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Scripture: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15
“Wisdom, where are you?” “Here I am,” says Wisdom. “What are you, Wisdom?” Wisdom replied, “Wait until you hear! How long do you have?” “I’m all ears,” I say. “Well,” starts Wisdom, “Here it is.” I am “on the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads I take my stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals I cry out.”
Wisdom, capital W, continues. Enjoy this passage from Proverbs 8 with me. I read from the NRSV of the Bible.
“To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his 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 he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” This from the writer of Proverbs.
Today we celebrate the “three-ness” of our God. I rejoice that I started life in a family and in a congregation who believed in this God. Our God is alive in so many ways. Our God is available to us in so many ways. Our God is not distant. Our God is around us and inside us. Our God has time for everyone. We do not need to wait in line on a telephone. We don’t need to wait until God gets to our e-mail or our text message in a full in-box. Our God is present at all times to every person on earth. The amazing thing is that God is present to people who don’t even know about our God.
We believe that this “threesome” is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Together these three persons form God. We believe that they were always together and enjoyed each other before Wisdom was called forth.
So this Wisdom with whom we were conversing is not a fourth person of God. I like to think that Wisdom is our conscience. Know that there are probably as many interpretations of this female Wisdom as there are readers of the Holy Word. It seems to me that Wisdom is the opposite of “folly.” Folly embraces all the temptations that float our way or smack us in the face or tickle our flesh until we cannot resist. Wisdom is the sensible approach, the guidance that commands us to think where a path of folly would lead.
So this Wisdom seems to me to be what Adam and Eve had, but folly became more tempting. Call it Satan if you like. Call it a lack of common sense if you like. Wisdom lost that episode. It would be interesting if a score card were available to know the wins and losses of Wisdom. However, Wisdom is not the hero in this story. Wisdom might be like the rails that a train follows. But, when a bit of a crack happens in the track, reality takes the train into a derailment. The train is powerless to continue on the right track. Folly took over as the controlling factor.
Can you think of times in your life when Wisdom was given to you and you still chose the folly? How many times did I resist advice from my parents or other people with experience and they had to watch me learn the hard way? How sad and hurt Wisdom must be each time I chose the way of folly. Oh, I surely must have worn all of Wisdom’s patience. I can picture Wisdom holding her breath as I came so close to disaster. What saved me? What saved you?
I know. I know with all my heart that God saved me. Even though I thank God every day for saving me from very serious folly, I can never thank God too much. Our God is an awesome God. Wisdom may be around and available but without significant power. Our God has the power. This triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has the power.
You may be asking, “Why do we need a three-some God?” I don’t have an answer. I just marvel at the wisdom of it all. They were and are and always will be enjoying their partnership, their companionship, their camaraderie with each other. “Camaraderie” means “comradeship.” I am thinking that these three persons turned “folly” into “jolly.” They are jolly friends, a jolly three-in-one. One interpretation which I read explained that these three persons enjoyed each other so much that they wanted to share it and thus they created the world.
Enter Psalm 8. Do you know that the name “Lord” is used in reference to each of these persons as well as to the whole of God. So we who believe in a triune God can translate “Lord” to mean all three persons when we read Psalm 8 and say, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you have made them little less than divine; with glory and honor you crown them. You have made them rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet: all flocks and cattle, even the wild beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Did you catch the part about humans being just a little less than divine? Divine refers to God himself. We are just a little less than God in the scheme of things. But just in case you are thinking that it would be a small step for us to be promoted to God, forget that! There will always be a clear line; God is God and we are not God and never will be. That is where folly enters.
When humans allow themselves to be carried to thinking that their own intelligence, their own charisma, can take them to the top and makes them worth salaries and possessions far beyond necessity – in fact, to the realm of ridiculousness – they are marching to the tune of folly. How will they learn? When will they bump into the unforgiving wall?
To many of us, it seems that these people never crash into the wall. I think we are just not present when the results of folly come crashing upon these misguided people. Meanwhile, millions of people are suffering because of this succumbing by a few people to the folly of pride and selfishness. Somewhere Wisdom needs to interject fairness and justice and caring. Somewhere and sometime and somehow those of us who are led to see the light need to be carrying that light. But Wisdom will only take us so far on this project.
Ultimately it is our triune God who gives us the strength and the passion and the insight to march boldly, or to work in quiet ways, or to pray silently. If we are designed by God to be just a little less than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we have responsibility. We are not like green grass or like cows or like sparrows or even like lilies. These things are wonderful and God created them and cares for them but they are not responsible to care about fairness and justice. God does provide instincts for animals so that they care for their offspring. Even the plants have an innate ability to respond to changes in temperature and moisture and time. But, we have the extra responsibility and ability to bring accountability to life.
I actually use a plant to visualize this Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Using the shamrock is not my idea but it seems the best image to me. As the story goes, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain God to the people of Ireland when he was led there to be a missionary in the 4th Century A.D. The shamrock has three sections and a stem. Each section represents one of the persons of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When I have young people make a shamrock with green construction paper, we write God on the stem. The whole shamrock is God. If one section is removed, it is not the whole God. All three sections must be present at all times. These three persons work together but each one is known for somewhat different responsibilities.
In the Apostles’ Creed, we say that the Father is the Creator. We say that the Son, Jesus, is our Savior as he died for us after teaching and healing and then being our risen Savior who returned to be with the Father while sending the Holy Spirit to us to lead us and prompt us and comfort us and to be an Advocate for us. Does this mean that we can’t think of Jesus by our side at all times? Does this mean that we can’t address God in our prayers? Does this mean that we can’t talk to the Father? That is the neat, cool, sweet thing about our God! We can call on all three.
In John 16 and 17, Jesus brings all three persons into focus. Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot understand all truth now but the Spirit of Truth will declare the truth as the Father directs it. (John 16:12-15) Jesus also says that everything that the Father has is shared by Jesus. (John 17:10)
May we allow Wisdom to win over folly as we walk in this faith. Wisdom, be part of our inner-most beings. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be our source of strength, our Savior, and our Comforter. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.