Trinity May 26, 2013
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
The book of Proverbs, the scholars tell us, is divided into two kinds of writing. It is a series of lectures, interspersed with a series of interludes.
The lectures are what you expect to come from the kind of Wisdom Literature entitled “Proverbs.” They are the kinds of sayings a parent would give to a child: advice about how to live, how to prosper, how to be a good person. Practical. Time-honored.
In the interludes, however, we see a different kind of Wisdom. This is the Wisdom of the big picture. This Wisdom was around when God created the world; indeed, this Wisdom played in front of God while God created everything. Yes, that word is right there in the text. The Hebrew term which in our lesson today reads “like a master worker” could also be translated as “like a little child.”
Think of how this ambiguity allows both ideas to be true at the same time. To think of Wisdom as the “master worker” shows us "Wisdom as God’s helpmeet in creation, a craftsperson who assists God in the formation of the world."
On the other hand, to think of Wisdom as a playing child, “reflects the delight that God takes in Wisdom, and that Wisdom takes in humanity.” Among the people I think are wise are the Biblical scholars who can dig into a word, and find so much meaning there. Listen to this:
The ambiguity of the translation … allows both understandings to operate together, depicting Wisdom as the formative power of God’s delight. … Wisdom “is a beneficent, right-ordering power in whom God delights and by whom God creates; her constant effort is to lure human beings into life.” Wisdom is the creative power of God that is embedded in the world; each created thing, and the creation as a whole, speaks of the Wisdom of God at its foundation.
This dual understanding of Wisdom in Proverbs really tells us something about the nature of God, something humans are always trying to figure out. God in the Hebrew Bible is very active. God wants us to live a certain way, to behave, yes, but also to prosper, to delight, to have fun, to create. If we are made in the image of God, that also must mean we reflect HOW God is, and in Proverbs, God delights in the work of creation. Indeed, the work of creation is play, it is beauty, it is joyful. And if the nature of God is Wisdom, then this Wisdom of God is played out in the public square, in social and economic activity. It is not just about a “religious” activity. It is about life: how you live AND how you make a living. Who you are AND how you relate to the people around you. How you put bread on the table and a roof over your head AND how you make that bread and that roof into the beautiful things which would delight God.
You are right, also, if you hear echoes from the Prologue of the Gospel of John in how Wisdom describes
With such an awareness of God, and of what God wants for us, how can we help but be grateful? To want to give back? To fall all over ourselves to share in this delightful abundance? We have many ways to do this.
Did not our hearts stop last week when we heard about the tornado in Oklahoma? I know that every week, every day, every minute, there are people around the world crying out for help in the midst of pain and disaster – and yes, we can help any and all of these deserving brothers and sisters. But there are times when we stop, and focus our prayers and concerns in one terrible place. Today, if you are moved and able, we can send our own prayers and donations to the people rebuilding their lives and their communities torn apart
And next week is our ingathering for the United Thank Offering. It is the Blue Box into which all our prayers and thanksgivings go. The money collected in those Blue Boxes makes a difference in the lives of thousands of people each year, through the Episcopal Church here in the US and overseas.
Wisdom draws us out of ourselves, out of our private reveries into the crossroads of life, to the gates of community, to the highways and byways. Wisdom calls us to take everything we have, from the Celebration of the Arts to the change in our pockets and give it in service to God’s world. You know that God delights in our generosity. God does a dance every time we give something away.
 Elizabeth Webb, ”What is the connection between wisdom and joy? http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1708
 Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996).. 88.
 Webb, Op. Cit.
Pentecost May 19, 2013
John 14: 8-17, 24-25
Pentecost. It’s 50 days: fifty days since Easter. Pentecost is also a Jewish feast, commemorating the 50 days it took the Israelites to get from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, where they heard the law – when Moses gave them the 10 Commandments. In the Acts of the Apostles, all the disciples were in one place to celebrate this Jewish feast of the giving of the law, to give thanks for the great freedom and blessing it brought them. They were not expecting this to be the “birthday of the church.” They were not expecting tongues of fire, a proliferation of languages, a mighty wind or ecstatic revelation. They were there to celebrate the giving of the law.
Now there is a story about the giving of the law – another version of this oft-told story of the Ten Commandments (without Charlton Heston). The rabbis say “that at Sinai all Israel heard the Ten Commandments, because the voice of God was divided into seven voices, and then went into seventy tongues so that all heard the law in their own language.”[i] Could this Pentecost of the Spirit, experienced by people who knew Jesus, be then an extension of that multi-tongued Sinai? Is this Pentecost a new life-giving law, a new way by which God establishes a new relationship with us? Is this a Sinai exploded beyond all expectations? A shattering of those old stone tablets in a great whoosh of fire and wind, each of us with a direct experience of God – in our own, intimate language, the language with which our mothers spoke to us in our cradles – and yet also a communal experience of God, each of us understanding God in exactly the same way?
With Pentecost, we go into warp speed – like on Star Trek, or in Star Wars, when Han Solo finally gets that old Millennium Falcon up and running and the galaxies streak by us like so many beams of light. St. Paul understood that Pentecostal Spirit – “all who are led by the Spirit are children of God.” No matter how we got here, we’re all here now, we’re all different but we are all together, each of us indispensable to this new life-giving, Spirit-filled law that has blown in from the desert.
This story from the Acts of the Apostles is about the world as we know it blowing apart in an ecstatic, joyful, creative way. Things catch on fire because this new thing is coming into being. This Pentecost is a chaos of hope.
The world, however, seems all chaos and little hope: it’s tornado season again, with whole communities being blown apart. The latest reports on global warming reveal CO2 levels something like 400x higher than what in our lifetimes was normal. Bombs explode on streets we have walked down. Even the IRS is caught up in a scandal. How much more can we stand? Where are the tongues of fire that can show us out of this mess?
In such times, we need to hear the Pentecost story more than ever, as a reminder of what IS possible in a world gone mad. On Mt. Sinai, the law gave direction to a people lost in the desert, wandering and aimless. The law gave them a purpose, a relationship with God, a set of rules about how to behave with each other. The powerful message of this Pentecost story is that not only does God have the last word, but God is The Word – and a Word that each of us can understand. We can make a mess of things, but God’s fiery and ferocious wind can wipe it all away:
Though humans crucify, God resurrects. Though humans divide and dominate, God communicates. God has the last word, and the word is wild. It changes everything. It rebuilds broken community. It breaks boundaries and enlarges the house. It makes possible understanding where before there was not understanding.[ii]
Our Pentecost prayer is “Veni Sancte Spiritus” -- “Come, Holy Spirit.” Guide us. Show us the way. Give us a clue about this chaotic, fractured, embittered world. Enlighten our blessings. Show us what to do, for life in this world is no longer as clear-cut as it was up there on Mt. Sinai. Give us the new vision we need to face the problems of today, to dream the dreams of the world as you would have it be.