On Defining the Undefinable
June 12, 2022
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it.
Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge.
Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his works, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth- when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
“And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 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.”
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Today’s sermon is titled On Defining the Undefinable.
Today is Trinity Sunday, a time set aside to consider the nature of the Godhead that, through the evolution of Christianity, is explained in three-part harmony. We can experience God much like a parent, with fatherly and motherly aspects. We can experience God through the more human example of the life of Jesus Christ, as son of God and as a brother to us. And we can experience God through the Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to in scripture as the Advocate, the Comforter, or the Holy Ghost. I’ve even heard a more modern interpretation, Holy Gust, like a gust of wind. This is perhaps the most descriptive because the Holy Spirit is the aspect of God that moves us, if we allow ourselves to be moved.
Humankind has been thinking and theorizing about human nature and divine nature since time before mind. This model of the Trinity is one of many attempts to explain what is unexplainable, to define what is indefinable. I must admit, I like it very much; it works for me. We sing it every Sunday, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye Heavenly Hosts, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Or you may prefer “Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost.” I even think of the symbol of the cross as a representation of the Trinity, with God the Father and Mother being the top, Jesus, my brother, coming down to earth to be my teacher, and the Holy Spirit as the crosspiece running right through the heart where they all come together. I believe that is where we are meant to reside, right there in the center. In the center is where, as Paul describes in his letter to the Romans we heard this morning, “…hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5) We are sustained in that center, where we find hope, because there is love there, too, love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Theologian Douglas Donley writes, “Wisdom is the Holy Spirit personified.” As we heard in the beautiful poetry of Proverbs 8 this morning, the poet gives to wisdom the feminine voice. Some think of the Holy Spirit as the feminine aspect of God, giving even more significance to the balancing effect of the Trinity. This is certainly a new way of thinking for me, and isn’t that what wisdom is based on? The acquisition of new ways of thinking? Isn’t that also the role of the Holy Spirit? To move us to new ways of being, to new ways of seeing the world, to new ways of seeing God in all things and in all people?
Living like this, living in the Spirit is not easy. It requires curiosity. It requires questioning. It requires flexibility and a willingness to change. (Oh, no, not change!) Change brings new experiences and new experiences afford us deeper wisdom, bringing us closer to the place within us where God resides.
Listen to these words from Proverbs, as the writer gives a voice to Wisdom, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago, before the beginning of the earth. Then I was beside him like a master worker, and I was a daily delight, rejoicing before him always.” I don’t know about you, but I have always regarded wisdom as something I must accumulate and even formulate through my own personal life experience. But from this ancient Hebrew perspective, Wisdom is pre-existing, Wisdom is a force of creation working with God, speaking to us, guiding us; “whoever finds me finds life,” Wisdom says.
Whoever finds me finds life; finding implies searching, and herein is a piece of wisdom for us to hold on to. In this I hear that I must search for the God in all things, in all people; it may not be immediately apparent. In this I hear that I must train my mind and heart to see with less judgment, with less presumption, with less opinion, perhaps. Is this what it means to live in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit? Is this the gift of wisdom?
If Wisdom is the personification of the Holy Spirit, I’d take it a step further and offer that learning is a spiritual experience. Does this ring true to you? I am not prone to existential crises; I am usually distracted enough by existing and seldom venture as far as to wonder why I exist. But if pressed to identify a reason for my existence, I’d say it is to learn, and primarily, to learn of love. In this learning of love, the Holy Spirit is an ally, invisibly moving like a gust of wind through any chasm or crevice that may be separating us from one another, invisibly moving us closer to the source of love we call God. I believe that God is the source of love and wisdom, Christ is the example of love and wisdom, and the Holy Spirit is love and wisdom in action.
In closing, I am so grateful that there are infinite numbers of ways to experience the Divine at work in our world and in our lives and I pray that we slow down enough to notice, and to balance out the dose of world news we feed ourselves with a little local news, like appreciating the beauty that abounds in a New England summer, like looking one another in the eye, asking questions, and really listening, like taking time to think about God, the all in one. The Trinity is one way we can gain insight, but let us not forget that behind and beneath any model, any analogy, any words we can piece together, there is wisdom…there is God…there is love.
God of mercy, I pray for our world. I pray that we may hold fast to the golden thread of hope for the future of humanity. Save us, please, from sinking into apathy. We pray for loving arms of outreach within our community that can help to lift up those brothers and sisters who are struggling. For the many service and aid agencies on the state and federal levels, we send prayers of thankfulness and prayers for strength and endurance in their efforts to counteract addiction, mental illness, violence, and poverty. We are in desperate need of a great shift in our culture. In this place, together, this morning, we are aiding in the cultural shift as we seek for truth, live into the lovingkindness of Christ, and share our best selves with one another. Help us, God, to become the change we wish to see in the world. Let’s join together in the prayer that Jesus gifted us…Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever. Amen.
Benediction: From an Apache Prayer
Looking behind I am filled with gratitude.
Looking forward I am filled with vision.
Looking upwards I am filled with strength
Looking within I discover peace.