Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8 or Canticle 13
St. John 16:12-15
It is not without some sense of dread and soul searching that the preacher approaches this day. Its sermons are more thank likely rife with heresy and equivocation, and yet someone must say something on this day that honors the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Russian icon, depicting the Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, which serves as the representation of the Holy Trinity is perhaps the most eloquent, and the most appropriate and useful for us as we worship the Triune God. It is clear and succinct and yet it has a mystery to it that invites us to explore.
There is in contemporary Christian life a tendency to either seek complete understanding of all that Christianity has to offer or to ignore that which we cannot understand. The black and white nature of how so many Christians respond to social issues speaks to this observance. Where the Scriptures are quite obtuse or mixed others find definite answers and absolute truths. And some of us, when confronted by mystery and controversy through our hands up into the air, running away in state of denial and avoidance. Or, as Alan Jones says, “Mystery doesn’t sell well – Certainty does!” There is a key to all of this in the readings for today, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, a reading from Proverbs. The other readings contribute as well, but its heart is in what the author of Proverbs attempted to show us by showing us the beauty of Wisdom and of the creation that surrounds us and that indeed is we ourselves. It reminds me of a response on the part of God in the face of Job’s advisor’s challenge: “The Almighty! We cannot find him, preeminent in power and judgment, abundant in justice, who never oppresses.” To this effrontery and lèse majesté, God does not mince words.
“Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its size? Surely you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it?
Into what were its pedestals sunk,
and who laid its cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God* shouted for joy?
Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb,b
When I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
And said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves stop?
These words could be read with anger and with a loud voice and timpani, but they can also be read with beauty – for that is what God is attempting get Job and his companions to see – the beauty of what God has done, and on the basis of that to worship, to adore, and to believe.
There are two parts to the Proverbs passage. In the first four verses of the lectionary selection we meet Wisdom standing in the midst of life. She stands at the cross roads, and in the places where humankind gathers to meet out justice. She is the center of life, and she is God’s constant companion. This is a very incarnational idea – that God should be in our midst and one of us. That is where the latter verses take us – to see where Wisdom stands beside God to witness his acts in creation. The inventory that the author of Proverbs takes is one that takes our breath away, as we survey the wonders of Creation. And that is the very thing that these proverbs wish to convince us of.
Will you learn something new this morning? Perhaps not – and that will be OK. You may go home today without any new sense of what the Trinity is or will be in your life – but if you go home with a sense of wonder – then we shall have done something here. God calls Job away from all his sufferings and troubles and to just wonder at it all. The spiritual says it well, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble. Whether it be the crucified Lord, the thoughts of Mary as she ponders her son, our own new vision of Mt. Hood on a clear day – we need to tremble and wonder.
We do things around here. Like God, with Wisdom present, we create. We form and shape, we destroy and make new, we come and we go – and we make mistakes. It is at that point that we need to retreat to the wonder again, and leave behind the sorrow of error. I talked with a young woman this week. Her life was a catalogue of mistakes with men, with her family, with her daughter, and most of all with her self. She was lost and confused and full of questions and anxiety. I asked her if she could forgive herself all these things, and she could no longer answer. She was caught up in a world of wonder that God would allow such a thing – to forgive myself and to accept it. I’ve been there – have you?
The Trinity is relationship and community. It is wonder. It is something to give us pause and prayer. It is a model of living and creating life. The closing verses of the first reading say it well.
“and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”