a man could rise from the dead? And yet this too he does, and promises us the same resurrection. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies”. Ah, but what wisdom from on high that God’s own Son would promise us a forever, and also give us the faith to believe it.
And while the world thinks we are fools for believing in such things, while they mock and jeer at Christians who pray to a God we can’t see and trust in a promise that goes against everything we’ve ever seen – we know where the true wisdom is, it is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In our selection from proverbs, the woman called wisdom invites fools to her home, and she throws them a marvelous feast.
It’s no accident that our wise Lord himself also speaks in terms of food and banquets. He too invites the sinner to feast on the food he provides. He invites the fool to be wise.
The feast he gives is a smorgasbord of blessings. It is the bread of heaven that is his own body – given for the life of the world. It is a feast that brings forgiveness of sins, new life, and salvation to each of us.
When we approach in repentance to this altar, and hear, “welcome to the Lord’s table”, we join in that feast. When we hear the words of Christ – which promise his body given and blood shed for us for forgiveness – we join in that feast. When we commune with God and with each other here together – we join in the feast also with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
And it is also a foretaste of the feast to come. For just as man’s first home in Eden was lost by sinful eating, so in the meal that brings forgiveness we are restored to a future feast. There in heaven, at the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which shall have no end.
The feast is Christ. He is the host, and he is the meal. He invites us to the feast today, and he promises us a feast to come. The table is set. The meal is prepared. Let all who are simple and lacking come forth, and join in the feast his wisdom has prepared. And let us taste and see that that Lord is good! In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.