Rev. Stacy Swain
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
This past Wednesday, I hauled myself out for a run. If you remember Wednesday was overcast, cool, in the sixties. I decided to wear my sunglasses as I ran even though the sun wasn’t out, in order to see if wearing glasses would help spare my eyes from on onslaught of pollen and help guard against my spring time allergies.
About fifteen minutes into my run, I noticed that a fog had rolled in. Everything was hazy. I could no longer see the detail of the leaves of the trees in the arboretum or the intricacies of the flowers. I could only make out a wash of green with a splash of purple or white here or there.
When I finished my run and was walking the four or five blocks back to the house, I took off my sunglasses off to wipe the sweat from my face. When I did, when I took off my glasses, the world was suddenly crystal clear again. Everything was in full detail.
Turns out there was no fog or haze that had rolled in. It turned out that there were only steamed up glasses! I had been running with steamed up glasses the whole time, that is why I could not see clearly!
I know it may be hard to believe that I did not realize what was
going on — but in my own defense unlike many of you, I am not a natural born runner. So you see it takes an enormous amount of concentration and effort to just keep putting one foot in front of another. I barely have the wherewithal and will to keep pressing on and keep breathing. So no wonder I had no energy to pay any attention to my glasses!
So where does that take us? Well right into Scripture, because the reading from Proverbs today, speaks of Wisdom “On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads taking her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals and alongside me as I ran Wisdom was there crying out “O people, stop for a moment, catch your breath, take off your glasses and see!”
But before we go any further, let us pray. Holy Spirit God, may wisdom rise in my speaking and in all our listening so that we may see ever more clearly and delight ever more fully in your presence. Amen
Now believe it or not, there was a time in my life where I absolutely loved math. I could not get enough of it. I loved it so much so that I dreamed of majoring in math at MIT before moving on to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering.
I was in the 9th grade or maybe it was 8th , I don’t really remember but I do remember it was algebra that made me love math. I was fascinated to learn that just as in physics there are forces that govern the natural world that can be explained by laws — like the law of gravity, so too in the world of numbers are there properties that can be explained by axioms and theorems. For example, this lovely little transitive property of equality that is so succinctly laid out in the axiom If A=B, and B=C, then A=C. Isn’t that lovely!
As much as I loved algebra, I hate to say that MIT and aeronautical engineering never happened. As I got deeper and deeper into math, it got more and more complicated. I understood less and less and finally I just had to turn from it all together.
So what does any of this have to do with the message for us today? ? Well, as I mentioned to the children, today is the day when in our tradition celebrates Trinity Sunday. And where did this concept of the trinity come from? In the early first centuries, when Christianity was starting to take form, followers of Jesus started wondering at the spiritual world and the divine force or presence that was at work in it. They began wondering about the relationship between Jesus and God who Jesus called “Abba” or Father. And they began wondering about this “Spirit of Truth” that Jesus refers to in the passage from today and who in other parts of the New Testament is referred to as an Advocate, Comforter.
The early Christian church delved into the mystery of God and attempted to explain how it is that the God of their ancestors, the Creator God spoken of throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, could be part of the same divine force that became incarnate in the person of Jesus and that with the dying and rising of Jesus was now experienced in the world as the Spirit.
And so they came up with a doctrine to explain this phenomenon they were encountering. And they called this doctrine The Trinity. The Trinity expresses the belief that God is one Being made up of three distinct Persons who exist in co-equal essence and co-eternal communion as God the creator, Jesus the redeemer and the Holy Spirit the sustainer.
Now all of this is well and good, but for some of us, we find these doctrines to be just too complicated and complex to fully grasp. The deeper we try to engage them (doctrines like the Resurrection, the Incarnation, the Trinity,) the less, we find, we understand. And fearing that understanding is a keystone to faith, that there is no room for doubt or disbelief, many turn away from faith, from church, perhaps even from God.
