a sermon on Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 for Trinity Sunday
preached on May 26, 2013, at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
Wisdom seems to be a fading gift in our world. In recent years, the volume of knowledge around us has increased exponentially, and we can now quickly Google whatever we want to know from the palm of our hands and have the answer in a matter of moments, no matter where we are.
Yet with all this new information at our fingertips, our ability to process all this knowledge has not increased at quite the same speed. I for one think this is related to the great dearth of wisdom in our world. We just haven’t honed our abilities to sort out all the information that comes our way. Every day, we find new and different options for handling a particular situation and bringing about change, yet we seem to resist it more than ever before, perhaps in large part because we can’t quite process how life might be different if we were think about it differently. Even though there are plenty more people who carry plenty more knowledge around with them, the share of people who possess the wisdom to figure out what to do with that knowledge has not increased quite so quickly.
And yet we hear from Proverbs today:
Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
This voice of Woman Wisdom cries out from the hills, shouts from the crossroads, and clamors at the gates of the city for all people to heed her voice. This is good news in these days. We need someone stepping up and crying out, offering us a word of warning and hope when are overwhelmed with uncertain messages. We need a new way through the challenges of today. We need wisdom now more than ever before, so it is good to see her stepping up to offer her voice amidst the crowd.
Woman Wisdom then turns to establish her credentials for this kind of incredible action in the world. She doesn’t seem to exactly and directly be God, but it is clear that she is inseparable from God, perhaps embodying and living out an important part of how God interacts with the world or helping us to connect our lives with God’s ways. She has been around since the very beginning, created by God “at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.”
Before all the other stuff came along, before everything that makes life complicated started getting in the way, even before creation began and things started coming together, Wisdom was there. Wisdom was there, waiting for the moment to raise her voice, watching for all the things going on in the world, taking it all in so that she could gain understanding to share with us. As everything took shape and God gave the world its form, Wisdom was there, “beside him, like a master worker,” learning about the world and preparing to share her guidance and understanding as the journey continued. She took delight in what God was doing and rejoiced in the depth and breadth and true wonder of all creation.
But where is she now? Where is Wisdom when we are so overwhelmed with information that we have no idea what to do with it all? Where is Wisdom amidst all the pain and sorrow in our world? Just this week we heard of incredible destruction and loss of life after a tornado in Oklahoma, a violent and gruesome murder in broad daylight on the streets of London designed to bring the terror of war closer to home, and the rise of violence against gay men on the streets of Greenwich Village in Manhattan. All this strange news threatens us with what some have termed “compassion fatigue,” for the more we know about the pain and sorrow in our world, the less that we feel we can do about it. Amidst all this, Wisdom seems to be far, far away, silently watching from the wings, not close at hand, not giving us guidance and wisdom for how to live in these strange times.
Yet if we listen closely, I think we can hear Wisdom crying out in these days. If she has been around since the beginning, Wisdom has seen it all before and can help us sort out what to do. If she has been a part of the creation of everything, Wisdom can give us new insight into how we can work to renew and restore it. If she walks and works beside God, Wisdom can help us join in the things that God is doing to transform our creation.
While it is always a comfort to learn that we are not alone as we try to sort out how to live in this world, this is nonetheless a challenging word for us. If we take Wisdom seriously here, we must let go of our search for truth and knowledge and instead take up the path of wisdom. This path of wisdom steps back from the sensationalism of our world, turning off a news cycle that makes everything “breaking news” and chatters incessantly about nothingness rather than recognizing that silence might be the best response to tragedy or that we may have to a wait a bit before we know the real and true consequences of this moment.
This path of wisdom leads us to encounter people right where they are, listening carefully to their stories, sharing their suffering, and acting with them to bring change to their lives and our world. This path of wisdom shows us that knowledge is not everything but rather than knowledge invites us to a new way of life rooted and grounded in wisdom to sustain us and support us and upbuild all of creation. And this path of wisdom gives us opportunities to cry out with Wisdom’s voice “on the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads…, at the entrance of the portals,” to invite others to join us in this way that points to deep peace in our lives and in our world as we set aside the path of anxiety and take up the road of hope.
Wisdom challenges us to put our knowledge and experience together in context so that we can share a new and different way of life and living with our world, not bound by any the expectations of the past or the institutions of the present but unbound to imagine a new and different way, to discern what God is doing and open ourselves to the creative possibilities of God’s voice of wisdom here and now. Ultimately, Wisdom is one of the great gifts of the triune God we celebrate today, a gift that comes from all three persons, initiated by our Divine Parent, lived out in our world in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and fulfilled in power and glory again and again in our lives and in our world by the power of the Holy Spirit. So Wisdom invites us to join in deep and great rejoicing, celebrating the depth and breadth of what God has created, delighting in the wonder of the whole world which God has redeemed, and giving thanks and praise to the one source of all good things, of all wisdom, which sustains every day.
So may wisdom’s path unfold before us, showing us the fullness of God’s gifts, opening us to the abundance of God’s grace, and helping us to rejoice anew in the gifts of our Triune God, now and always. Alleluia! Amen.