Wisdom is at hand

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Sunday Sermon

Barbara Metcalfe
Layperson

June 16, 2019

Here it is, Trinity Sunday once again! Any plans for a festive celebration? A Trinity party? Probably not. We don’t celebrate it, but it is well that we acknowledge and honor it every year. How many sermons have you heard about the Trinity in your lifetime? For me, it’s well over 70! 

Imagine the challenge the men of Nicaea faced! Robert Farrar Capon, an Episcopal priest who is one of my favorite writers, has this to say about the task of understanding God: “Human beings who wish to understand the ways of God are like oysters lying at the bottom of a tide pool, wishing to understand the ways of a prima ballerina.”

So I believe it is fitting to reaffirm and praise the insight of the men of the Council of Nicaea, who came up with this doctrine, expressed in the Creed that we recite every Sunday. Those men, who we believe were guided by the Holy Spirit, came up with an explanation that would help us relate to the glory of God, but as Jesus told us in today’s Gospel, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” 

In the meantime, we meet another aspect of our Creator. We people love to do what is called “personification.” We use it all the time, as I’m sure you know, in sentences like these: “Hunger made me drive to the Dairy Queen,” or “Envy made him look away from his neighbor’s expensive new car.” Hunger and Envy aren’t people, but we speak of them as if we’re reacting to them the way we do to people—chatting with them, sometimes obeying them. 

Today we meet an aspect of God that has been personified, and that is Wisdom. And, I’m happy to say, as I’m sure you noticed, Wisdom is personified as “she.” “ I’m just sayin’” Wisdom was in God as God created the intricate universe. Every new scientific discovery that tells us more about God’s creation inspires us to more awe and reverence for the wisdom of its Creator.

The great artist Michelangelo paid a tribute to the presence of Wisdom in creation. Maybe some of you have been fortunate enough to have visited the Sistine Chapel in Rome, but even if not, surely you’ve seen Michelangelo’s painting of his imagined vision of God’s creation of Adam. God, depicted as a male figure, reaches out to Adam with his right arm. Adam is also reaching out to him, and their fingers almost touch. We surmise that they are about to touch. 

There’s a part of that painting that we almost always overlook. In the crook of God’s left arm, the one not reaching out to Adam, is a female figure! Some say it’s Mary, but most agree that it’s Wisdom. The artist shows in his way that Wisdom was the quality of God that God called forth in the Creation. I have a few copies of the picture at the entry for you to look at as you leave if you like.

One of the things I love about Proverbs 8 is the description of Wisdom. Left to my own imagination, I picture Wisdom as a distant, rather stuffy quality, looking down scornfully on the folly of us people. But Proverbs will have none of that! Wisdom is right there at the gates of the town, reminding us that she was there at the beginning of time, but that she is still rejoicing in the world and, incredibly enough, delighting in the human race!

Wisdom is at the gate of our city—available if we will seek her! If we had kept reading in Proverbs, down to verses 34 and 35, we’d have read the words the personified Wisdom actually speaks: 

 “Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.”

In spite of all the times in our lives—there are plenty in mine—when we’ve done things that show we’ve been far from the personification of Wisdom, we don’t have to be! She is available if we call to her. The epistle of James includes the reminder that “if any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” 

 So what are we waiting for? Let us pray daily that the Holy Spirit, who is the person of God that guides us daily, will grant us wisdom. It can change our lives. Let’s try it!