First Congregational Church
May 26, 2013
First Sunday after Pentecost, Memorial Weekend Sunday
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and John 16:12-15
"More Than We Thought/Think/Will Think"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I recently came across the family tree of Vincent Van Gogh, and was delighted to find that there were more people there than I thought. There is his dizzy aunti Verti - Verti Gogh. His brother who worked at a convenience store: Stoppen Gogh. His magician uncle: Where'd He Gogh. Vincent's nephew who drove a stagecoach: Wells-far Gogh. Another aunt who was a ballroom dancer: Tang. The bird lover uncle: Flamin'. His bouncy little nephew: Poe. And his niece who traveled in an RV: Winnie Bay Gogh. I'm guessing that is more of the Van Gogh family tree than any of you ever thought you might know.
The official church calendar says that today is Trinity Sunday, and the first Sunday after Pentecost, while the American calendar says it is the day before Memorial Day. Trinity Sunday is the celebration of the three persons of God: God as Father or Parent, God as Son and God as Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday, being Pentecost, we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early believers in Jerusalem - the day when tongues of fire danced on the listeners' heads while they heard messages in their own languages from people who couldn't possibly have known those tongues. In last week's celebration, there was a little nod of the head to the old Abbott and Costello baseball routine, "Who's on first," as it was transformed into a who is God routine. The gist of last week's message - at least in my mind - was that the Holy Spirit is not always an easy grasp. Today's message may run in similar lanes.
Today's message is based on a couple of rather unconnected passages - at least on the front end. The first comes from the book of Proverbs - not necessarily one of the easiest books on which to preach. The subject of this Proverbs passage is wisdom, and just four verses into the passage, Wisdom speaks in her own voice. Side note: in the Bible, the written language is the indicator that Wisdom is in the feminine voice and the names for God are in the masculine voice.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
22 “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. 24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. 27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. 30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.
Without a lot of thought, it is easy to see that there is a great deal of wisdom in how all of creation was constructed. If we were closer to the sun, we would burn up. If we were farther away, we would freeze. If the combination of gases in the air were much different, we wouldn't be able to live. There is a rhythm to life that we can see in waves and sand - even in the moon's path.
I wonder, tho, if sometimes we - all of us arm-chair scientists - forget to lift our heads from that which is before us, to take a step back and remember that just as much as we have been given talents and gifts for uncovering some of God's incredible design, so must we remember not to box-in God. Perhaps one of our biggest mistakes is in trying to completely understand God - to the point that we end up creating an image of God that reflects us, rather than reflecting the image of God through us.
So it is time to bring in the second of our scripture passages for today - the one that occurs after Jesus has washed the disciples' feet, but before Jesus is arrested - as documented in the book of John.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Thank you, Robin. As goofy as it sounds, this is about as clear as the Bible gets in actually mentioning the concept of a Triune God - God as Father/Parent, God as Son and God as Spirit. There is no place in the Bible that says anything so specific as: God is three persons. But from this passage, we get the idea that there are three entities that have information, revelation and truth for us. As a consolation gift for being alive, we get a three-fold God that cares and communicates to the beloved created. As a recent ___ commercial says, "boosh."
So in a moment of deep revelation, if you wish to send me into a mental mindspinning that will absolutely send me over the brink, call me - so I can't see your face - and ask if you can talk to me about something - and then hang up. I guarantee that between that phone call and the time we speak, I will try to figure out every single instance where I may have neglected, not reflected, spoken, not spoken, did, didn't do whatever possible thing that would cause you upset or calling a congregational meeting to fire me. Okay, so that is only 98% true.
But isn't that a bit like what Jesus said? "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." Thanks, Jesus! So glad to hear that you have so much faith in us - or even your posse of 12. Except that we have to step back from the passage a moment, to be reminded that before Jesus came, before the foundations of the world were created, God created Wisdom, and it has stuck by God's side ever since. And we must also remember that the Spirit of Truth has come, and will guide us in all the truth. When Jesus says he has more to say, we cannot jump to immediate conclusions that we will know everything - or that we know nothing - but that God a purpose behind the timing of what goes before us and under us, behind us and over us, beside us and around us.
This is the weekend that we celebrate the re-emergence of grills and colorful plastic serving bowls and the rise and fall of gas prices. But we need to step back, in our reflection of the sacrifices that have been made on our behalf, that we might be able to meet in relative safety and freedom, to make the pastor paranoid or not. We need to be reminded that this weekend is not only about those who died that we might be free, but all who have died, and about the ongoing issues that surround the families of those who have someone injured in protecting our freedoms. (By the way, don't get all excited - the paranoid pastor thing is just an example for the day - and a little needed levity. But someone will tell me if there's an uprising starting?) Irony of ironies, it is the give and take of the love and faith in you and in me that gets me off those paranoia monkey bars.)
This is the weekend that we get to remember those who have gone before us - military or not - who have passed on their sense of order or disorder, wisdom or folly, delight or exasperation, but who none-the-less deserve our respect because they were one of God beloved creations. Even for the dizzy aunt or bouncing little nephew, this is the weekend we get to give God thanks for the life that you had given them, the life that has more concern, delight, joy, disappointment than any of us will ever realize because we simply don't live in their skin.
So too, is this the weekend we get to be grateful that God comes to us in ways that are greater than we may have thought, more than we think today and more than we ever will think. We get to sit and stand and grill and plant and relax in the freedom that has cost more than we may have thought, more than we think or ever will think. And we get to pray that gratitude, as in this very moment.
Gracious God of Love, we are very conscious this day that it is a special day, as is tomorrow. As we go from this place, go with us in such a way that we are mindful of both the ways you are knowable to us, as well as the ways you are beyond us. Help us to be mindful that we not box you in, but that we can be comfortable simply being your beloved creations. Help us be mindful that ours is a very privilege life, that we can gather and worship you, contemplate you, speak of you in a freedom that is unknown to others in this world. Remind us that your ways are not arbitrary or off-the-cuff, but that you are a God who created Wisdom before you created us and the life we know. Help us to rely on that wisdom - all of us - as we freely breath the air you give us, tread on the ground you freely created and rely on your freely given Son and Holy Spirit. For all the richness of this life, all your beloved creations say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.