Sermon for June 12, 2022

Holy Trinity Sunday, John 16:12-15

Listen again to how today’s first reading begins. It’s poetry from Proverbs, personifying and extoling the wonders of Wisdom and Understanding: “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 to the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.’”

Tell me. Where is the call and cry of wisdom and understanding today? In my experience of our current culture and the spirit of these times, I can scarcely identify the call and cry of wisdom and understanding. If she is out there calling and raising her voice, it’s drowned out by loud mouths proclaiming anything but wisdom and understanding. On the heights, at the crossroads, beside the gates and entrances to the city, I don’t see her. I don’t hear her.

Can wisdom and understanding really make herself known on Twitter? In sound bytes? On video clips on Instagram or TikTok? Will the algorithms that determine what gets our attention on social media point us in the direction of wisdom and understanding? Do wisdom and understanding garner more clicks and likes and thus more advertising revenue?

Sadly, it seems, no. And we are today impoverished by her absence in the popular imagination and on what appears on our screens and devices. Wisdom and understanding are indeed out there, but we often have to go looking, fighting forever along the way the raging, attention-seeking voices of folly, imprudence, impudence, and thoughtlessness.

This absence of wisdom and understanding takes its toll and weighs heavily on us, individually and collectively as a whole society. I daresay, the absence of wisdom, of understanding surely has a part to play in increasing anxiety and depression. And likewise this absence perpetuates the unwillingness of elected officials effectively to govern. A lack of wisdom and understanding contributes to the unraveling of the whole world, its institutions and organizations. And more and more. It’s a hugely heavy and destructive burden that human beings are forced to carry these days.

The absence of wisdom and understanding in human affairs is nothing new. It’s been part of our broken, sinful, fallen condition all along. And it’s into this foolish human reality that wisdom and understanding personified enters in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, whom we confess as the Christ, God’s anointed one. This is good news!

When we hear the poetry of Proverbs, listening with Christian ears, how can we not but think of Jesus Christ? Here it is again: “I was there when the Lord established the heavens, and drew a circle on the face of the deep, and made firm the skies above, and established the fountains of the deep, and assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress the Lord’s command, when the foundations of the earth were marked out, then I was beside the Lord, like a master worker; and I was daily the Lord’s delight, rejoicing before the Lord always, rejoicing in the Lord’s inhabited world.” (Proverbs 8:27-31a) Doesn’t Christ come to mind in this passage?

When we listen to this poetry, we cannot help but also hear, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him.” (John 1:1-3a) How can we not also hear the voice that came from heaven at Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22b)

The wisdom of God that makes for understanding – along with sacred truth, and divine love – emanates from the divine being. And it’s a wisdom made flesh, personified, in the divine word who is Jesus. In Christ Jesus, as an icon, the window is thrown open to see the fullness of God, the face of God. And in the absence of the manner in which Jesus walked this earth millennia ago, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us into the truth of the wisdom of God, and divine understanding, along with forgiving, gracious love.

These are the mysterious holy realities that we celebrate on this festival of the Holy Trinity on this first Sunday after Pentecost. Thanks be to God.

And, as I keep on saying, because it keeps on being true Sunday after Sunday, here in this place we participate and share in the wise, truthful, loving realities of the three-personed Godhead, whom we confess as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We are baptized into this three-fold name of God and come to share in the life and love of our Trinitarian God through water, word, and Spirit. We take the bread and the cup and give thanks over each, and then come to eat and to drink of the very wisdom of God, Christ’s real presence, sharing thereby also in the life of the Trinity.

We share in divine wisdom and love in words of absolution and in sharing the peace of God in Christ. The wisdom of God is carried from the pages of scripture to our ears and our hearts and minds through proclamation of the word.

And all of this is such good news for us and for our wider world with its voids of wisdom and understanding, truth and love.

These emanations from our Trinitarian God which echo and reverberate in this hall and in our ears and in our bodies continue when we leave this place to return to the world, sent as we are to nurture wisdom and understanding beyond this house in the other places where we engage our ministries in daily life.

But our being sent into a world which clearly is hostile to wisdom and understanding will make for our suffering.

Paul acknowledges as much in today’s second reading from Romans. Paul writes about our having been made at peace with God in Christ through our being justified by faith in this God. We thus stand firm in divine grace. But suffering comes along with all of this, a suffering about which Paul actually confidently boasts: “We boast in our sufferings,” he says, “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.” (Romans 5:3-5) Endurance, character, hope – all fruit and corollaries of God’s wisdom and understanding.

In fact, our share in the suffering of God in Christ is what makes for our wisdom. Here’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God…. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? …For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:18-25) God’s wisdom is foolish by worldly standards. But I’ll take God’s cruciform wisdom any day.

When we’re out in the thick of things in a world hostile to God’s wisdom and understanding, God’s truth and love, we may wonder how in the world we’ll rise to the occasion to offer a countervailing witness.

But then with faith renewed weekly here in this place, we find ourselves moving in the flow of the loving energies proceeding from our Trinitarian God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, who has been active here in our midst in our assemblies guiding us into all truth by teaching us and reminding us of Jesus’ words.

And we discover that we can go with that sacred flow, and that we’ll be given the word of wisdom and understanding that we need. According to Luke, Jesus said: “When they bring you before… the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)

In that light, think of the Christian martyrs, who faced death if they did not renounce their faith in Christ, and yet they remained steadfast in their confession of faith. I have a hard time imagining that I would respond so courageously. And yet, that’s when the power of God in the Spirit steps in to give the word, and the courage to speak it.

So, take heart. Be of good courage. We are not left orphaned, for the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son gives us the needed gifts to make our witness, that through us our Trinitarian God would fill the voids in our hungry, thirsty world with God’s own wisdom and understanding, truth and love – all for the healing of the nations and God’s shalom, and well-being.

All of this and more is what we celebrate on this day, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.