“Spiritual Wisdom” ~ Rev. Christine Kell
Join us for our Sunday Gathering as Rev. Chris Kell explores the concept of Spiritual Wisdom and what that means to each of us.
Talk starts at 18:58
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A transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the Deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings and songs from this week’s service are also included.
“Eternal God, You abide though all things change. We are anxious and fearful, and we turn our hearts to You, looking to You and leaning on Your strength.
It is written (Psalm 84:5): Blessed is the one whose strength is in You.
Bless us now with faith and courage. Help us to know that You are with us, steadying and sustaining us with the assurance that we are beloved – protected and sustained.
Be with us and bring us hope, that in the days to come, our aspirations may be fulfilled for our good and the good of those we love who depend on us.
Banish our fears with the sense that you are always present, to uphold and sustain us, as it is written (Isaish 41:10) Have no fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you always. Amen.”Prayer from the tradition of reform Judaism adapted by Rev. Melanie Eyre
“We rest in the energy that created all things, the love and light that sustains us and gives us life. As we bring our hopes, our grief, our challenges, as we lift up our beloved, may all be well. May all be renewed and healed and whole.
May all beings know the light and the love and the strength of spirit as they walk through the challenges of life. May all be comforted. May we realize common purpose as we build beloved community, including those we know and those whom we will never meet. We are one with all.
May we focus on our common hopes and dreams Instead of our differences. May we build, instead of diminish and destroy. May all beings be happy, and may we live together in peace.
We raise up this prayer in the many names of God.”Rev. Melanie Eyre
Spiritual Wisdom by Rev. Christine Kell
Sept. 20, 2020
Good morning. What a pleasure it is to be here again with you this morning. So far this month, Rev. Melanie talked to us about entering the second half of life with wisdom and depth. Then, last week we heard about the process of aging with grace and wisdom. This week I want to continue that theme with a discussion of spiritual wisdom: what it is, where it comes from, and how we acquire it.
Let’s start with the question: What is Spiritual Wisdom?
And the answer is . . . I don’t really know. At least, I don’t know what spiritual wisdom is for each of you. I think I know what it is for me, or at least, I’m hopefully on my way to knowing.
However, my spiritual wisdom may not be the same as yours, so the best I can do is give you what I think are some essential characteristics of spiritual wisdom, then offer some suggestions as to how to discover your own.
When we speak to each other, we have to assume, and hope for, a shared meaning for hundreds of words we use, without pausing to define each one. Sometimes, though, it is important to be sure we are all thinking, speaking, and, at least for purposes of discussion, working from the same definition of key words. Today, that word is wisdom.
So then, let us begin with a common definition of wisdom. Merriam-Webster lists three components.
The first is Insight, which is basically an understanding of people and their relationships, and the ability to navigate relationships successfully. It is the practical practice of giving advice and acting in our own best interest.
Knowledge is another factor, that is, accumulated information learned through experience, schooling, reading, being with other people, and the capacity to make appropriate use of our knowledge or apply it to everyday situations.
The third element is judgement, the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions; good judgment means exercising good sense.
These definitions apply to what I think of as practical or worldly wisdom. Even though spiritual wisdom does have practical relevance to both the things of the Spirit and the things of the world, there are additional characteristics I believe are necessary to elevate worldly wisdom to the level of spiritual wisdom.
Let’s start with insight. I believe true insight involves a deep, intuitive understanding of a person or thing that arises from unconditional love, and a sense of the divinity and oneness of all creation. Understanding requires an appreciation for others’ best selves, and tolerance for their worst selves. Heartfelt insight engenders compassion for the emotional state of another, the ability to look past shallow appearances and see genuine suffering and need. Compassion is a stepping stone to spiritual wisdom and invokes an understanding of situations from multiple perspectives, not just our own. It necessitates kindness, and gratitude, as we move through our day to day interactions.
Next is Knowledge. Knowledge is much more than simply the appropriate application of accumulated information. Applying knowledge wisely requires staying present and acting with conscious intention. It necessitates remaining cognizant of your surroundings and environment, acknowledging that your actions affect those around you as well as people you may never meet, and accepting the consequences of your actions. How you apply your knowledge requires an awareness of the moment and a firmness of purpose. It means using your knowledge to support people’s visions, offering encouragement, and withholding unwarranted criticism.
