June 14, 2019

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

The Value of Wisdom
Proverbs 2

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As I tried to reread the second chapter of Proverbs this week, I stopped again and again at the command of the third verse to “cry aloud for understanding.” I stop because I hear them, the cries of the proverbs. Can you hear them? Can you hear the wisdom that fills them?

In the past week, thousands of people have filled the streets of cities and towns all around the world to cry out together for George Floyd, a black man who was killed by officers of the Minneapolis police department. It is a long cry, stretching back through the lives and deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and the millions of black and brown victims of American racism, stretching from 1619 to today.

As I listen to the cries, I hear justified grief, fear, and anger. I hear longing and the most radical hope—that the nation and the world would understand. I hear a cry for understanding.

It’s tempting to silence these cries with accusations of criminality, violence, looting, public endangerment, the spread of the virus. But what if, instead, we would make a commitment to listen, to hear, to understand? What if our quest for wisdom leads not only to the practice of Bible study, church community, and the ordinances, but also to active listening to the cries of those in the streets right now who have something important, something true to say?

I understand the privileges of socioeconomics, health, security, and voice that I have as a white American. I am learning the lessons of generational privilege from teachers like Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Ta-Nehisi Coates; I am honored to read and share their teachings with others regularly. I am eager to raise my voice, to cry aloud for justice. But I also know that in this time and place, the wise posture for me is one of listening first and understanding the cries of my black brothers and sisters.

May we, the people of God, “cry aloud for understanding.” May we listen to the cries of those who know well what is “right and just and fair” (v. 9). May we know, in the brave and wise words of black womanist theologian Kelly Brown Douglas that “even in the height of human evil, God’s love and justice prevail”[1] over the sin of racism—structural and individual, exceptional and everyday.

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

© 2020

1. “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God” (teleconference), Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Wednesday, November 11, 2015.

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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