John 16: 12-16 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31 May 22, 2016
“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts long ago.”
Prayer: O Holy, divine Wisdom, may your wisdom be infused into our consciousness and stir us to deeper faith. Amen.
Today, we’ve been worshipping God with joy, sensing God’s presence through Word, music, and prayer. We’ve also started the summer worship series called Got Wisdom? Today is the 1st of 4 Sundays scattered throughout the summer in which we’ll focus on this theme. My thanks to our readers today who offered a creative way of pointing out that often we are bombarded by the wisdom the world gives, and yet God’s wisdom and truth still calls out to us offering a different way of living and perceiving life.
Jesus promised that he would send us the Spirit of Truth. Last Sunday, on the church calendar, was Pentecost Sunday. The Spirit indeed was among us as our two confirmation youth, Wil and Amber, confirmed their faith, right?
Today, on the church calendar, it’s Trinity Sunday. There’s a little less fanfare. Trinity Sunday affirms Christianity’s long-held belief that God has certain qualities, characteristics, and functions that are each uniquely separate, but each are indivisibly one, part of the whole. God is Father, Mother, Creator, Prime Mover. God is Son, Jesus the Christ, Redeemer, Incarnate (which means ‘God in the flesh’). God is Holy Spirit, Sustainer, Advocate, Counselor. All three are separate, yet all three are part of the one and only God.
In the same sense that our GPS systems can pinpoint our position on planet earth using longitude, latitude, and altitude points, we know that there’s more to it than that. We know that the 4th point of time is inextricably a part of where we are. So, where we are is inseparable with when we are.
In the same way, while the concept of Trinity has been used to describe God, we know that there’s more to God than all that. God has a 4th characteristic, perhaps many more, too, I would guess. The 4th characteristic of God is wisdom. “Sophia,” as wisdom is called, is God’s partner.
While we often associate the other three characteristics of God in the masculine voice, the author of Proverbs clearly identifies the divine wisdom of God in the feminine voice. “Does not understanding raise her voice? At the crossroads she takes her stand” and so forth. So, the divine feminine of God is inextricably connected to the divine masculine of God. And yet, God is one.
The second part of our passage from Proverbs is written in Sophia’s voice. She asserts that she, wisdom, was God’s first creation before anything else. She is in on the ground floor of God’s creative work. Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1: 1). But, wisdom was created before the heavens and the earth, and so wisdom is a part of every created thing afterwards.
It’s a partnership that God has with Sophia. Sophia, God’s divine wisdom works inseparably with God as Master Creator, Master Worker, Master Artist. As God creates, wisdom brings about a divinely created order, a way things work, a purpose for everything.
How many of us simply marvel at the birth of a new baby? W think what an amazing thing it is that this little baby came into being complete with DNA and chromosomes... and cells divide and divide… life has an ordered process.
Are you not amazed at photosynthesis? When plants take light and make chemical energy from it for growth, it’s simply amazing! There’s a wisdom shown in the created order there, and life takes off.
How many of us simply are astounded at the majesty of the universe that is still expanding, and stars that are still being born, and planets that are still being made? And you can bet that life is still finding a way. The universe is teeming with life… everywhere! So, the way things work and their purposes are part of Sophia’s wisdom, and she partners with God, and delights in God, and in creation, and in us!
But, that there’s more to wisdom than just that. God’s partner Sophia, also reveals how we can find meaning in life. The wisdom of God shows that we can choose how to be or what to do which supports God’s creative life-Spirit in all creation. Likewise, we can also choose how not
to be or what not to do that can curtail the creative life-Spirit in creation. Of course, we are always invited to choose to support God’s creative life-Spirit, right?
So, when we’re wrestling with cultural issues, how much do we choose to let God’s wisdom which supports the divine creative life-Spirit influence our decisions?
