June 7, 2019

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

The Call of Wisdom
Proverbs 1

Read this article as a Word Document
Two reproducible resources for this summer study are available:
“Who Is Woman Wisdom?” by Gordon Matties, writer of the ABS student guide
An unabridged bibliography.

As Gordon Matties writes, the first chapter in Proverbs, that most well-known book of biblical wisdom, calls us into a “community of the wise.” In this sense, wisdom is not a trait of an individual but rather a practice of lifelong discernment shaped by and with others, those who help us imagine and practice what Matties describes later as “a healthy common life” (ABS, p. 4, emphasis added).

I am struck by Matties’s words, written well before social distancing, isolation, and quarantine became our new norm, back when “community” and “common” were easier words to write, read, and practice as a people following Jesus together. But now I wonder. What does it mean to be a “community of the wise” (ABS, p. 2) here in this moment?

Rereading Proverbs 1 now, divided from my family, friends, colleagues, students, and community, I am drawn to its two distinct yet complementary images of biblical wisdom. The wisdom of the proverb is loud, bold, and public: “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square” (v. 20). And yet, she is quiet, restrained, and receptive: she “listens” (v. 33). Together, these radically different images of wisdom—the vehement prophetess speaking sacred truth to power and the quiet disciple listening for the voice of God—embody the robust and diverse “community of the wise.”

These past few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed by the numbers and the speculation that fill the headlines, but I have found hope in the daily obituaries that stand witness to those taken in this pandemic and the wisdom that survives beyond their deaths. Wisdom shaped the call of Georgianna Glose, a Catholic nun, academic, and community organizer who lived and served the poor in New York City. She was 73 at the time of her death. Wisdom marked the life of José María Galante, a survivor of the Franco dictatorship who for more than 50 years cried out patiently and passionately for meaningful reconciliation in Spain. He was 71 when he died. Wisdom shaped the dreams of Valentina Blackhorse, a mother, public servant, and member of the Navajo Nation who had just started to imagine becoming a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, one of the most influential governing bodies of a tribal nation in the United States. She died in April. She was 28. I read these obituaries, and I cradle these strangers, grateful for their lives, their dreams, their wisdom gifted in these small blocks of words. And I am renewed to live into the “community of the wise” that, by the grace of God, surrounds us all.

—Kerry Hasler-Brooks, kerry.hasler.brooks@gmail.com

© 2020

Kerry Hasler-Brooks is a professor of American Literature at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania. She researches and teaches at the intersections of race, gender, literature, and vocation and has written on diverse American women writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Ruiz de Burton, Katherine Anne Porter, Toni Morrison, and Edwidge Danticat. She lives on an organic vegetable farm run by her husband, Nathan; loves to explore in the fields and woods with their two young children; and recently joined the 300-year-old community at Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, where she is learning to hear and practice anew the call of Jesus to radical peace, love, and welcome.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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