“Wisdom for Your Walk” (Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69)
If I had to sum up a theme running through our lessons for today, and one that will be helpful for you, it is that here you will find “Wisdom for Your Walk.” You see, the Old Testament lesson from Proverbs is the call of wisdom to walk in the way of insight. The Epistle reading from Ephesians calls us to walk as children of the light and to look carefully how we walk, not as unwise but as wise. And in the Holy Gospel for today, from John 6, we learn where to go to find this wisdom for our walk, by coming to the one who has the words of eternal life. So here is wisdom. Let us attend.
Wisdom for your walk: Where does it begin? Proverbs tells us. In fact, wisdom herself, wisdom personified, calls out and says to the one who lacks sense, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” So it starts with a call to repentance. It’s recognizing that you lack sense, that you lack insight, that you lack the wisdom you need for your walk. True wisdom requires a healthy dose of humility, being open to correction. “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
How about you? Do you think you could use some help in living out your walk as a child of God? If you do, that’s good. That’s a good sign, when you admit that you don’t have it all together, and you’re open to grow and to learn. Open our ears, Lord, to hear your word. Open our hearts, Lord, to admit our faults, to confess our sins, and to receive wisdom for our walk.
Where does wisdom begin? Proverbs tells us: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” We heard that same statement in our Introit today, from Psalm 111: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” And so we ask the good Lutheran question, “What does this mean? What is meant by “the fear of the Lord”? Well, certainly, in the broad sense, it means an awe and a reverence for the Lord. Which presumes, of course, that you know who the Lord is: That he is one who made the heavens and the earth. That he is the only true God and all other gods are idols. That the Lord is the God who has revealed himself in his word, who has acted in history to save and deliver his people, and so on. The fear of the Lord begins with that basic recognition of who God is. But it is more than that. The fear of the Lord means that we take God seriously. That we take his word seriously, both his commands and his promises. That we take his threats and his wrath seriously, as well as his love and his mercy and his blessings. The fear of the Lord means that we do not casually dismiss or ignore what the Lord says and does.
And so it is with that understanding of the fear of the Lord that our reading from Ephesians begins. St. Paul has just counseled against a number of sins that exemplify that lost and foolish ways of the world, things like sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness. And then he says–he warns us, saying, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” You see, Paul takes seriously the wrath of God against unrepentant sinners. And that is a sign of wisdom, to do that. Let us do likewise. Recognize that God’s judgment is real, and his wrath will fall on the disobedient.
So as Christians we are called to put those worldly ways behind us. God has given us a better way to walk, which is different from the ways of the people of this world. Paul writes: “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” The ways of the world are darkness. The people of this world are groping around in the dark, lost, blind, not knowing God. And there would we be, too, according to our sinful nature.
But God has called us out of darkness, into his marvelous light. It is the light of Christ, who is the light of the world, who gives life and light to our soul and to our senses. Now in Christ, we know God for who he truly is. We know him as the God of mercy, who forgives our sins freely for Christ’s sake. Now we have light to see our way forward. In our baptism, we have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gift of faith and the gift of a new life, to walk now in God’s ways, the way of wisdom. Therefore Paul writes, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” It’s time to stop sleepwalking. Instead, it’s time to walk with eyes wide open, in the light that Christ provides.
This walking in the light will take specific shape in the things we put behind us and avoid, and in the things we say and do and think now, as the new people we are in Christ. That’s what Paul gets at next: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Drunkenness, debauchery, things like that–that’s the way of the world. Those things belong to the old sinful nature, and not to our new nature in Christ. We put those things behind us when we were baptized. God has called us out of darkness and into his light. To walk in the new way of Christ, that is wisdom. It is a life led by the Holy Spirit, who will lead us on paths of righteousness. It is a walk of joy, the Spirit filling our hearts with the joy of the Lord, which will then find expression in how we sing and talk and think. Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs will come off our tongues in worship and gratitude. This is a new life here, friends.
Now if I were just to tell you, “Walk in the way of wisdom,” you must avoid sin and walk in righteousness–if I were just tell you that cold, that might be good advice, but you would not have the power or the strength to carry it out. You would compare your life and all the ways you fall short, and you would feel the prick of your sins, nagging in your conscience, and I’d just be piling guilt and despair on you, as you contemplate the wrath of God against sinners, and you see how you’re one of them, for you surely do not measure up. Well, guess what? Neither do I. Neither does anyone here in this room. We all are sinners, and we need forgiveness, and we need help. We need Jesus Christ to find wisdom and forgiveness and strength and light for our way.
And these are what Jesus comes to bring. He gives us food for our souls, light from above, and even the words of eternal life. Today we hear the ending of Jesus’ Bread of Life discourse, which we’ve been hearing the last couple of weeks. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus says. “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from heaven to give life to the world, to give life to us poor sinners. He gives us this life by giving his own life, giving his own flesh for us on the cross, shedding his blood for our forgiveness. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. This is how he redeemed us, purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. Now we are free, free to live as God’s beloved children, redeemed by Christ, and filled with the Spirit. We have a new life ahead of us–indeed, an eternal life. When Christ comes again, he will raise us up on the last day. This changes everything. This puts our life in a new perspective. We have a new identity, a new power to live, and a sure hope for our eternal future.
But we have this life and this hope only as we feed on Christ. There is no other way. And so some people find this to be a hard saying, and they turn away from following Christ and they no longer walk with him. Which way will you go? Will you grumble? Will you take offense? Or, on the contrary, will you recognize your need and recognize in Jesus the one who meets your need and gives to you so freely? For that is the way of faith, that is the way of wisdom, to come to Jesus and to receive from him. Jesus asked his disciples, “Are you going to be like those people who just walked away, or are you going to stay and continue following as my disciples?” And Peter answered and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” A wise answer! For only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus can give life, real life, true life, new life, eternal life.
Our Lord says to us today: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”
Here is our way-bread. Here is strength for our journey. Here is wisdom for your walk, dear friends. It is Jesus himself. Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God. Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Want wisdom for your walk? Come to Jesus, trust in him, and he will walk with you.