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Sermon and Reflections For Trinity Sunday - Year C
Proverbs 8:1-36; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-24
"Lured Into Life"
Barry Robinson

From time to time we feature "Keeping The Faith in Babylon: A Pastoral Resource For Christians In Exile", a weekly set of comments and reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary texts by Barry Robinson (Lion's Head, Ontario, Canada).   Barry describes his resource this way: "Keeping The Faith in Babylon... is a word of hope from a pastor in exile to those still serious about discipleship in a society (and, too often, a church) that has lost its way".   Contact Barry at fernstone@fernstone.org to request samples and get further subscription information. Snail mail inquiries can be sent to Barry at the address at the bottom of this page.
KEEPING THE FAITH IN BABYLON
A pastoral resource for Christians in Exile
Barry J. Robinson
Trinity Sunday
Proverbs 8:1-36; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-24
"Lured Into Life"

    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 of the portals she cries out: ...when he 
    marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside
    him, like a little child, and I was daily his delight, 
    rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited 
    world and delighting in the human race.

A woman once went into the marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that 
read, "God's Fruit Stand". "Thank goodness! It's about time!" the woman said
to herself.

She went inside and she said, "I would like a perfect banana, a perfect 
cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach."

God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, "I'm sorry. I only sell
seeds."

                                    +

If you were caught by "the lure" in that story, you will appreciate the one
that is personified in this week's reading from the Book of Proverbs; and 
"the One" who is trying to "seduce" us is none other than creation's "first
street preacher".

She is known by the Greek name "Sophia" in biblical literature and she is 
that female representative of the mystery of God sometimes called "Wisdom". 
She is the most developed personification of God's presence and activity 
in the Hebrew scriptures, much more acutely limned than Spirit, torah, or 
word; and, yes, the term used for her is of feminine grammatical gender - 
hokmah in Hebrew, sophia in Greek, sapientia in Latin. She is consistently 
depicted as sister, mother, female beloved, chef and hostess, preacher, 
judge, liberator, establisher of justice and a myriad of other female roles
in which she symbolizes transcendent power ordering and delighting in the 
universe. She is that presence which pervades the world, both nature and 
human beings, interacting with them in an effort to lure them along the 
right path.  I'll bet that, like most people in the church, you have heard
little about her; and that is unfortunate.

After appearing briefly in the book of Job as a treasure whose whereabouts
are known only to God, she strides into the Book of Proverbs noisily 
proclaiming her message to anyone who will listen.  She is a street 
preacher, a prophet, crying aloud in the market, on the street corners and
at the city gates with a message of reproach, punishment and promise.  
Sophia is the antithesis of the stereotypical 'woman' so beloved by 
chauvinists - quiet, unassuming and submissive.  She is a street-wise, 
justice-driven, passionate figure who wants nothing less than that everyone
should follow in her playful, determined footsteps as she seeks both to 
transform and delight in the created world.

"You had better do what I say if you know what's good for you," Wisdom 
says, "because I am worth more than anything you can win on "Who Wants To 
Be A Millionaire".  There are no hidden clauses in what I am selling, no 
trick questions and no risk; because what I offer leads to life, the kind
that is more secure than any government bond.  The ones who love what I 
am about find me and they are never disappointed; because I am the goodness
that is never-ending and the life that is always unfolding. I am the energy
that accompanied God in the very beginning.  I am the one who gets things 
done.  I am the one in whom God delights.  Follow me and you will know my 
pleasure.  Believe in me and you will know my truth."

"Wisdom" is that creative energy of God which is forever trying to lure us
into life.

But what does it mean to be "lured into life" and why does the church want
us to remember this extraordinary passage of scripture on Trinity Sunday?

                                    +
                                    
I think it means what Dorothy Day once wrote about when she referred to 
that "creative instinct" she found in so many women.

    I guess women know these things instinctively. A woman's 
    anguish is turned into joy when a child is born into the 
    world. Henri Daniel-Rops one asked, after the crucifixion, 
    when the apostles and disciples all hid in fear, what did 
    the women do? "They went on about the business of living,
    pounding the spices in which to embalm the body." They 
    went on about the business of living. There are three meals
    to get, the family to care for, "the duty of delight" that 
    Ruskin spoke of, for the sake of others around us who are 
    on the verge of despair. Who can say there is no delight, 
    even in a city slum, especially in an Italian neighbourhood
    where there is a pot of basil on the window sill and the 
    smell of good cooking in the air, and pigeons wheeling over 
    the roof tops and the tiny feathers found occasionally on 
    the sidewalk, the fresh smell of the sea from the dock of
    the Staten Island ferry boat (five cents a ride)?

    Peter Maurin used to say, "Man is spirit, woman is matter," 
    and I knew what he meant by this obscure Thomistic utterance. 
    Woman is close to the material things of life, and accepts 
    them, this integration of soul and body and its interaction. 
    St. Teresa of Avila said once that if her nuns were 
    melancholy, "feed them steak!" She reminded us too: "All 
    things are passing!"       - Dorothy Day, Meditations

It is no accident, I believe, that when John has Jesus attempt to explain
to his friends what they will feel when the Spirit comes to them, he 
speaks of the kind of "wisdom" that only women know best.

    Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the 
    world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will
    turn into joy. When a woman is in labour, she has pain, 
    because her hour has come. But when her child is born, 
    she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of 
    having brought a human being into the world. 

