Sermon Text: Practically Wise
My granddaughter is definitely an apprentice woman. She is only seven, but she's already got it going.
We were at the zoo in Syracuse on Monday. My wife, my daughter-in-law, and the three grandchildren and I were watching a young elephant play. A little boy, maybe five to seven years old, I'd guess, walked up and seemed interested in my granddaughter. He offered her a fresh grape. She was not interested.
After the boy walked away, I said, "Violet, I think he likes you." She rolled her eyes and said, "Whatever!"
First, I thought, "Man, females are tough on males right from the start!"
But then I realized she's already wise. She knows she doesn't want a boyfriend yet. She knows it's not the time. She's already developing practical wisdom.
And that's what I want to talk about: practical wisdom.
There are some books in the Bible called "wisdom literature." Wisdom Literature is a particular kind of writing. Wisdom Literature involves the reflections of sages and wise people about virtue and about living well and wisely. Some of the Psalms are considered Wisdom Literature, including Psalm 34, which we just read. Job and Ecclesiastes are also wisdom books. And the book that is most clearly a wisdom book is the Book of Proverbs, from which we just heard a few lines.
I like Wisdom Literature because it says, in effect, use your head! Think! Pay attention! And this approach is a special part of Anglican, or Episcopal, tradition.
So here's a wisdom story:
Once upon a time, an American visited a Mexican fishing village. A small boat came in with several large tuna. The American asked the fisherman how long it took to catch them. "Not long," the fisherman answered. The American asked, "So why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" "No need," the fisherman replied. "I bring in enough to support my family."
The American asked, "So what do you do with the rest of your time?" "Well, I sleep late, I fish a little, I play with my children, take a siesta, and spend time with my wife. In the evenings I sometimes go into town to have a drink and sing some songs with my friends. I have a good life, Senor."
The American rolled his eyes. "But if you spent more time fishing, you could sell the fish and use the money to get a bigger boat and catch more. Maybe some day you could buy more boats. With your fleet you could sell directly to a processor, and even open your own cannery.
"You would be vertically integrated, controlling the product, processing and distribution.
Eventually you could leave this village and move to Mexico City or Los Angeles and run your empire from there." The fisherman smiled and said, "What then, Senor?"
"You go public," said the American. "You issue an IPO and sell stock. And then you'll really make a fortune!" "Ah, I see," said the fisherman. "And what then?"
The American said, "Well, then you can retire and move to a small fishing village. You could sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandchildren, take a siesta, and spend time with your wife. In the evenings you could walk into town to have a drink and sing some songs with your friends."
You could see the end of that story coming, right? If you did, it's because you have some wisdom. The Mexican fisherman was of course much wiser than the American tourist. He was a wise, contented and satisfied person.
If you want to be contented and satisfied, these things are important:
Focus on strong social network. Studies show that the main indicator for whether or not people are satisfied with their lives is the number of close friends and family connections they have. Yes, maintaining good relationships takes work, but it's worth it.
Set reasonable goals. This comes up fairly often in studies. People who set ambitious but attainable goals are more likely to be content. For example, walk a mile every day.
Read a book. Clean the garage.
Make a difference. Research shows that people who volunteer not only enjoy their lives more, they actually are healthier and tend to live longer.
Take time to enjoy life's small pleasures. If you are like the Mexican fisherman and live in the moment, you are more likely to feel centered and peaceful.
Wisdom Literature in the Bible, and wisdom stories from many sources, remind us to use our minds, and think, and pay attention.
Life is good, but it takes wisdom.
So let's wise up!