The accumulation of knowledge is based on self-assessment, learning from your mistakes, then making adjustments, and trying again. Surround yourself with wisdom: wise counsel, wise people, wise books. Watch and observe; be open to new things. All of these activities are avenues of wisdom.
We also gain knowledge from our experiences. Having a very wide horizon and broad social interests that do not center on ourselves, allows us to focus less on what we need or think we deserve, and more on what we can contribute. Being service-oriented leads to a reduction in self-centeredness; practicing selflessness allows us to go beyond our own concerns and empathize with others. Giving back without needing or wanting anything in return frees us from attachment to things remaining the same as they’ve always been. We can then reach conclusions and make decisions based on moral principles rather than expedient or self-serving assumptions.
And maybe most importantly, knowledge sometimes demands faith––a willingness to listen to and act on your instincts and intuition about a person or situation, trusting that the information or guidance you receive derives from a divine source even when, or especially when, you have no absolute proof.
The last element of wisdom is judgment. At its core, the ability to exercise good judgment comes from an innate morality. It comes from a fundamental sense of justice concerning the distinction between principles of right and wrong, and good or bad behavior. It is a process of forming an opinion and making considered decisions based on careful thought garnered from insight and knowledge.
But relying on insight and knowledge alone is not enough for forming justifiable opinions and making wise decisions. Exercising good judgment requires discernment, recognizing the spiritual truth underlying knowledge, and discovering the true or spiritual implications behind what you have learned or what someone has shared. Discernment is central to one’s ability to make ethical choices and to take moral action.
We must also have patience, the willingness to wait for clarity about a thing before forming a conclusion and rushing to judgment. Good judgment demands that we embrace a humble attitude by neither displaying prideful self-righteousness nor undue certainty. Practice forgiveness by making a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance if someone has harmed you. In forming your opinions, be honest with yourself, and be ready to show your vulnerability as a willingness to trust both the process and the other person.
And finally, judgment includes having the good sense to do what is necessary to take care of our physical self as well as our spiritual Self: taking care of body, mind, and soul.
So okay, now we have a pretty inclusive definition of spiritual wisdom. But how does that help us comprehend where spiritual wisdom comes from, and how we attain it?
To my way of thinking, wisdom is more than a combination of insight, knowledge, experience, and judgement. As a matter of fact, we can very easily hold a huge compendium of facts, truths, and principles, but if we haven’t learned how to apply this information to our lives, we are actually the opposite of wise. A wise person also behaves wisely. True wisdom is about learning how to apply knowledge to your everyday life. And true spiritual wisdom involves much more than worldly knowledge and experience.
Personally, I believe true wisdom goes much deeper than personal insight as to how and why people act the way they do. In addition to acquired knowledge and experience, I believe every human being is born with an inherent spiritual wisdom, a spiritual gift that, like all gifts, requires cultivation and nurturing as we discover and follow our true path. Spiritual wisdom resonates powerfully with something already present deep inside us. It feels like a reminder and confirmation of something already known but forgotten. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, through which we receive insight into how knowledge (itself another of Spirit’s gifts) may best be applied to specific needs.
Sometimes, Spirit may choose to reveal itself spontaneously when the need arises and we are called upon to speak. To our great surprise, spiritual wisdom comes forth to meet the need. However, to receive the full measure of the gift of spiritual wisdom we must ask for guidance, because the secret to attaining spiritual wisdom is to be Spirit led rather than experience led.
As for how we acquire spiritual wisdom, the answer is simple: we ask for it. We choose wisdom, and engage in regular practices that develop and nurture the qualities mentioned earlier to build a foundation for tapping into our gift intentionally and deliberately.
