How on earth does a person know God. Really know God. Who or what is God to be known? For almost every question a person has these days, you can pull out a computer or smart phone and google or look on Wikipedia and find the answer. No longer do we need to be left wondering over the definition of a word, the person who played that character in that movie. Speculation is gone. And yet (although I suspect the internet would have an answer) the answer to the question of how to really know God, is perhaps not answerable.
In the liturgical year, today is ‘Holy Trinity Sunday’ and the trinity is one of the most common and yet also the most mysterious ways that we talk about who God is – the first person of the trinity, the ‘God head’ often called Father or Creator, the second ‘person’ of the trinity is Christ – the son, Savior or Redeemer, and the third, the Holy Spirit – or Advocate or sustainer, or breath of Life. Probably all that information can be found on Wikipedia – I didn’t check.
When I use this formula – which I often do during church rituals such as child dedication or baptism or marriage – I usually say something like,In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God who mothers us all.
How can God be all those things and still be one God? And yet God is so much more than all those things too. This morning we heard the author of proverbs identifying and personifying the Wisdom of God. We hear God called or compared to Rock, potter, warrior, king, eagle, dwelling place, fire, lion, mother.
We could wear out our vocabularies – and that of the every language – and still be come short of knowing God. Back to square one. The wonderful and welcoming thing is, though, God does not leave us alone and in the dark. ‘Big Momma’ creates the world because of a longing for relationship and the desire to draw all of humankind into relationship. And wisdom is at the side – on the hip – of the creator ready to play with us and draw us further in to understanding.
It is Trinity Sunday, but our text from Proverbs focuses on this particular piece of God who identifies as Wisdom – complementing the Psalm praising the Creator which we responded to in the call to worship. It’s a little difficult to know what to do with this poem from Proverbs.
Wisdom is not God, but she is a part of God, calls us to God, delights with God, creates with God.
To Solomon, who is thought to have written Proverbs, Wisdom was not some abstraction. Wisdom was Queen of the Universe, a dynamic presence, a being in her own right. She stands confidently in the corridors of power and calls out to all people. She is able to describe and proclaim her own relationship to the Creator.
Look at Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ look at the God pictured there (click on the picture to see a larger version). We immediately notice the old white bearded dude reaching out a pointed finger to put the spark of life into Adam. But look at God’s other hand. God’s other arm is thrown over the shoulders of a young woman. She is in turn grasping God’s arm. They are companions. It is as if she is supporting God in the work of creation.
In this poem from Proverbs that we heard, Wisdom describes her relationship to Creator God as that of Amon – ‘skilled artisan.’ NRSV says ‘master worker’. She is the one at his side. But I like the translation that calls Wisdom, ‘darling ward’ or ‘darling child.’ Certainly that fits with the way Phyllis Root interprets the relationship of God and Wisdom – delighting together in creation.
We seldom think of any part of God’s being as a child, ‘Mother’ is becoming more comfortable for some of us and Phyllis Root, who authored Big Momma and Helen Oxbury who illustrates her, does a lovely mothering God. ‘Warrior,’ alright. ‘Lover,’ maybe. Rock, creator, even eagle, sure! But child?
I like the invitation in that. All these babies here among us these days are not only God’s creations but are vessels of God’s wisdom as well. Like all metaphors it is a limited one, the image of Wisdom at God’s side inspiring and delighting in God. But I have noticed that if you carry a dog or a baby into a place, people who might have ignored you before will smile, will ask a question, will wave or engage, will put down the screen they are holding for a second to notice this new and special thing before them.
And you know who else was a baby? Jesus. There is something – yes – profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of God being vulnerable and small and fleshy and human. The Gospel of John talks about the Word made flesh. God’s word, God’s wisdom, in human form. With Jesus the invitation becomes very real, very personal and very immediate. In Jesus we have a real-life example of what wisdom looks and sound and acts like. God’s wisdom comes to fullness and fruit in the person of Jesus, from the moment he was born in Bethlehem, his childhood to his teaching, healing, discipling, and finally his death and resurrection. Wisdom.
The gospel from earlier we heard Jesus telling his disciples that the Spirit will come to be their guide, even when Jesus is not there to be with them in person. He says to them that they still have much to learn. They too are still being drawn into this relationship with God and discovering who God is, even though they have the advantage that we don’t have having Jesus, the fleshy piece of God’s own self, right in front of them.
Those first disciples got to have their in-person relationship with God’s wisdom but it is we as much as they (and more) who need to remember this promise – that wisdom has not left us. Wisdom’s invitation into relationship with God is still there, still calling through the Spirit for us to be in relationship with God.
A few weeks ago Linda invited Thelma and Weldon to talk about their spiritual practices – the ways they respond to the invitation of wisdom into relationship with God. Thelma and Weldon are elder of this congregation who have dwelt with this invitation and tried to respond to it through their lives. They are indeed wise folks.
I probably don’t need to remind you that wisdom is not knowledge. But knowledge has really outpaced wisdom in desirability in our time. Technical and other kinds of knowledge are highly valued and sought. More information also does not equal wisdom, although we seem to prize that quite a bit too.
We tend to be too busy with seeking knowledge and information to seek wisdom. Even for those of us for whom our work is intimate tied to our sense of call to do God’s work. The image of Wisdom in this Proverbs poem is of someone at play. “I was God’s delight day after day, rejoicing at being in God’s presence continually, rejoicing in the whole world.” Where I said ‘rejoicing’ I could equally have said ‘playing.’ We find God in our play – in our moments of delight.
Although it wasn’t named that way, we were challenged to think about our own responses to that call of wisdom. I for one am not a morning person and you will not find me doing any prayer or writing or meditation in the early morning, as both Thelma and Weldon talked about. But as many of you know I love to sew and I find especially hand-sewing an antidote to the work of the head and also to the frenetic way I tend to work – darting from one thing to the next to the next. Sewing is hand and heart work (at least when I’m not trying to figure out the geometry of fitting shapes together). I am called back to calm and I take joy.
What is also clear to me from the Proverb’s poem is that playtime is mutual. This is where my understanding of the Creating One differs from the book I read to the children. I do not think that God is on a cloud looking down at creation. God remains in our midst and Darling Wisdom continues to invite us into play. It is through wisdom that we will be drawn closer and closer to God.
This is the second Sunday of Pentecost. Last Sunday we celebrate the birth of the church when the Holy Spirit filled the new people of the Way. One of the gifts of the Spirit is Wisdom.
Next week, I hope we can be somewhat playful both in worship and afterward as we fellowship outside together. This weekend is a holiday for many of us and I hope that you all are able to relax into that gift of time and play with each other and with God.
Wisdom’s invitation is confident. It is universal. It is insistent.Listen! Wisdom is calling! Before all began, God , Word, and Wisdom Creating, calling, from the foundations of the deep
Listen! Wisdom is calling! From the mountain tops Earth, fields and sea Creating, calling From the foundations of the deep
Listen! Wisdom is calling! To those who suffer God’s love is given Endurance blossoms From the foundations of the deep
Listen! Wisdom is calling! Daily, God’s delight You, me, every one Given hope, grace, love As the foundation of our lives
Listen! Wisdom is calling! Poured into our hearts That we may become Christ’s hand and heart, love As the foundation of our lives
Listen! Wisdom is calling!