June 6, 2014 | 11:45 am

On Wisdom and Spirit

Our theme this Sunday, June 8, is Wisdom. I’m not sure how to define wisdom, but I know some very wise people. I aspire to be wise, (though it’s takes a lot of doing). So rather than define wisdom, it’s easier to describe the traits of a wise person. Here are several that I’ve observed among people I consider wise:

A wise person

-Sees the Big Picture and has a keen view of reality
-Is authentically humble
-Can think critically but is not critical or judgmental
-Sees beyond black and white
-Is comfortable not knowing
-Seeks the greater good
-Thinks before speaking
-Appreciates absurdity
-Has compassion and respect for all living things
-Allows him/herself to grow and change
-Has a great sense of humor

Pentecost is also this Sunday, which recounts the story of how the Spirit enters into a  room where Jesus’ followers are gathered and ignites them with fire in the shape of ‘cloven tongues’ which burn atop their heads. What imagery! (see the image in Pastor Jes's blog!) They are given the ability to speak in other languages, i.e., they are now equipped to spread the message. In the synagogue where I play we just celebrated Shavuot, which commemorates Moses’ receiving The Ten Commandments (I remember that wonderfully cheesy scene from the movie when Charlton Heston encounters the Burning Bush, the “I AM”, another fiery image!). It occurs to me that these are seminal moments when our religious ancestors come face to face with the Holy - a flash of sudden insight - a peak experiential moment (as Abraham Maslow calls it in Religions, Values and Peak Experiences) - which makes them wiser and more ready to put aside themselves for the greater good. For Moses it was the moment when he understands the mission ahead - to serve the people and free them from enslavement. For Jesus’ followers, it was time to set their sights on higher things, rather than devolve into an exclusive cult of hero worshippers. It was time to serve, and spread the message of love.

We all need these encounters with the Holy in order to grow in wisdom. How we get there? Not easy, and alas, cannot be willed into happening. We can only remain open, work to overcome the things that hold us back, and be ready for the fiery flashes of enlightenment that can change our lives. 

Listen to this week's anthem: The Call to Wisdom by Will Todd - this version is sung by the choristers of St. Paul's London.