Friday, September 7, 2012

A Hearing Heart

A sermon excerpt reflecting on the story of King Solomon,
two mothers and a baby about to be split in two

As James would have it, foolishness says it is wise, but wisdom keeps its mouth shut.  Foolishness is ambitious, wanting many things for itself; wisdom could care less about such things.  Foolishness tells lies to get ahead; wisdom speaks the truth no matter the consequence.  Foolishness doesn’t care about other people; wisdom strives always to get along with others.  Foolishness makes war with others every chance it gets; wisdom strives always for peace.

When seeking to know whether someone is wise or not, we have already asked the wrong question – the issue is not whether a person is wise – the issue is whether the choice they make is wise.  For the sad fact is that a person can be wise one moment and foolish the next; and so it was with Solomon. . . so we would do well to speak not of the ‘wisdom of Solomon’, but rather of the ‘wisdom of Solomon’s choice’.

Solomon prayed for this gift, the gift of wise choosing, for the ability to understand and discern, to make good, just decisions . . . that was his prayer and it was a prayer granted by God.

But it was still up to Solomon to exercise the gift . . . it was up to him to act wisely . . .

Like all of us, sometimes he did; sometimes, he didn’t.
Raphael's Judgment of Solomon
On the day touted as celebratory of Solomon’s great wisdom, two women came to the King, the person with the authority to resolve disputes, to settle an argument about a child – this is not only the first recorded legal decision; it’s the first recorded child custody dispute, filled with all the drama and pathos of such fights in our own time.  Where there were two children, now there is only one.  To whom does he belong?  With whom should he live?  What is best?  What is true?  Where resides love?

For this is the foundation of Solomon’s wise decision – love, not biology.  The true mother is the one who loves, not necessarily the one who births.  Think about that for a moment.  What does Solomon say for his ‘judgment’ in the matter?  “Give the first woman the living boy . . . she is his mother.”

The first woman is the boy’s mother because the king said so.

What Solomon’s wisdom sought was love . . . that was the result the test was designed to produce . . . love . . . the true mother was the mother who loved . . . now most have assumed that the one who loved is the one who birthed and that was probably the assumption at the time.  But notice what Solomon does not say . . . Solomon does not say she gave birth to the living boy . . . he is not necessarily making a statement of fact; but he is definitely making a conclusion of law, a decision . . . she is his mother . . . the King has spoken, the decision has been made.

And isn’t that what the wisdom of Solomon understood?  He didn’t see the results of genetic tests . . . he saw mercy . . . He didn’t hear witnesses with proof . . . he heard sacrifice . . . He didn’t decide biology . . . he decided love . . . and therein lies wisdom . . .

This is what the people saw that day in court . . . for as the story says, they saw the wisdom of God, the wisdom that James reminds us which comes from above and brings with it mercy and love, peace and justice.

Did you know that one of the names for Jesus in the Bible is “the Wisdom of/from God” [1 Corinthians 1.24 & 30]?  Another name for Jesus is ‘Love’ (‘Love of God’) [Titus 3.4].  In Islam, Jesus is sometimes referred to as the ‘heart (or soul) of God’.  In Jesus the Christ, are wisdom and love entwined into the very heart of God.

If we can understand this and claim this for ourselves, if we can pray the prayer of Solomon, “give your servant an understanding mind”, or maybe the better prayer, as this phrase in verse 9 can be translated, “So give Thy servant a hearing heart”, if we can ask God for a ‘hearing heart’, perhaps we can come to the place of wisdom . . .

The place that seeks the best for the other. . .  that loves even when love costs us that which we love . . . the place that knows it isn’t always about me . . . the place that knows that even though there are times when I will fail, I can still stand back up and begin again, love again, receive and extend mercy again . . . seek and be peace . . . again . . . choose wisely . . . again.

For beloved, even a fool can be wise.  Just ask King Solomon.

Let us join our prayer with his . . . Lord, Give Thy servant a hearing heart.  Amen.

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