Proverbs 8:1-4 22-31
Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear
Madame Insight raising her voice? She’s taken her stand at the busiest crossroads, right in the city square where the traffic is thickest, she shouts, “You, I’m talking to all of you, everyone out here on the streets!”
“God sovereignly made me, the first, the basic, before he did anything else. I was brought into being a long time ago, well before Earth got its start. I arrived on the scene before ocean, yes, even before springs and rivers and lakes. Before mountains were sculpted and hills took shape, I was already there, newborn; long before God stretched out Earth’s horizons, and tended to the minute details of soil and weather, and set sky firmly in place, I was there. When he mapped and gave borders to wild ocean, built the vast vault of Heaven, and installed the fountains that fed ocean, when he drew a boundary for sea, posted a sign that said, no trespassing, And then staked out Earth’s foundations, I was right there with God, making sure everything fitted. Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying his company, delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family.
Another approach to the text
might reflect on the relationship between wisdom and being human: Ellen Davis says that the hunger for wisdom is distinctively human and notes that the term for human (homo sapiens) and the word for wisdom (sapientia) share the same Latin root. She laments, however, that in our modern age “technical expertise has greatly outpaced wisdom.” Our modern world and its horrors are testimony to the uses to which such expertise have been put and to what happens when Wisdom, with its “essential connection with goodness,” is not part of the picture. Not that technical expertise is evil – it’s “morally neutral,” she writes (not unlike money, we might add). Wisdom, of course, is more than a lifelong project; it’s a relationship, something of the heart and not just the mind, because the heart knows things in a different way than our mind does. Davis writes that in the Bible the heart helps us to “know the world altogether. Emotion, rational thinking, observation, imagination, desire – all these are activities of the heart. Wisdom speaks to our hearts. Nothing could be simpler or more democratic – after all, everyone has a heart” (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, Westminster Bible Commentary).
One who made us and is
actually the source of all true wisdom. Reverence and awe are not easy to quantify or simplify, so it’s understandable that this book of accumulated wisdom is introduced by a poem, because poetry frees up – and appeals to – our more expressive, intuitive sense (our right brain) of what is most real and good. Gene Tucker steps back for the big picture here: he claims that this text helps us with the larger question of how an almighty, transcendent (and therefore distant) God can also be present and active and known right here, in the physical creation that we can see and touch – a thorny question for theologians in every age
Douglas Donley also recognizes the wisdom born of
experience, “the perspectives and insights that are part of our core being…[and] an aspect of God’s presence in our lives,” and he urges preachers to “[help] people to remember their own wisdom alongside divine Wisdom,” to “hear her beauty, acknowledge her integrity, appreciate her fresh perspective.” Like other scholars and many Christians throughout the centuries, he identifies this figure of Wisdom with the Holy Spirit (Feasting on the Word Year C, Vol. 3).
might also read this text as a starting point and inspiration for a spiritual practice that is much neglected in our frantic, overly- electronic, preoccupied world: paying attention to creation in order to deepen our relationship with God. Quiet time. Listening. Being observant. Being. (Not “being” on our cell phones, but just being.) Two writers are especially helpful in this area: J. Philip Newell, in his introduction to Celtic spirituality, and Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book on spiritual practices. Both writers remind us that classes, meetings, and even worship services in sanctuaries are not the only (or perhaps even primary) way we might connect with God. Newell suggests that we don’t have to find God by leaving our daily lives to go to church or worship services, or looking to an invisible, “spiritual” realm, but by “entering attentively the depths of the present moment. There we will find God, wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing” (The Book of Creation).
In her book, An Altar in the World,
Barbara Brown Taylor writes evocatively of twelve different ways that we might encounter God in our everyday lives, in the embodied lives we lead, including practices like walking on the earth (groundedness), paying attention (reverence), getting lost (wilderness), and waking up to God (vision).She also provides a beautiful reflection on wisdom, which comes from practice rather than knowledge: “Wisdom,” she writes, “atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.” And yet she clearly doesn’t expect us to take her literally; that is, an excellent form of practice is attentive inaction: “The easiest practice of reverence I know,” she writes, “is simply to sit down somewhere outside, preferably near a body of water, and pay attention for at least twenty minutes. It is not necessary to take on the whole world at first. Just take the three square feet of earth on which you are sitting, paying close attention to everything that lives within that small estate” (An Altar in the World).
Ecological disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the wrecked nuclear power plant in Japan have once again turned our attention to our fragile relationship with God’s good creation, and has led at least some of us to reflect again on the wisdom, or lack of wisdom, we have shown in applying our technical expertise on behalf of our hunger for more and more resources from the good earth. Trinity Sunday provides an opportunity to stand still, at least for a little while, and perceive God’s grace-full hand at work in creation, to reflect on God’s love made flesh and living among us, and to give thanks for God’s Spirit, whose power sustains us right here and now, in this beautiful but hurting world. Perhaps Julie Polter’s elegant words say it best: “This is the big lie that the world tells us: The world is connected by trade agreements, electronic banking, computer networks, shipping lanes, and the seeking of profit— nothing else. This is the truth of God: Creation is a holy web of relationship, a gift meant for all; it vibrates with the pain of all its parts; its destiny is joy” (Sojourners, September-October 1994). Now that we have come to the end of the Fifty Great Days of Mission 4/1 Earth, how might our thinking and the debate about creation care be infused with a deeper Wisdom that transforms our everyday practices so that they express deep reverence for the One who has given us such great gifts and the responsibility for their welfare?
Matthews Huey http://www.ucc.org/worship/samuel/may-26-2013.html