Proverbs 8:1-4; 22-31 (NRSV)
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
The Lord created
me at the beginning – the first of the acts of long ago.Ages
ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.When
there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding
with water. Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—when God had not
yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
When God established the heavens, I was there, when God drew a circle on the face of the deep, and made firm the skies above, when God established the fountains of the deep,and assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress God’s command, and marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside God, like a master worker; and I was daily God’sdelight, rejoicing before God always,rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
We all love potlucks, don’t we? Could we possibly be church if we didn’t have potlucks? There is something about that unorganized meal that I love. You never know what’s going to be on the table. One potluck meal several years ago at a church I served in Arizona – it seemed everyone brought chicken. How could that be? At another potluck in New Hampshire, every main dish was a pasta dish. How could that be? Sometimes their are more desserts than anything else. How could that be? Divine intervention, perhaps? My observation, however, is that there is usually a wonderful mix of great foods and always enough for everyone.
So, my question is: Are you ready for a mixed-bag, potluck kind of sermon this morning? Hope so. 1. Following Pentecost last week, we recognize today as Trinity Sunday. 2. Our scripture focus is on Wisdom. And 3, it’s also Father’s Day. It’s a kind of potluck type of morning so a potluck type of sermon follows.
First, last week we celebrated Pentecost in the life and tradition of the church that recognizes the presence of God’s Spirit in the world following the death of Jesus. “I will not leave you alone,” he said. On the heels of that observance today is considered to be Trinity Sunday where the church recognizes the three-in-one of the God-head: In traditional terms: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit; or God the Creator, God the Christ, and God the Spirit. God is overall these three aspects of the Trinity.
Last year I braided three strands to convey the concept of the Trinity. I brought that visual with me this morning: green strand is God the Creator; purple strand is God the Christ; red strand is God the Spirit. The three in one – each a piece of the God-head. A complex concept we humans try to make understandable as we desire to be in relationship with God.
This year I found a story that may help a bit more. (Susan M. Fleenor, The Indwelling Spirit of Pentecost, sermons.com). “It’s like the story of the shark and the whale, both were swimming in the sea when the shark swam up to the whale to engage in conversation. As they swam along, the shark said to the whale, ‘You are so much older than I, and wiser too. Could you tell me where the ocean is?’ The whale responded, ‘The ocean is what you are in now.” The shark would not believe it. ‘Come on, tell me where the ocean is so I may find it!’ The whale repeated, ‘The ocean is here, now; you are in it.’ Unbelieving, the shark swam away searching for the ocean.”
Fleenor notes: “The moral of the story, I believe, is this: don’t spend too much time looking for God because the Spirit of God is here in the now of your life, dwelling within you, within me, within this community. And that truth is nurtured in prayer.”
These stories and visuals help us grasp just a bit of understanding of God, but the reality is that God is the Great Mystery (in capital letters) and we will never truly get at all the truth of who God is. Living with the unknown is difficult for those of us who want answers and explanations. But mystery is mystery. Crime mysteries are meant to be solved, but the mystery of God is always beyond our knowing, but most often belief in God’s existence isn’t, is it?
Early writers of scripture were also desiring to do the same. Much of our scripture is written to help answer some of those basic questions about creation – how the world as we know it came to be. How the world was created and how did the human race come to be and why are we the way we are. That’s the reason for the story of Adam and Eve and then their children, Cain and Able and the story of betrayal, and violence and murder in one of the two creation stories found in the Bible in the book of Genesis. Confusing, isn’t it?
Second, I generally preach from a lectionary reading. These readings are prescribed, historic readings over a three year period of time – year A, B, and C with the understanding that after three years of Sunday readings, the Bible would have been heard in its entirety. The year within the Christian tradition always begins with the first Sunday of Advent. On December 1st we begin the rotation of Year A readings. Most often I choose the gospel reading on which to base a sermon. Today, I still chose a lectionary reading but from the Hebrew text of Proverbs about Wisdom.
This particular reading is so beautiful. It strikes me this time as a pre-creation story: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. The Lord created me at the beginning – the first of the acts of long ago.Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” Wisdom has always been part of God’s plan for the human race. How we choose to use it or ignore it is also part of the human story woven into the pages of ancient scripture as well as in our lives today as unwise choices continue to be made in the world.
In Martin Smith’s commentary (Living the Word, Sojourners, June 2019) he writes: “Our reading from the book of Proverbs personifies the wisdom of God as an alluring teacher, a master artist, a prophetic voice, whose guidance for living in harmony with God is rooted in the very fabric of the universe. Wisdom has been God’s companion and co-worker from the very beginning of creation!”
Wisdom – I think we are all gifted with it, but we don’t always choose to see it, understand it or use it. Wisdom is found in world religions and various spiritual traditions and even on our bulletin cover this morning in a poem by Charles Schulz. Schulz was also the creator of the comic strip Peanuts with Charlie Brown and a gang of characters he hung out with like Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Pig Pen, Snoopy the dog and the bird who usually stuck with Snoopy – Woodstock. There was often poignancy about these characters that made it more than a typical comic strip.
The following are some Schulz quote worthy thoughts:
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
The best theology is probably no theology. Just love one another. Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s all about the friend who comes and stands by your side in bad times.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.
From our cover, this poem: A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why aren’t we like that wise old bird? Wisdom – we can all use a dose – or two.
Third, this Father’s Day, I’d like to open the floor to some sayings of wisdom you received from your father. I know I’m springing this on you rather quickly, but I didn’t think of this until just a couple of days ago when I was thinking of my own father and what words of wisdom he may have passed on to me. So I invite you to share, briefly, something of wisdom you may have received from him, or if not him, maybe someone who was like a father to you.
Me first. Words of wisdom from my father – it was kind of like a repeated mantra in our household. Through my growing up years I always heard this from him: “Never stick a knife in the toaster.” Words to live by, for sure. In fact, a friend of mine once asked me about a saying from my father. She took these little words of wisdom and made them into a cross stitch piece which is now placed just above my toaster as a reminder of my father’s wisdom. And it’s amazing that over the years I came to recognize how they beautifully reflect his love and concern for his children.
Others? (Several people shared some gems – thank you.)
Well, I hope this potluck sermon provided some nourishment for you today. Or maybe something to chew on this week.
May God bless each of us this day to choose the way of wisdom in our daily living, recognizing the Spirit of God is here in the now of our lives. To be thankful for wisdom handed down to us. To be ok living with the Mystery of the Great Un-knowning. And like Charles Schulz to add a dose of humor along the way. And maybe to rest this afternoon with a little bit of chocolate. Amen.
Copyright DMC 2019