Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4"To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
22The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth —
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world's first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when 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,
30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
Happy Holy Trinity Sunday…or as I like to call it: Unexplainable Church Doctrine Sunday. This week I began to realize that it’s kind of perfect that Holy Trinity Sunday fall right after Pentecost. Because the early followers of Jesus had just experienced the absolute whirlwind of his ministry on earth. And after the dust and confetti of Pentecost had settled to the ground and after the tongues of fire had been extinguished they had to have looked at each other and said “um…what just happened?” After years of following this Jesus of Nazareth they had a few questions … because they had seen the seemingly impossible with their own eyes: paralyzed men walking strong, dead little girls sitting up and having a snack. At the time they were simply caught up in the sweeping a-rationality of it all. And when it finally settled down a little I think they started to do a bit of what we like to call “theology”.
You are all theologians you know. If you have asked questions about God then you are a theologian. We like in the church to try and confine theology to seminary class rooms…taught by approved people and to approved people but I’m here to tell you that if you have spoken of God, then you are a theologian. Congratulations. But don’t get too excited you know, it doesn’t pay well.
Anyhow, the poor disciples had no time while it was happening to try and makes sense of it all but I’m pretty sure that they started asking some difficult questions not long after Pentecost.
And the question that haunted the disciples wasn’t the obvious one. The question that haunted them wasn’t “Was Jesus such a good guy that he was like God?” The question that cooked their noodle was “Could it be that God is like Jesus” Because I suspect that the concept they had of a wrathful angry God didn’t exactly mesh up with how they experienced Jesus – who was, you know…an actual human being. They wondered what does it mean that God refused to be confined to some remote heaven … refused to just politely stay seated on a throne of harsh judgment removed from the distastefulness of humanity - but instead came down and became incarnate as a baby born from a human woman.
And so the early church did the only thing they could do: they searched their scriptures for help with how they might understand such a mystery. They only thought they understood God. But then this Jesus thing happened which changes everything. Yet this is what the people of God have always done: with questions in hand we search the scriptures for how to make sense of all of it. We, like our 1st century brothers and sisters read the Bible and do theology together.
This week I read the Lady Wisdom text from Proverbs to Jim who, as many of you know, grew up in a very conservative evangelical context. I read it to him and he was scandalized. Saying “Whoa. Wisdom as a woman who was the first of God’s creation?” he said “Why didn’t I ever know that was in the Bible?”
Probably because the crazy thing about Sophia (the Greek word for wisdom) the crazy and beautiful thing is that to a lot of readers over the last couple thousand years the figure of Sofia in these passages is actually Jesus. (although in all fairness some think that Sophia is the Holy Spirit while to many she remains something embarrassing that we just try and pretend isn’t really in the Bible) But some believe the Wisdom of God that is personified as the perfect woman is also the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Word of God made fully human and know to us as Jesus of Nazareth.
I totally understand why some people don’t like this idea as it’s mixing up the linen and the wool and the pork and the milk and the lady-parts and the man-parts and generally just messing with our heads but Jesus confused our precious categories from day one so in a way it’s kinda perfect. You see, while Jim and maybe some of you had never heard of Sophia from Proverbs it’s certain that the writer of John’s gospel did know it and knew it well. Listen again to proverbs and think of those first disciples reading this text with questions in hand searching to understand what they had experienced.
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
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. 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.
Delighting in the human race. Not wrathfully condemning the human race…loving them. So then what does it say about the human race if Sophia dwelt with God and God said “go. Go and make your dwelling with the people in whom you rejoice”
It was actually decades after that first Pentecost that the followers of Jesus began to write things down. Having searched their scriptures with questions in their hands trying to make sense of the Christ event they finally wrote down what they learned. Here’s how John begins to tell the story see if you don’t hear Sophia.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
These early followers knew that if Jesus was man and also God that this changed everything so together they searched their scriptures together. And all the while there was within their hearts this driving Spirit saying, “Keep going! The God you’ve always longed for is the God you have! The God who looks like Jesus is God the Father”
All of a sudden the things that the disciples had always known about God just didn’t quite fit. These people soon theologized asking What does it mean that God would have a body? These weren’t abstract theoretical question which don’t have anything to do with real lives. These questions about Jesus were also questions about what it means to be human. Because if like us salty tears would come out of the eyes of God…if God’s skin could also sunburn, if also God could throw God’s head back and laugh inappropriately loudly? If God became flesh then what does that say about my flesh? If God could have a human body then maybe we should not hate our own bodies . Maybe if God had a body then we should begin to see all human bodies as sacred.
If Jesus ate with roust-abouts and prostitutes and with the bureaucrats no one liked and he seemed completely unworried about how such unbounderied love and acceptance might look to the respectable folk. …If this Wisdom of God made flesh told sacred stories about mundane things like dirt, and if the Jesus always insisted on touching impure people then what does that say about bureaucrats and lepers and dirt and human women and prostitutes and all the other things we assumed God just as soon stayed far away from?
These are the questions I hope we have in hand as we search our scriptures to make sense of this world which is held in the love of a Triune God. Because as we do this work of theology and reading the Bible together, we do so while there is within our hearts this driving Spirit saying, “Keep going! The God you’ve always longed for is the God you have! The God who looks like Jesus is God the Father.” And yes, that changes everything.