Trinity C, 2010
Proverbs 8: 22-31
A Liturgy is also available
WISDOM WOMAN, SOPHIA JESUS
Soon after the death of the greatest rabbi in the region,
a traveller said to one of his disciples,
‘Your rabbi was renowned for his wisdom. What did he give greatest attention to in life?’
The disciple thought for a minute and then said:
‘To whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.’
Wisdom, wisdom, everywhere!
Wisdom is speaking in the newspapers,
on talk-back radio and television current affairs,
on the street corner and over the back fence,
at the supermarket checkout, and as you
“consider the bumble bee, and watch the clouds scudding by on a summer afternoon” (B Epperly, P&F web site, 2007).
Wisdom is everywhere! Or so it seems.
Wisdom, according to Sr Joan Chittister,
director of a resource center for contemporary spirituality, is:
“the gift of living the present to the utmost and learning from the now whatever we will need to respond with integrity to whatever our future brings”.
And then she goes on:
“Wisdom is not life lived wrapped in marshmallow and indifferent to the reality within us… Wisdom is life peeled and cored, it is attention and consciousness lived to the hilt” (Chittister 1996: 30 Good Minutes web site).
Within the context of the church Lectionary, today is Trinity Sunday.
A day when we are invited to pay special attention
to the mystery of God in the world.
Of special interest are two of the Lectionary readings: Proverbs and John.
Proverbs is known as 'wisdom literature’ along with several other books:
Song of Solomon - all in the Hebrew scriptures.
Then there are several apocryphal books or non-canonical books
which could be included in this genre.
Finally, James, in the Christian scriptures,
the 'straw' book Luther wanted to cut out of the Bible, is also a ‘wisdom’ book.
While the reading from John, the most Gnostic book in
the Christian scriptures, gives out ‘wisdom’ hints.
Wisdom literature, I am assured, is common in the Ancient Near East, and
characterised by praise of God, often in poetic form,
and by sayings of wisdom intended to teach
about God and about virtue (Wikipedia), and finding one’s way, authentically, in life.
And as we have also heard this morning, its praise or poetry or sayings
is more often than not, shaped by a feminine image,
and called Woman Wisdom.
Which has got it into trouble with much orthodox thinking.
Well, why all this? Let me offer a suggestion or two.
Bishop Jack Spong argues in his book, Jesus for the Non-religious, that:
“The unique thing about… Jesus was that his real humanity came to be viewed as the vehicle through which God entered the life of this world” (Spong 2007:213).
His ‘real humanity… the vehicle through which God…’.
So let me recap a little.
Jesus was a Jew not a christian. Not even the first Christian.
He never rejected his Jewish roots.
He made no theological statements.
Neither did he set out to establish a new religion, appoint clergy or inaugurate celibacy.
As a wandering secular Galilean sage, he belonged more to
the ‘wisdom’ stream than the ‘priestly’ stream of Judaism.
And so we hear and we remember his ‘unconventional’ wisdom…
• It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle
than for a wealthy person to get into God’s domain.
• If anyone sues you for your coat, let him have your cloak as well.
• Love your enemies.
• As you want people to treat you, do the same to them.
• Can any of you add an hour to life by fretting about it?
The interesting thing about this ‘flesh-and-blood’ wisdom in Jesus’ sayings is,
he invites his hearers to reimagine the world as it can be transformed:
how social boundaries can be broken down,
how to break out of the patriarchal family structure,
how to relate to nature, and
how to catch sight of the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Wisdom invites us to embrace life in its many dimensions.
In joy and in sorrow.
In living and in dying.
In working and in resting.
In our going out and in our coming in.
Embracing all of life by growing seeds of wisdom in every encounter.
Always open, always learning what life is really about.
Harvard Divinity School theologian, Gordon Kaufman, I reckon,
moves our thinking along with these comments:
“To believe in God… is to commit oneself to a particular way of ordering one’s life and action: it is to devote oneself to working toward a fully humane world within the ecological constraints here on planet Earth, while standing in… awe before the profound mysteries of existence” (Kaufman 1993:347).
Today is Trinity Sunday in the traditional life of the church.
The day we are invited to focus on the mystery of God in the world.
Belief in God has been used in many different ways in the past.
And not always, including in the Bible, in ways that further
the humanisation of our species.
The only God we should believe in today is, according to Kaufman, the God
who will further our humanisation,
“the God who will help to make possible the creation of a universal and humane community” (Kaufman 1996:29).
By working towards a fully humane world is the getting of wisdom.
And as 21st century Christians in this place called (NN),
we are invited to continue this particular task,
first chartered by the Galilean sage we call Jesus.
Kaufman, G. D. 1993. In Face of Mystery. A Constructive Theology. Boston Harvard University Press.
Kaufman, G. D. 1996. God, Mystery, Diversity. Christian Theology in a Pluralistic World. Minneapolis. Fortress Press.
Spong, J. S. 2007. Jesus for the Non-religious. New York. HarperSanFrancisco.