Wisdom calls out – the wisdom of God; we may know her as the Holy Spirit.
When she is spoken aloud, she becomes the Word. The Word was in the beginning, the yet unspoken, ever articulate Wisdom of God.
Only in our time was the Word made flesh, to live among us, when there was already a creation to inhabit.
This Sunday after the Pentecost is the time in the church year when we traditionally discuss the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and try to explain to one another the inexplicable intricacies of our God. It is difficult to know exactly how God is made up, since God was never made. All we have are hints, and the clues developed, evolved through our millennia of existing in relationship with a God in whose image we are made.
Knowledge may be elusive; but Wisdom calls, and understanding raises her voice. She speaks of delight, and of rejoicing. She speaks of the delight of God, and of her delight in the human race, created in God’s own image.
This Wisdom is not hard to find, or to understand. She calls out from the crossroads, and from the gates of town, from the portals of the important places. She cries out to all who pass by; to anyone who will listen she will impart Wisdom and understanding.
This is not always the same thing as knowledge.
Knowledge, the knowledge of good and evil, comes with its shadow side. It is a gift not to be disparaged. The knowledge that fixes a car, or finds a new cure for cancer, or detects the need for a deep intervention into a network of sorrow and sin; such knowledge benefits us all, and it is good; but it depends upon our knowledge, too, of evil. Of all that can go wrong. All that can beset us, whether by design or by dastardly deed or by disease or disaster; we know too much to delight always in the creation that God has shared with us.
What we know is what Paul hints at in his letter to the Romans. We know that as often as we know delight, and rejoicing, and peace; at least that often we know suffering, and the need for endurance, and as often as not we know that we cannot endure, even when we are in the middle of doing just that. If endurance produces character, then we know that we would prefer to remain flat. If character produces hope, then we know that we would prefer fantasy. We walk in the valley of the shadow of death too often to rejoice always in the light that God has let in upon us. And yet.
Wisdom calls, and understanding raises her voice. They insist on rejoicing and delight. Despite knowing everything; despite seeing all from before the beginning of time: the goodness of creation, the depravity of its fall, our stumblings and our struggles and our little successes; still Wisdom celebrates.
Wisdom cries out, and understanding raises her voice.
We crave understanding: not only to understand the world around us, and its intricacies and intrigues and complicated rules and ruses; but we crave understanding in that we want to be understood. We long to convey ourselves to those whom we love, wishing that we could open our pages to them as the written Word and say: here. This is what I mean. This is who I am.
The Word of God was made human, and came and lived among us as a human being, in the flesh. His life is written in the books that we read and read again; he longs for our understanding still. He promises the Spirit of truth, to explain him to us, to translate the glory of God for us. To translate us into the glory of God.
At the Pentecost, when the Spirit of truth opened the minds and the doors of the disciples, they saw glory descending like a flame on one another, like fire. They understood the Word in their own words, in their own languages; and they were understood by one another.
Made in the image of God, in their language, in their words and their wisdom and their understanding they reflected the glory of God made manifest in living flames, in living men and women.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a source of great curiosity and inspiration and the desire for knowledge in many people. But its realization may be less wonderful than the delight that it produces in clever explanations and cartoons and internet memes. For the prophet says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The famous Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel might have this to say about a day dedicated to discussing doctrine:
“When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.”
Instead, he advises,
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
Wisdom calls, and understanding raises her voice. They call from the rooftops and in the marketplace – get your Wisdom here! They are not difficult to find, or to understand. They tell us, no matter what we know or remember, or face; nevertheless they call to us to remember that God delights in us always, and always has, as God’s own creation, made in the image of God.
They tell us that the secret to Wisdom, to understanding – an open secret called out from the doorways and the portals of the poor and the important places – the secret to Wisdom is delight.
Delight in the creativity of God. Delight in being human, in being the creatures of God made in God’s image. Delight in creation – which means not only in what we call the natural world – as though we were unnatural, made somehow apart from the rest of God’s creation – but delight, as Wisdom says, in the inhabited world. In the world of people made in the image of God to reflect the glory of God.
We know that we are tarnished, and often too dull to catch fire. But there are moments, like Pentecost, when we see the flames, and we remember to delight in God and one another.
And there is true and holy wisdom in such delight, and in such love and wonder is the beginning of all understanding.