Do you remember a few weeks, ago we took a look at what was in our spiritual toolboxes? Well, now is the time to start making use of those spiritual practices we put in there. Do you recall the things you included: the items that stimulate and elevate your senses, those things that get your spiritual juices flowing? Now is the time to rummage around in that toolkit and reach for the practices that call out to the Holy Spirit. Remember, the tools you put in your toolbox both empower and support you as you move forward on your journey of spiritual exploration. They will inform and sustain you on your search for spiritual wisdom as a part of that journey.
Spending time in prayer for the gifts of faith, courage, self-compassion, and gratitude certainly could be at the top of the list, followed by spiritual reading and reflection for discernment and understanding. Talk to, listen to, and learn from people you believe to be wise, who live those qualities you believe to be the cornerstones of spiritual wisdom.
However, one really, really –– I mean extremely really –– important practice is mindfulness meditation. Ram Dass writes that mindfulness practice teaches us to be in the present moment; it invites us to become acquainted with our own minds and live from a soul perspective. This practice enhances self-awareness, opens our minds to the experience of selflessness, and engenders a compassionate engagement with the world––all of which enriches and releases spiritual wisdom, freeing both ourselves and others from suffering.
The path to wisdom is through mindfulness. As mindfulness matures and deepens, it becomes the lens through which we perceive our experience. Insight meditation teacher Heather Sundberg tells us that when difficult aspects of life are brought to our awareness through mindful meditation, we recognize them for what they are. Rather than becoming a buffer or barrier to life, this awareness is a bridge back to wholeness and the ability to respond to life from a wise, non-reactive heart and mind.
There are many ways to nourish spiritual wisdom. Trust your instincts. Self-help author Wayne Dyer has said that a person’s intuition is more than just a hunch. Instinct is a form of guidance, one way the Holy Spirit talks to us; therefore, this inner sense should never be taken lightly or ignored. Make it a point to pay special attention to the still, small voice inside.
Remain aware that every minute you will be open to the new things life wants to teach you about your environment, yourself, and others. As you evolve, so do the messages that you must accept to keep the spiritual evolution going. Listen, and learn.
Ram Dass stated, “wisdom is . . . a matter of becoming wisdom itself.” If you want to be wise, all you have to do is simply make the choice to be so and act on it. But spiritual wisdom doesn’t show up overnight. And it’s not some magical talent that comes to some while overlooking others. However, if you ask Spirit for wisdom, and expect it to come, you will receive it.
In the end, spiritual wisdom looks different for each of us. It comes from the soul level of our beings. It honors the sacredness of everyday life. It’s quiet, rarely makes noise, and seldom looks for dramatic results.
Spiritual wisdom is stepping back and letting Spirit do the talking.
Thank you, and in the words of Ephesians 1: 18,
“May your hearts be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope God has given to those he calls.”
This reading is from Still Here: Embracing Aging and Dying, by Ram Dass
In a non-traditional culture such as ours, dominated by technology, we value information far more than we do wisdom. But there is a difference between the two. Information involves the acquisition, organization, and dissemination of facts; a storing-up of physical data. But wisdom involves another equally crucial function: the emptying and quieting of the mind, the application of the heart, and the alchemy of reason and feeling. In the wisdom mode, we’re not processing information, analytically or sequentially. We’re standing back and viewing the whole, discerning what matters and what does not, weighing the meaning and depth of things. This quality of wisdom is rare in our culture. More often, we have knowledgeable people who pretend to be wise, but who, unfortunately, have not cultivated the quality of mind from which wisdom truly arises.
In traditional cultures that go unchanged for generation after generation, the value of wise elders is easy to spot; but in a culture such as ours, wisdom is nowhere near as exciting––or necessary––as surfing the Net.
When information is prized over wisdom, old people become obsolete, like yesterday’s computers. Unless we see ourselves as part of life’s continuity, whether we’re currently young or old, we will continue to view aging as something apart from the mainstream of culture, and the old as somehow other.
But the real treasure is being ignored: wisdom is one of the few things in human life that does not diminish with age. While everything else falls away, wisdom alone increases until death if we live examined lives, opening ourselves out to life’s many lessons.
Written by Rickie Byars Beckwith
“Let Your Life Lead You Where You Need to Go”
Written by Jana Stanfield
This service was originally aired on September 20, 2020.