In recent weeks, North Carolina passed a law requiring transgendered people to use the public restrooms of the gender listed on their birth certificates. You know, assuming that it’s true that God isn’t just male or female, but the two are inextricably connected, then must it also be true that divine creativity embraces the whole realm of possibilities?—in this case, people whose gender are in question, or may have had genders switched by surgery? If so, is the law discriminatory? Does it result in curtailing the creative life-Spirit in transgendered people?
To be fair, I read that defenders of North Carolina’s law say they are worried that boys will don dresses in order to sneak into girl’s bathrooms, and that men will pose as transgendered in order to assault women in locker rooms. But, I also read that there is no evidence that transgendered people pose this kind of threat. There is plenty of evidence, however, that public spaces can be dangerous places for transgendered people (“Phantom Threats,” The Christian Century, 05/11/2016, p. 7).
In contrast to North Carolina’s law, we have right here in Pennsylvania, the management of Hershey Park saying that their guests are encouraged to use the public restrooms according to their preference based on how they gender-identify. Hershey Park says it attracts millions of visitors every year, and to make sure the park remains a welcoming place, it stands by its core values of respecting others and their differences http://www.wgal.com/news/hersheypark-says-guests-staff-may-chose-their-restroom-preference/39644978, retrieved May 21, 2016) The main point is that we can call upon God’s partner, Sophia, to help us choose ways to support God’s creative life-Spirit in all creation, even concerning cultural issues. I encourage us to do that.
Proverbs also claims that we don’t need to call upon Sophia at all. She is always calling to us! Jesus promised to send us the Spirit of Truth—that is, the Spirit of Wisdom. We have her in our hearts already!
We’re encouraged to take time to tune into it. We have to be quiet at a point or points during the day for awhile to tune into her. We have to soak in God’s presence for a little in order to discuss God’s wisdom. We’re encouraged to use spiritual resources, like the Bible which shows Jesus as God’s wisdom, the Upper Room, Daily Guideposts, StillSpeaking devotionals online, whatever. We meet Sophia in word and worship, in prayer and silence.
The wisdom of the world says, “You don’t need to take time to be with God’s partner, Sophia. Your job is more pressing… You don’t need to tune in… Facebook, or the Internet, or your favorite pastime will suffice for your enjoyment. Don’t read the Bible, you don’t need to listen to others’ faith journeys, and you certainly don’t need time to pray. Common sense is good enough as your guide. Just get on with living, and everything will be all right.”
But the call to get on with it, to go forward without God or prayer is not the voice of Sophia. It’s not the Spirit of Truth.
There’s good reason why we have mentors in our Confirmation program. These adults who have been around awhile can help our younger members learn how to recognize the voices of the world vs. Sophia’s voice. They can gain skill in listening to Sophia’s voice. Mentors help our youth navigate the waters of life. They help them read the maps and see the road signs, and learn how to put God’s wisdom into practice on the journey.
Whenever we put God’s wisdom into practice, I think we become God’s partner. We actually participate with God in God’s efforts to renew our lives and the world. To God, we aren’t puppets whose only duty is to do what we are told. We aren’t employees who agree to do work in exchange for pay. We are real partners whom God invites to share the responsibility in God’s efforts to renew the world. We can become fluent in God’s voice which sounds like the warm voice of a mother for her newborn. We speak the voice of Sophia who says “You are beloved.” It’s God’s wisdom in her voice that declares the creative life-Spirit in Christ also makes us clean, justified, forgiven, and new (Barbara Wendland and Stanley Menking, God’s Partners: Lay Christians at Work (Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1993), 2, 54. http://www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/illustration_search.asp?keywords=%22partner%22+and+%22God%22+and+%22world%
22&Search=7&imageField.x=0&imageField.y=0, retrieved May 20, 2016).
So, have you Got Wisdom? It starts by getting to know God’s partner, Sophia. She is God’s wisdom and truth calling out to us offering a different way of living and perceiving life. And of course, that there’s more to it than that. She lives in us, too. We are God’s partners. Come, O Spirit, dwell among us. Come with Pentecostal power. Amen