Sermon for June 16th

First Reading Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Second Reading: Psalm 8

Epistle Reading Romans 5:1-5

Gospel Reading: John 16:12-15

Sermon: “Nudges and Tugs”

How do you think of God? An old man with a long white beard seated on a great throne in the sky? I hope not. God is much more than that. This is Trinity Sunday. It’s the beginning of what the lectionary calls ordinary times – It’s after the cycle of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter are finished and Pentecost has been celebrated, no comes this Sunday – dedicated to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This particular doctrine has inspired dozens of physical analogies that don’t really work and confused most of us.

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is an attempt to understand how God works in the world. All of our doctrines are best efforts, approximations at best. Actually, the word Trinity occurs nowhere in scripture at all. But it is the Church’s best collective effort to explain what we read in scripture about God the Father – creator of all that is; Jesus, God’s only son and our Savior; and the Holy Spirit which Jesus promised and whom Paul says is God’s in dwelling gift to all who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. God is truly present in all these three persons and yet Scripture tells us that God is one. Hence the Ancient doctrine of the Holy Trinity – three persons – but one substance. It is a description of what we find in scripture and experience in the world, but a mystery that is impossible to fully comprehend.

A secular example of such a problem is experienced by Physicists who seek one grand unified theory of everything: a theory that would explain the mysteries of the universe – from Quantum mechanics to the origins of gravity and all the other forces and energies of the cosmos. Currently, there are two working theories upon which all modern physics rests – general relativity (GR) and quantum field theory (QFT). GR is a theoretical framework that only focuses on gravity for understanding the universe in regions of both large scale and high mass: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, etc. On the other hand, QFT focuses on three non-gravitational forces for understanding the universe in regions of both small scale and low mass: sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc. Through years of research, physicists have experimentally confirmed with tremendous accuracy virtually every prediction made by these two theories when in their appropriate domains of applicability. In accordance with their findings, scientists also learned that GR and QFT, as they are currently formulated, are mutually incompatible – they cannot both be right. They are still trying.

We Christians seek a systematic understanding of God in all three persons. The task of the Physicists is fantastically difficult and apt to take centuries more, the second is simply impossible, though we have been trying for millennia now. So rather than spend our energy this morning trying to parse the mysteries of the Trinity, lets just call it celebration of God Sunday. Our task is not to explain God but to celebrate God’s mysterious presence and working in our world and in our lives.  What could be better! I suggest this may be a better week to celebrate God than to attempt to explain God. 

Many things in life must be experienced before we can even begin to comprehend them and so it is with God. Jesus told his disciples that night in the upper room “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all things.” And so it goes – each of us is on a journey on learning more and more each day – to listen to the witness of Scripture and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as God reveals a bit more day by day, So that we come to know and love God more and more.

So if God is not a white bearded old man, how can we know better and more accurately? Lets start first with the wonderful Psalm we read this morning – Ps 8. Through its poetry David sings praise to God. He looks at the marvels of creation – it’s mysteries and glories and then considers that we seemingly insignificant humans matter a great deal to God, David can only wonder and shout O Lord, our God, How Majestic is your name in all the earth. That’s a good place to start – in awe and with the wonder of a child to realize that the God of Creation cares for us.

The next place we find a rich heritage of information about the character of God is in the wonderful teaching of Proverbs chapter 8. Here we meet a beautiful and wonderful lady called wisdom. She tells us several important things about God because she was there at the very beginning. Sh tells us that she was the first things that God created. Physicists may not know how everything works together, but God planned it all ahead of time. Gravity and light, all the intricate forces of nature in perfect harmony. Before the mountains and seas existed they were in the mind of God. Wisdom was there – rejoicing in the beauty of it all – even us!

In this character of Wisdom, people have seen aspects of both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and it is fitting to do so, but they remain distinct and above the single character of Wisdom. Genesis speaks of the Spirit of God hover over the waters of creation and Jesus speaks of the role of the Spirit as a teacher and counselor for us. The Spirit shares these attributes because they spring from the nature of God, but God is more.

John describes the pre-incarnate Christ as the architect of creation just as wisdom claims (John 1:1,3) [1] In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. [3] God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. Indeed the eye of faith can see the Glory of God everywhere they look. John Calvin is famously quoted as saying “Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory.”

Also Paul writes of Jesus as the ultimate wisdom of God in his letter to the Corinthians – listen to a bit of that passage: (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 30-31) [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, [23] but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, [24] but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [30] He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, [31] in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, God who took on Human flesh to reveal God’s love for us is truly the intentional wisdom of God, and more. Still, let note what we learn from lady wisdom. As the passage opens, we see and hear her calling out – (Proverbs 8:2-4 NLT) “On the hilltop along the road, she takes her stand at the crossroads. By the gates at the entrance to the town, on the road leading in, she cries aloud, “I call to you, to all of you! I raise my voice to all people.” Already in these few verses, can discern several important characteristics that wisdom has that God shares. First, we find that God is not shy.

Note that wisdom is active, calling out, seeking to be heard, Not hidden, or secret!!

So is God. Wisdom seeks to meet us wherever we are – at home, at work, on the way to and fro. So does God. Wisdom does not want to see us left to our own folly and neither does God. Wisdom calls and urges, she argues and pleads, she lays out her case and warns of the dangers of ignoring her, but she does not force anyone. Neither does God. God speaks to us from the pages of Scripture, Through the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, through his offering of his very life and through his resurrection. God speaks through the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit – Nudging and tugging gently on the heart and mind, But God does not compel faith, We are free to make the terrible choice to ignore God’s call and reject God’s will, Just as we may choose folly over wisdom.

Please understand dear friends that although God has lovingly planned this world and provided salvation through Jesus our Lord, we can choose not to accept it. It has the same consequences as choosing to ignore the law of Gravity at the top of a cliff. The consequences are painful and deadly. God will not compel obedience, but is faithful and kind and is always faithful to all who answer the call.

How do we know God? Through the Word of God – Jesus, Though the pages of Scripture, through the creeds, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What do we experience in the presences of God? Mystery, Love, Awe and Joy!

Anne Stewart says this of Proverbs 8:

Delight, play, and joy are the proper response to the miracle of God’s creation. As the Common English Bible translates, “I was having fun, smiling before him all the time, frolicking with his inhabited earth and delighting in the human race” (verses 30b-31). When was the last time that you considered having fun as an expression of wisdom? Here Wisdom’s witness reminds us of the capacity for joy that is a divine gift.

This vision of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 also suggests that God does not create alone. While the text makes clear that Wisdom is created by God and she is not a co-creator of the world, nonetheless she is God’s companion and witness through the act of creation. Creation occurs in community.

On Trinity Sunday, we contemplate the triune nature of God as both one and three, confessing that communion is part of God’s very nature. And the image of lady Wisdom reminds us that we too are divinely created for community, designed to delight in our Creator with joy and wonder. In an age when our communities are often fractious and fraying at the seams, Wisdom’s call prompts us to heal the divisions in our own communities and to do so with a deep and abiding joy, delighting in the world and the people that God created.