O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is you name in all the earth! Psalm 8
We’re going to do something a little different today. Instead of hearing all the readings followed by the sermon, they’ll be read one at a time with reflection following. We’re doing this for a couple of reasons – when I read over my sermons on the Holy Trinity, I was befuddled by most of them and I wrote them. The inherent danger in preaching on doctrine is that the grandeur and greatest of God is reduced to a few words that simply cannot contain the morning bird-song, the smell of a rose or the tenderness of a kiss. Somehow when God is put into words, we wind up in charge, saying God is this or God is that. Humans have gone to war over our God words, and still do so. And yet no matter how wise and profound our language, God is always more. Last week one of our Confirmands said that “faith is about being open to something bigger than you.” Doctrine, at its best, takes us beyond ourselves and opens us up greater and deeper understanding God. This week our Vacation Bible School children and staff will go to Mars and beyond. Some of the younger ones might literally do that in their life time and guess what, God will be there too!
First Reading: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
1Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.
22The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when 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,
30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”
Word of God, Word of Life. Thanks be to God!
When I first heard, really heard, this passage from Proverbs, it was the Fall of 1976 and I was in Old Testament 101 at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Women had been ordained for just six years and the seminary was predominately male. There was only one woman on the faculty, Jean Bozeman, who served as the Christian Education professor and Dean of Students. The vast majority of my classmates were men and some professors didn’t seem to notice that women were even there. So, when in the 8th chapter of Proverbs, Dr. Wesley Furest introduced us to Woman Wisdom, I felt I might actually belong in that place. She cried out to all the people. She stood in the city square. She demanded to be heard. She spoke the truth. She confronted evil. She gave good counsel. She had common sense. She guided leaders. She walked in righteousness. She dispensed justice. There was Woman Wisdom in the Word of God and in the patriarchal Old Testament. She gave me, and indeed all the women at the seminary courage and determination as She has done for women for generations.
But She’s more than a formidable role model for the text declares that She existed before God created the world, before the water, before the mountains and hills, the earth and fields, before sun, moon, stars, before it all. She’s beside God like a master worker, together making sure everything fit and delighting in the wonder of it all. When Michelangelo painted the creation on the ceiling the Sistine Chapel, God reaches out his right hand to touch Adam, there She is holding up God’s left shoulder and watching to make sure all goes well.
Do you see in Woman Wisdom the life-creating, life giving, life sustaining work of the Holy Spirit?
We’re going to skip over the Psalm for now and head right to the second reading, Romans 5: 1-5
1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and 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. Word of God, Word of Life. Thanks be to God.
Recently I sat around a kitchen table with a young couple preparing to be married. We were doing “the Love Cone” exercise which is a helpful way to think about God’s gift of love in relationships. Both had been in a significant relationship with another that did not work out. No matter how hard they tried, things did not get better, only worst. They worked and worked to save the other person and failed. And while neither one said so, I wondered if both were a little worried that it could happen again. Then, in what was surely a Holy Spirit moment I said, “You don’t need to save each other, because you’re already saved. In fact, you can’t save each other and when couples try to do that, it usually makes a big mess.”
That’s what is going on in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We are justified, made right, through Jesus – who dies for us, dies with us and brings us to a new day. Jesus, God incarnate, God in flesh, saves us. Faith is trusting this is so. The Holy Spirit was very busy in that kitchen because both of them broke into relieved smiles. God already saved them so they could simply love one another for better or worse, in sickness and health, in joy and sorrow, in plenty and want as long as they both shall live. They don’t have to save each other because they can’t. If they try, they’ll only become co-dependent taking turns playing the role of victim or martyr and in the process make one another miserable. God in Christ already took care of their salvation. They don’t need to save each other – and neither do we. Nor can we save the church. For God in Christ alone does the saving, by pouring love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, by baptizing us into his death and resurrection, by giving us God’s Word and by gathering us around the kitchen table of Holy Communion where we are fed with his body and blood empowering us to live, grow and share his love with one another and the whole blessed world. Living in this love, this amazing grace, we experience the joy of salvation, the wonder of being saved.
Do you see how the God the Creator, Jesus the Savior and the Holy Spirit the Sustainer, provides hope for our life together?
I invite you to stand for the Gospel. The
translation from the Message and is a little different from one printed in your
The Holy Gospel according to John. Glory to you, O Lord.
[Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That’s is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.” Praise to you, O Christ.
Today’s Gospel is the last conversation Jesus has with his disciples, just before his arrest in the Garden. In it, Jesus promises his disciples and us that there will be a Friend who will take us by the hand and guide us into truth. Isn’t that what a good friend does? Tell us the truth in love so that we can let go the garbage that we carry around, let go of the hurts and the self-centeredness, let go of the pride and the woundedness, let it go. This Friend will help us make sense of it all – of the cross of Jesus and the resurrection promise held in it. This Friend will guide us in the way of love. Then after some last-minute instructions, Jesus prays to God, his Father: first, for himself as he completes his mission, next for the men and women who followed him, after that for the world and then finally for us, the ones who will believe in him in the future. He tells God to show us his glory and then boldly asks God to love us as God has loved him. To love you as God loved his only begotten son – love you!
Years ago at a Bishop’s Convocation, a theologian named Marva Dawn shared how she imagines Jesus’ prayer for us. We are in the center of a circle with God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, dare we say the Wisdom Woman, dancing around us. Their love of one another, their love of the world, their love for us encircling us in an endless dance. She then said, that when she’s praying for someone, she places them into the center of the dance and confidently declares, “God, Father, Son and Spirit, pay attention to this person, pay attention and bring them healing and hope, pay attention and give them life.” She’s bold in her prayer, unapologetic in her request and confident that the Trinity will respond.
Can you imagine the dance? Are you willing to join? To in prayer place someone, perhaps even yourself, into this center of love?
Well, we have one more reading the glorious Psalm 8. Let’s pray it together…
O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of
infants and children; you have set up a fortress against your
enemies, to silence the foe and avenger.
3When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5Yet you have made them little less than divine;
with glory and honor you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet:
7all flocks and cattle,
even the wild beasts of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
9O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
What else can be said? Now, let us stand and sing Come, Join the Dance of Trinity, ELW 412.