Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 & John 16:12-15
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
May 22, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you on wisdom.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost when we celebrate the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I love all the different images we have for the Trinity. There is the Celtic knot, the three circles overlapping, the clover leaf, and many variations on them all. Our picture today on the front of your bulletin is another representation of the Trinity. It comes from Trinity Church in Boston which was completed in 1877. As you can see there are three fish interwoven together. The word for fish in Greek is ICHTUS, which represents the first letter of each Greek word of Jesus Christ. In this carving, the three fish are symbolic of the three days that Jonah spent in the belly of a whale, which prefigures Jesus’ three days from death to resurrection.
All of the different symbols, metaphors and images help us better understand our Triune God. The United Church of Christ believes in the triune God as Creator, resurrected Christ (the sole Head of the church), and the Holy Spirit, "to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world." Sallie McFague, a famous seminary teacher and author who grew up just down the road in Quincy has offered a famous metaphor of the world as God’s body. McFague believes that “each of us has a picture, a set of assumptions, usually not conscious, of how we think God and the world are related” and a “metaphor is a way of knowing, not just a way of communicating. In metaphor, knowledge and its expression are one and the same”.
To better understand our Triune God, we are always seeking wisdom and in doing so we use metaphors and symbols. We also reflect back on stories of our lives to make greater meaning.
One story I love to tell is about my father’s mother, Mamaw. She lived in East Tennessee in Blountville, up on a big hill. You drove up her driveway and there was her house surrounded on three sides by woods and in the back there was another hill. Her yard was known to have foxes, squirrels, birds, deer -- you name it. She was into recycling and composting before it was cool. Every evening after dinner, she would throw her scraps on a certain part of the hill for the wild life.
One of my favorite memories was shooting pistols with her. When I was a little kid, I always ran around in cowboy outfits. With my two gun holsters on my hips, cowboy hat on my head and cowboy boots on with my shorts. In the summer we could set up paper targets on the hill in the back yard and shoot my father’s and grandmother’s guns at the targets. After putting in our ear plugs, I would pick up the .22 off the iron porch chair that was set 25 or so yards back from the target, get in my stance, arms outstretched, feet set apart and steady, looking through the sight on the gun and pow!
After setting the gun down, making sure the safety was on etc. I would run over to the target to see if I hit it…Nope, missed again. This went on a few rounds, when suddenly my grandmother, Mamaw, came over and said let me give it a try. As I stepped back and watched, she grabbed the gun, took aim and pow! I went scurrying over to see how she did and “BULLSEYE,” I yelled! When I ran back over to her I asked “Mamaw, how did you get so good?” She replied, “I practice on the squirrels.” She used to sit on her back porch and shoot at the squirrels when they would come around and try to eat her bird feed.
So here we are today celebrating the Holy Trinity and looking to one of the many attributes of the Trinity, wisdom.
The book of Proverbs is classified as a Hebrew book of wisdom. Proverbs reflects the worldview of the intellectual elite and it combines received tradition with new insights. The fundamental goal of proverbs is to teach the acquisition of wisdom and the avoidance of folly. To avoid folly, one must understand what wisdom is. In Proverbs, wisdom is seen as insight, understanding, knowledge, advice, prudence, discretion, discipline, intelligence, good sense and more. In our passage from today we learn that Wisdom was created in the beginning, before the earth and seas. Wisdom was there in the beginning as quoted in Proverbs chapter 3: “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.” (3:19-20)
Wisdom was there in the beginning. Wisdom is often personified as a female characteristic of God and woman wisdom was there in the chaos of creation. When I think of God creating the earth it seems almost magical, with God extending a finger or wand saying and let there be light and there was light. Let there be mountains, poof, and the mountains appear. However, as I read Proverbs the mention of wisdom surrounding God during creation while “he assigned to the seas its limit” (v. 29) and “made firm the skies” (v. 27) give me a picture of more work than I had previously thought. Creation perhaps was more calculated, maybe like when I attempt to build or cut wood and I have to measure it out, think it through and use judgement, God too had to plan out creation and to do this God used Wisdom.
Wisdom is something that is out there an available to us all, but must be learned. As Jesus teaches the disciples that there will come a day when he is no longer with them, but they are not to be afraid because the Spirit of truth, and I would add Wisdom, (since it is an attribute of God) will come and guide them (John 16:12).
The book of Proverbs again teaches us that received tradition and new insights, the old with the new understanding, create wisdom. I see Wisdom as something that is learned through teaching and practice. When I remember my grandmothers, I remember what they taught me, I make more meaning out of the stories now than I did at the time.
Looking back on that story about shooting pistols with Mamaw, I now see it as a story of passing on wisdom. That day in the backyard she taught me three lessons, first she taught me to practice. To become good at something you have to put in the time and practice. She practiced shooting pistols on the squirrels and much to their demise she became really good at shooting that gun. Secondly, she taught me to be yourself.
How many grandmas shoot pistols with their son and granddaughters? She did not care what others thought, she was always true to herself. And lastly, she gave me the wisdom of passing it forward and teaching others.
Passing wisdom forward is exactly what our holy scriptures do for us. The Book of Proverbs is filled with many great words of wisdom like, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (10:12) or “Like vinegar to the teeth, and smoke to the eyes, so are the lazy to their employers” (10:26) and “When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble” (11:2).
We can gain the most wisdom when we create a place of learning and of passing it forward. Mamaw helped teach me how to shoot, gave me a place to learn and passed so much wisdom to me. I have always known our relationship was special and through her passing of wisdom on to me I know our relationship is also sacred. After all, wisdom is an attribute of God.
Wisdom has always been present. Wisdom was there in the beginning before all of creation, yet we were not born wise. We as humans do not passively gain wisdom, rather it is something that is passed down through life lessons and learning. When we open ourselves to receiving wisdom, when we become wiser we grow closer to God. We gain greater understanding and meaning of our great Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May we all grow a little wiser and become a little closer to God this day.
 The Constitution of the United Church of Christ, preamble page 2.