So I feel it rather imperative on this Trinity Sunday, to remind us all that just because we may not be able to fully explain or understand God, that does not mean that we cannot fully experience God. I remind us that these constructs are of human origin not of God. After all in the passage from the Gospel of John this morning, Jesus himself recognizes that the full truth of the mystery of God is just too much for us to understand. He says “”I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
So I ask that we not get so discouraged by our incomprehension and disbelief in the face of doctrine, that we forget to look up and encounter this powerful force of divinity that is alive and moving and present to us now.
That is why I love the passage from Proverbs that Sally read for us today. Proverbs is part of what is known as the Wisdom literature in the Bible and speaks of this presence of the Holy (interestingly referred to in the feminine) called Wisdom that is present every where and that has been since the beginning. Wisdom is her name here but other places in the Hebrew scripture she may be called Shekinah or Ruah and some scholars believe that the New Testament gives her a new name, Spirit.
Spirit is alive, surprising, joy filled, unexpected, an uplifting presence of the divine force that is moving in and through us and all the world. Do you ever doubt her presence? Maybe? But have you ever, quite out of the blue felt your heart swell, your spirit rise and a lift of delight come over you for no real apparent reason? Have you ever suddenly been so surprised by something so beautiful that you had to stop for moment just to take it in? Have you ever been so sad and then felt a deep consolation rise surround you from where you cannot name? I believe those are manifestations of the Spirit that nimble, life giving force of divine love, slipping herself into our being whenever she has a chance.
And Spirit or Wisdom as Proverbs calls her today, is not just out there, she is in here as well. Your inner compass, directing you to what is true, and right and life giving. Spirit wisdom is that inner knowing that marks your course even in the most turbulent times.
I have to say I have come to really love Spirit. To trust her and the expression of the mystery of God she personifies for me. I have come to trust in those moments when the spirit has sweetly swung by, meeting my pace, my doubts, my inadequacies and no the less whispers in my ear: “Darling, why all the strife? Slow down. Breath. Why all the pounding and angst?” And then, sweeping her hand that feels like the wind across my brow, she lifts my foggy glasses from my sweaty face and helps me see how fully and exquisitely beautiful I am, and how exquisitely beautiful God is and how exquisitely beautiful you are.
This is a lived experience of the mystery of the divine force that defies explanation and will always be beyond our complete comprehension. This is Wisdom, Shekinah, Ruah, Spirit the divine TA (teaching assistant) helping us all master the art of living.
On Friday as I was heading out to the library to do some writing as the teachers and kids from the toddler room from Riverside our day care tenant, were heading back down the hill beside the church after a fire drill. The last teacher in the row had one little one by the hand. This little boy was clearly just learning to master the art of walking. Toddling along slowly, placing one foot in front of the other required all his concentration and his might.
But the problem was he would be distracted by the movement of an insect on the ground, or a sudden swoop of a bird, and he’d turn to track its movement but then he would trip upon himself and crumble to the ground. It was kind of a slow motion crumble though because the teacher never let go of his hand. The teacher slowed the little one’s fall with his grasp of him. And then he stood patiently by as he first pressed himself up into a downward dog like pose and then managed to find a way to shift his weight to the rear and lurch upright again.
When the teacher saw me standing beside my car watching his Herculean efforts, the teacher turned to me with a wide grin and a sparkle in his eyes and said “isn’t he doing well!”
And that made me smile. For me and all of us toddlers out there today, this is the good news. I truly believe that the Spirit has us by the hand and though we may fall she has us still, delighting as we lurch ourselves upright again and practice again and again what it is to walk in the way of faith, even if that walk looks a bit like a toddling.
As we toddle our way forward on this walk of faith, this way of Jesus, this way of loving kindness, doing justice and walking humbly with our God., Can you hear her delight in you? Can you hear her proclaim to all who will hear “Isn’t she doing well! Isn’t he doing well!” Thanks be to God. Amen