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July 26, 2020: “The Wisdom of Hope” by Joe Coalter

The Wisdom of Hope Recording



 The Wisdom of Hope

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 26, 2020
Joe Coalter

 

Old Testament Lesson:  I Kings 3: 5 – 28
Psalm:  Psalm 25
Epistle Lesson:  Ephesians 1: 3 – 19
Gospel Lesson:  Matthew 13: 45 – 46

The scripture lessons this morning are all about Wisdom – a commodity always and everywhere in short supply. Wisdom was rare in Solomon’s day. Wise men and women were a rarity when Jesus walked the earth. There was a scant few of them when Paul sent his letter to the Ephesians and, based on recent events, it would appear that wisdom may be even more scarce in our own time.

The Wisdom spoken of in these lessons, though, are not all the same. One form of wisdom was evident in Solomon when he faced two women, both claiming to be the mother of the same child.

Another wisdom is commended in Jesus’s short parable: “… the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

A third, quite different wisdom is referred to in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus. He wrote: “… I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ … may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”

The Wisdom that Solomon requested as he became the king of Israel has been critical for human affairs in every age. God knows we could use a goodly portion of it in our own day since leaders worldwide seem better at pointing fingers at each others’ unwise moves rather than showing good judgement themselves.

The Scriptures say that all of Israel perceived that the wisdom of God was in Solomon, to execute justice. But Solomon’s wisdom plumbed depths deeper than only what was legally just. His judgements so pierced the heart of a matter that what was fair and true became evident to all involved.

The Wisdom found in Jesus’ parable speaks to another form of wisdom. It recognizes true value wherever it be found. It is that wisdom found in an astute merchant – one who knows the worth of an item and, when the opportunity arises, the wise merchant cashes in all that he or she possesses in order to acquire that which is priceless.

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, on the other hand, asks God for a third type of wisdom – one that is given in the person of Jesus Christ. This wisdom has insight into the very mystery of God’s own will – into God’s plan for the fullness of time. According to Paul, it tells us

– that God chose us in Christ even before the foundation of the world was set;
– that he chose us to be holy and blameless before him in love;
– that he destined us for adoption not just that we might be his servants but his children;
– that we have redemption through the blood of his only begotten Son;
– that our trespasses can be forgiven according to the riches of his grace; and
– that in the fullness of time all things in heaven and on earth will be gathered up into his kingdom, a kingdom of incalculable value that no money can buy nor any act of humanity earn.

It is this Wisdom that Paul prays for God to give the Ephesians because Paul knew that such Wisdom is the most precious for we humans who face ever changing circumstances – some positive, others painful. This wisdom brings not only justice or knowledge. It brings that which is truly priceless – Hope.

Hope for those who follow Christ is the sure and certain conviction that every sinner has a future – or, as C. S. Lewis put it, that for all who recognize in Christ their Savior “there are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.”

The Hope that we have in Jesus Christ is like the star that led the wise men to his birth in a Bethlehem manger. It leads us ever forward, guiding us through valleys and peaks to the very kingdom that the wise merchant would give his all to possess. Unlike that merchant, though, Paul knew that Christ’s followers receive this invaluable Hope freely. It is an inheritance. It is neither earned nor deserved. It was paid for in full by the death of the innocent and now resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.

The famed English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said: “Hope … is like a star – not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity,” it is “only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” Paul knew this all too well as he wrote Christ’s disciples in Ephesus. He was imprisoned in Rome when he penned his prayer for them. His earthly prospects were bleak; yet his Hope remained bright because, as Paul put it later in his letter to the Ephesians, despite all temporal appearances to the contrary, Christ has “the power at work within us … to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine …”

Paul had this hope. He put his trust in it much as the author of the Psalm 25 put his trust in the Lord, though his foes were many. The same hope is offered freely to each of us if we will but ask God for the wisdom of hope that leads us to trust in the good news proclaimed by and embodied in his son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s ask.

But when we ask, let’s ask with the wisdom of Solomon not for long life, not for riches, and not for the life of our enemies. But instead with Paul, let’s pray that we be redeemed by the blood of his son, our Lord Jesus Christ; that we be forgiven our trespasses according to the riches of his grace; and that “the eyes of our hearts” be enlightened and enlivened with the sure and certain hope that lies deep within the mystery of God’s will.

It is God’s will, after all, to transform us and all that he has made into a new creation – a new creation where, as it says in the book of Revelation, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” In that vision is our sure and certain hope.

Will you pray with me?

Lord, we ask that you “increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.” We ask this all in the name of your Son who first put the bright star of hope on our horizon so that we might never lose our way. Amen.

(This prayer is adapted from words penned by John Calvin in his commentary on Psalm 25)