St. John’s Episcopal Church
207 Albany Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401


  • Tuning in to Wisdom – The Rev. Michelle Meech

    November 12, 2023

    We have been reading the story of Moses this season. And a couple of weeks ago, we read about the end of Moses’ life and how God showed Moses the Promised Land – the place where Moses had been leading the Israelites. For many, the Promised Land is a metaphor for coming home, for returning to God, for coming back to ourselves after having been lost in a desert, a sense of healing and resting now that the search is over. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual journey.

    When we find our home – and this home does not have to be a physical place, it could also mean that we come home to ourselves – but when we find our home, the parts of ourselves become whole again because we find ourselves. This happens because, we’ve given up the other gods that take our attention and our time and our money – those things we think will bring us peace but never do: addictions, possessions, unhealthy relationships, blaming, gossiping, complaining… and on and on and on.

    Whatever it is, we’ve given it up.  We’re ready to make a different choice.  We’re ready to serve God.  We’re ready to be home.

    Everyone’s spiritual journey is different because everyone’s wilderness is different.  But it’s always about coming home, about knowing more clearly the choices to make, hearing God’s voice above the noisy din of the world.  This voice is Wisdom.  The Wisdom of God.

    The Wisdom of God isn’t about learning to navigate the world or figuring out how to work the system.  It’s not about manipulating the world or investment strategies or computers or getting a lot done every day.  No. The Wisdom of God is like a light, like the lamp of wisdom depicted on the cover today.

    Lamp of Wisdom, Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire, UK

    And throughout Proverbs and the books of Wisdom and Sirach, where our first reading is from, Sophia is the word used in Greek for the Wisdom of God. And in these passages from scripture, Sophia is finally heard by us when we’ve given up on the ways of the world and ready to come home, to serve God. She’s always speaking to us – always, even in our darkest moments, even when we are so lost in our own stories and fears and routines – Sophia speaks. She doesn’t whisper God’s wisdom. Sophia is God’s wisdom.

    When we’ve finally decided to turn to God, we hear her and, like a balm for our soul, we know how to serve God.  And we make different choices. Wisdom is portrayed in the parable of the bridesmaids as bridesmaids – wise women who have learned about choices on their journeys through their own deserts and wildernesses. They’ve learned how to prepare themselves, prepare their own hearts and minds to be ready to hear God’s voice speaking to them. They’ve learned how to be of service to God.

    And Wisdom is not selfish, even through it appears from this parable as though She might be.  But, frankly, Wisdom cannot be given to those who aren’t ready to receive it. We couldn’t give it even if we wanted to because each person has their own spiritual journey.  Everyone has their own deserts and wildernesses to go through on their way home.  Sophia speaks to each of us differently.

    My own spiritual journey took me on quite a path.  I didn’t come to Christianity until I was in my 30’s.  I was living in a friend’s house in the middle of Oregon, I had an exceedingly low-paying job, I had just totaled my car and had several broken ribs.  I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and a lot of healing to do. And that’s when I realized I was ready to serve God in some way.

    I had no idea what that meant.  All I knew is that it felt good to be in an Episcopal church on Sunday mornings where the priest was patient and the people were kind, letting me find my way for well over a year until I could figure out just what I was doing there. They didn’t need me to be a member.  They didn’t expect me to sign-on or get involved.  But they cherished me as a guest in their midst and welcomed me. They knew that they were enough exactly as they were. And they knew that God would do whatever God needed to do with me. They knew that Sophia would speak to me. And that’s exactly what happened.

    The choice to serve God is often what opens us up to the truth – that we are enough and we have enough.  Whatever we have is more than enough, as a matter of fact.

    I offer this message today because, as the leadership of this amazing congregation goes through the hard work of creating a budget, and they have done some very hard work in making the finances more sustainable by reducing the expenses and increasing the income, and as we all look at the task of stewardship of this congregation, I want you to know that even in all of the horror that the world is, and there is a lot of it right now, the most important thing you need to know is found at that Table.  In the Sacrament of abundance called the Eucharist.

    Walter Breuggemann says, “The Eucharist is the great sign of God’s abundance.  It’s the only place in our lives where it’s just given to us and it is given to us regularly.”

    Every week we gather together and celebrate this Great Thanksgiving. We bear witness to the abundant love of God, made known to us in the simple elements of bread and wine as we remember Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice. And we come to the Table to share this meal that reconciles us to God, to one another, and to ourselves.  This is the abundant grace that comes to us in the form of the Sacrament.

    Think about that for a moment – this unbounded, abundant grace that comes to us again and again and again.  It never runs out.

    It’s hard for us to imagine sometimes because it’s a very human tendency to think that God’s grace is limited, to think that it will run out and there won’t be enough. What are the ways that you believe you’re not enough? What are the way that you believe we as a congregation don’t have enough? What if we stopped focusing on what’s not here and focused on what is here?

    Of course the foolish bridesmaids took no oil.  It wasn’t a lack of planning, it was a lack of awareness. They never acknowledged the importance of or took responsibility for what they already had.  They never made the choice to see God’s abundance, to listen to God’s Wisdom. They never made the choice to serve God. They were just along for the ride.

    This meal of thanksgiving is a sign of God’s abundance and like any Sacrament, it is meant to change us. As we receive this meal we are called to a life of gratitude and generosity, learning to lovingly share who we are and what we have, living into the assurance that as we offer, we will also receive from that flow of abundance.

    Stewardship is a practice of awareness of and gratitude for this flow of abundance.  It’s a practice of caring for community and for ourselves as we offer our time and talent for the common good. And Christian service is a practice of love that comes out of that abundance.

    You see, the world fools us into thinking that there isn’t enough, that we are not enough, that we have to hold on to everything.  And when that happens, we are off into a desert wilderness of shame and self-judgment and resentment. But the one who is vigilant, listening for Sophia, will soon be free of care. Wisdom seeks them out and meets them on their paths, in their every thought.

    And the Eucharist calls us home to remember our Belovedness in God’s abundance.

    The big question is: Can you hear God’s Wisdom, can you hear Sophia, above the din of the world?
    The Promised Land isn’t somewhere far away – it’s here.
    We have enough here.  We are enough here.
    Your lamp is already full of oil.

    The question is not one of means, it’s one of choice: Are you ready to serve God?