Is there "something" or "someone" built into the very fabric of life, 
some creative energy springing from the very Heart of life itself that 
is insistently moving us, prodding us, pushing us, attempting to birth 
us into life?  And is that "something" that same utterly practical, 
earthy, delighting-in, luminescent joy that women cannot help but embody?

                                    +

On this second Sunday of Pentecost, the church wants us to celebrate the 
mystery of Spirit and to recognize that Spirit is nothing less than the 
creative essence of God. It is where She comes from. It was She who 
inhabited Jesus. It was She who was unleashed at Pentecost. It is she 
who is forever attempting to lure us into life.

Our mistake, like the woman looking for "perfect fruit" is that too 
often we are looking for something finished - a completed project. But 
God is not about perfection and creation is far from being complete. 
There is a divine energy at the heart of life initiating and 
accompanying that drive for perfection; but it is not solely 
associated with a "finished" project.  That popular slogan of a few 
year's back, "Be Patient! God isn't finished with me yet!", really is 
true, truer than any of us know.  For it means that life (including 
our lives in particular) is not limited by failure, nor by our 
illusions of success.  There is always a call forward.  None of us is 
there yet.

William James, the great philosopher-psychologist, at his sixtieth 
birthday party announced that he had finally come to believe in life 
after death.  When people asked him what had changed his mind, he said,
"Because I am only now becoming fit to live."

"Because I am only now becoming fit to live."  What strikes me as 
revelatory about that statement is the insight that, even at the age 
of sixty, this wise and sophisticated intellectual genius was himself 
being lured into life, was being convinced that there was something more.

And what if there is?

What if this often painful, sobering ordeal that all of us experience
sooner or later is merely the evolution that is at the heart of 
everything?  If it is true, then "becoming fit to live" is a sentiment 
we have everytime "Wisdom" manages to lure us forward.  Maybe that is 
all She wants - to lure us forward - to see that life has not come to 
a full stop, that there is something more.

You, my friend, may be twenty-two or eighty-three; but today you have 
the opportunity to leave an encumbrance behind, to say "goodbye" to 
failure, "so long" to despair and to strike out on a new path of love. 
For you, too, are a seed swelling toward ripe.  A ripeness never 
achieved but still in the process of becoming, a product of God's fruit
stand.  And, in this moment, in every moment, whether you know it or 
not, you are being lured into life. Only now are you just "becoming 
fit to live."

                                    +

Proverbs 8:1-36 - The Lectionary does an injustice to the text by 
not suggesting (8.1-4,22-31) that we read the whole text, which is 
a passionate self-portrait of one of the most intriguing figures in 
the Hebrew Bible.  Wisdom, that creative energy that was with God 
in the very beginning and that animates all things, raises her voice
to demand attention.  She is that life-force which all ignore to 
their detriment and that all obey to their eternal delight.

1.   Make a list of all the attributes of "Wisdom" in this passage.
2.   What new insights do they suggest into God's creative power?
3.   What have you been taught about "Wisdom" in church? If you 
have not been taught, why has such a text been ignored?
4.   What passionate, creative insights and energy have you been 
"lured into" at various moments in your life?
5.   How often were women a significant factor in these 
experiences?  How?  Why?


Romans 5.1-5 - The same creative, death-defying, renewing energy of God
is the focus of Paul's remarks.  We are "rightwised" not because of 
something we are doing but because of what God is doing for us.  We do
not have to attain peace, we already have it by virtue of what the 
Spirit is doing in us and on our behalf.  In spite of the ordeals, 
heartache and pain of our obedience, God is moving us forward, 
providing us with strengths, gifts that continue to reveal that more 
that we are.

1.   What readers would most be comforted by Paul's words? Why?
2.   What gives you a sense that "something" or "someone" larger is
revealing a renewing, healing purpose in your own life?


John 16.12-24 - Rather than be limited by an essentially doctrinal 
focus (16.12-15) as suggested by the Lectionary, I have opted for an
expanded version of John, which is more in keeping with the rest of 
this week's readings.  The Spirit will reveal what Jesus has not 
been able to show the disciples, what testifies to Jesus and which 
comes from God; it also will show the essential movement of God in 
us and in the world - from the ordeal of giving birth to the joy of
beholding the delight of creation.

1.   How does the Spirit continue to reveal the truth of Christ 
within your community?
2.   In what sense is this revelation a movement from "the pain 
of ordeal to the joy of delight"?


CELEBRATING SPIRIT RATHER THAN ENSHRINING IT - In a sense, this week's 
meditation is a deliberate attempt to enter into the Spirit of Trinity 
rather than to attempt to get caught in a defense of the "doctrine" of 
Trinity.  How would your experience of "church" be different if there 
were less emphasis on what one is "permitted to believe" and more 
emphasis on "becoming fit to live" as illustrated in this week's message?


HYMN:  "O God of Matchless Glory"  (Voices United 250)
Keeping the Faith in Babylon:
A pastoral resource for Christians in Exile
A publication of FERNSTONE:
Transformative Resources for the Human Journey
All rights reserved.
FERNSTONE:
Transformative Resources for the Human Journey
R.R. 4, Lion's Head, Ontario Canada N0H 1W0
Phone/Fax: (519) 592-4551
E-mail: fernstone@fernstone.org

copyright - Barry Robinson 2004
            page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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