Whence Wisdom?

Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 04/21/2013

Stories, and decisions, and stories, and decisions, and stories some more, and decisions….boy, does that describe church to me.

In the history of Sugarloaf, there have been lots of events and lots of decisions made.  This year in particular, we’ve talked a lot about those events and decisions of yore, with a special concentration on just hearing the stories.  Just talking.  Just seeing where we’ve been, and remembering what we thought about it, and asking questions.  No particular place to go with it.  Just stories about events and decisions.  That was the plan.

And it’s so interesting that now we have storied ourselves into thinking about some big decisions, and not easy ones, either.  These decisions are being discussed now, the questions are being formed.  And in a few weeks, at our congregational meeting on May 19th, we’ll be able to decide at least on the first steps of both of them. 

One decision is about the budget, and where to allocate a chunk of our money. 

And another decision is about the church property, and where we want to live out our vision of church in the future.

Neither of those decisions are straightforward.  There are pros and cons on both sides of each decision.  For both decisions, there are ways in which all the options seem impossible to live with.  And at the same time there are ways in which all those same options seem filled with hope and promise.  How could anyone pick?  How can people go forward when all the choices are terrible and wonderful and most of all, new, and very clearly unknown?  Where does someone get the wisdom to know what to do when stuff like this comes up?

It’s not like this is the first time any of us have had to face a fork in the road and not known what the heck to do, is it?  It happens to each of us, just by living. 

Sometimes the choice is hard because all the alternatives are difficult.  I think of someone struggling with trying to figure out how to handle a very unexpected pregnancy, for example.  How can a person be expected to pick between an Utterly Impossible Option 1 and a Completely Untenable Option 2? You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it can be very difficult to do anything except hide under the covers.

 And other times choosing is hard because all the choices are wonderful.  I’m thinking of our young people who are lucky enough to have received several good college offers.  The deadline, of May 1 maybe, is looming, and their entire future, good and bad, will emerge from whatever choice they make now.  How to select which of several glorious potential unknown futures would be best for your future self, a self you don’t even know?  How could anyone know?  Again, it might be head-under-the-covers time.

Where does wisdom come from when it isn’t coming from you?  When you’re at wits end, when your resources have been depleted, when what you think you know isn’t enough to show you where to go – what happens then?  Where do we get the wisdom to make the choice, to see the potentials, to risk…everything we know to go towards something that we don’t know much about?  Where can we find the insight, the perception we need but we don’t yet have, the intelligence?  What’s going to come rescue us when we, alone, are not …quite…enough?

Let’s talk about a few sources of wisdom that we’ve already been exposed to this morning through lecture, poem, and story.

First, let us never disregard the unexpected wisdom that comes from young people who see things more simply than we do.  Kid President (  “A Pep Talk From Kid President,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o)  told you some stuff this morning, right?  Let all those details and specifics drop out of your head and listen to him. 

Stop being boring! 

Life isn’t a game, but if it is, aren’t we all on the same team?  Be on my team and I’ll be on your team! 

You’re alive, and that means it’s time to do something! 

Try to get on the path that leads to awesome, no matter what Robert Frost says.  Get a good dream and keep on going.  Don’t give up! 

Don’t cry about it, dance about it!  Everybody’s got something to dance about.

You were made to be awesome. 

And if you were made to be awesome, then make the choices that lead to the most awesome you possible.

That’s wisdom from Kid President that you might not have fully considered before.  Keep it in mind.

We also heard wisdom we may have forgotten from our poet for the morning, Christina Rossetti .  ("Up-Hill" by Christina Rossetti, from Poems. © Everyman's Library, 1993.) The first question of the poem has the air of desperation: my God, does this road wind up-hill all the way?  Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?  The questioner of the poem might as well be asking if the work of living will take the efforts of a lifetime to complete.  Yes, the poet says.  All day. All of you. All uphill. It sounds exhausting.

But there is a resting place at the end, the poet reminds us, a place to lay our heads, to greet others working as hard as we are, beds to sleep in when our long day of traveling is done.  Did you forget that everyone is on this road?  Did you forget that we all climb up the hill, and it’s always hard? But we can’t miss the inn that welcomes us as the top, and we will be greeted, and we will be cared for.  There is no such thing as merely laboring uphill forever, in life.  There is always a resting place, and there are always enough beds for everyone there.  Count on it.  Your work will be done then, labor well spent.  Remember.

And then we have the wisdom from our story this morning , the story that is about story telling itself.  (“The Storyteller by the Sea,”from Magic Wanda’s Travel Emporium by Joshua Searle-White, 2006.)

It would be too easy at this point to repeat what I’ve already said about three thousand times: that story, the act of storytelling, has a way of infusing meaning and wisdom into our lives in a mysterious manner that we hardly understand but can come to rely upon.  I’ll just assume you already remember that part from all the other times I’ve said it this year.

But this particular story adds a new dimension, doesn’t it?  In this story, the people eagerly await their storyteller.  They are brimming with expectation, excited about hearing all the old stories again, and learning those lessons again.  They already know, like you all already know, that stories help inform and illuminate in ways that hadn’t been clear before.  And they wait for their storyteller to come and introduce another round of wisdom to them.

But when the storyteller arrives, the people are so excited they can’t be stopped.  Again and again, in their request for wise stories, the people end up telling the story they want to hear, the story they need to live a better life, they just tell it themselves.  And the listener – that’s us – can see that those stories don’t need to come from an outside person at all anymore, because they have been voiced and have taken root and are living inside the people who heard them, shaping their lives, and even changing a little bit, to better suit the needs of the people who want them.

This has happened to us, this year, at Sugarloaf.  We’ve told each other the stories of our history and our decisions and our feelings.  Each time we’ve heard the anecdote of someone else, or told our own version, it’s been added in to the tales we were already carrying around, adding to our individual and collective wisdom.  Those stories live inside of us now.  They are growing in us.  And those stories, as they continue to be thoughtfully requested and carefully heard, those stories will guide us in our actions as we go forward.  Their wisdom is already here in this room.  Our job now is just to let them stand and speak yet again, when we need them, and listen to what they say this time around.

And finally, there is the wisdom to be found in the main tale that we heard from R., the story of the two childhood friends who couldn’t fight each other in a war once they remembered that they had once been as close as brothers.  “I am you,” God says through the mouths of the people, through the memories of the people.  And that truth, that we are each other at the end of the day, that is what we come to church to remember, to practice.  That is the wise core of who we at Sugarloaf are.

Whence wisdom?  Or, in more modern language, from where does wisdom come, when we’re stuck at these crossroads of life, or of church?  It comes from many unexpected voices, children and poetry.  It comes from knowing that we are being cared for and held by others, even when the way is hard, so that we can relax and see things more clearly and with more perspective.  It comes from deep inside of us, things we have learned when we were all together, but may have forgotten, but is still there.  And it comes from the grace that reminds us that we are, in the words of Kid President, all on the same team.  I’ll be on your team, and you be on my team.

When we are all on the same team in the pursuit of being awesome, then wisdom is already coming through the door, it’s already in the house.  When we care for each other and tell each other our stories, wisdom grows.  We have to go out and live life, and that means that every once in a while we have to make a decision or choose a path that isn’t very clear.  But when wisdom is with us, we cannot do wrong.  We are already heading towards Awesome.

So may it be, today and always.  Amen.