This next Sunday is “Rally Day” at Immanuel Lutheran Church, the kickoff of our Sunday School season which will run through the rest of the school year. Immanuel hosts a cookout in the Laurel city park after service. Members pull in these huge grills for hamburgers and hotdogs. As the small town newspapers used to say, “A good time was had by all.”
So for our sermon this week, we strive for a Christian education / catechetical theme. The Old Testament lesson appointed for this 14th Sunday after Trinity lends itself well to our occasion. But if I found myself well out of my Biblical comfort zone in Luke (and I did), then with Proverbs I’m likely to sneeze and wheeze and grow hives. Still, we will venture in and try to navigate the tall weeds. Hopefully we will find some fresh fruit or rare tubers to bring for our “Rally Day” feast.
Back in Seminary, I’d hoped Hebrew would become my better Biblical language. It is so much more poetic and… Perhaps “timeless” is the word. What I mean is that the Greek, as with most of Western culture, tends to be preoccupied with time and the more precise sequence of verbs and activity. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. But Hebrew, being an Eastern Semitic language doesn’t conceive or handle time in quite the same way.
Generally, Hebrew isn’t as concerned with “When?!” as it is with “What!?”. It doesn’t wear a watch or constantly glance at the exact location of the shadow on the sun dial. “There is evening and there is morning…” Hebrew deals with sequence, of course–the before, the now, and coming tomorrow. But a sense of continuity and eternity kind of permeates the language, kind of like we say in the liturgy: “…as it was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be.”
Hebrew is well suited for timeless truths. The New Testament writers, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, sometimes use Greek in this way. The “timeless Truth” undergirds the revelation of God’s Word given them in the New Testament, too. The Book of Revelation is so challenging to modern would-be chronologists for this very reason, because John uses his Greek in a very Hebrew way.
Regardless, I’m praying for God’s Wisdom this week as I prepare to preach on Proverbs for our Sunday School teachers, children and families. If it’s Wisdom we seek, Proverbs is a great place to find it. The passage before us on Sunday shows a father speaking Wisdom to his children. (Proverbs 4:1-4) The Old Testament reading picks up a middle portion of that parental counsel. Here is God’s eternal Wisdom, as we will hear it on Sunday:
Proverbs 4:10-23 (ESV)
10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
11 I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.
13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.