A reflection on Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Romans 5:1-5 , John 16:12-15, preached at St. John's, Mt. Prospect, IL
In the last 8 months I have made four trips between Arizona and Chicago. I’ve logged some 10,000 miles in driving. My most recent trip was in late April when I returned to pick up one of our cars that we had to leave behind when we moved. It’s a long story why, which I’ll spare you. Anyway, in late April I flew to Tucson to get the car and drive it back. Usually I drive the “southern” route: heading east through southern Arizona, north through New Mexico, cutting across Oklahoma and Missouri and then up across Illinois from St. Louis to Chicago. 1849 miles, one way, give or take.
But for this trip I decided to drive north through Arizona and southern Utah, then up to Salt Lake City where I have family, and then head east across Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois. It would be a longer trip by several hundred miles, but I could drive at a leisurely pace stopping to see family along the way.
For various reasons I got a late start the day I left Tucson. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon when I finally began the drive north to Phoenix and picked up my son, his belongings, and his dog. Because it was late we got to watch the moon, a full moon rise as we descended over the mountains and down toward the Prescott area. It was a beautiful full moon, huge, like the harvest moons we have in this area, only seemingly closer, bigger, and brighter. Under that full moon we drove through the desolate Indian reservation land of North Arizona, just east of the Grand Canyon. The wind that night was fierce and I had to drive through several blinding dust storms. It was eerie and frightening, but we made it to Page, Arizona, about midnight, and without incident.
The next day we travelled to Escalante, Utah, along a highway lined with gorgeous red rock bluffs of Bryce and the Grand Staircase canyons. There my dad has a home where we stayed for a couple of nights before heading up to Salt Lake City. Leaving Escalante, we decided to take the back way up to Salt Lake, traveling the scenic route of highway 12, which essentially makes a horse shoe loop from Highway 89, through the Grand Staircase area, and then back to Highway 89 several hundred miles north. It is a breathtaking drive literally across the top of the Rocky Mountains, climbing nearly 10,000 feet in altitude. At one point we were driving on a narrow two lanes of highway with no guard rails and a straight drop down the side of the canyon. I was sure that a good strong gust of wind would blow us right over! It was terrifying. It was beautiful. It was awesome! An endless view of the spectacular beauty of God’s creation and the amazing skill of human beings who managed to build this highway which allowed us to see and appreciate that beauty.
Our reading from Proverbs speaks of this very idea. It speaks of the creative energy of God, known at various times as Wisdom or the Holy Spirit. This energy of God was present at the beginning of creation, emanates from God, and as we hear in the Nicene Creed and the prologue to the Gospel of John, from Christ. The Holy Spirit, God’s wisdom, participates in the act of creation, from the beginning and up to this day. From Proverbs we hear: “Does not wisdom call.... To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live...God created me at the beginning.... then I was beside God like a master worker..”
This Holy Spirit, this Wisdom, God’s worker lives and breathes in us. We celebrate this gift of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost, as we did last Sunday, and on the occasion of our baptism. The Holy Spirit, in bestowing on us our spiritual gifts, calls us into a creative process with God. Wisdom is calling! Everywhere and within every thing! This same Wisdom that participates with God in creation calls us to embody that artistry in our lives. We are called to embody the artistry in all manner of creative effort, becoming through the power of the Holy Spirit, co-creators with God. Co-creating not just in building highways and construction that makes human life easier, and not just in art, like a painting or pottery, and not only through gardening BUT also in caring for others. For this Wisdom, this Holy Spirit is equally creative in comfort making and beauty-making as it is in justice-making.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he unpacks for us a deeper sense of how God’s justice-making Wisdom is embodied in and through Christ. Paul writes: ...”We have peace with God through Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand” – The grace of God that comes to us through Christ is an active grace determined to change the world through love and compassion. It calls us out of our passivity to the injustices of this world. It’s a grace that leads us through the sandstorms of life, through the grit, through the times when we can’t see the road ahead, through our own fears. It is a grace that leads us through fear into love because we have been loved first. Being loved first, by this God, who is within God’s very self a being of relationship – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – three persons, one person, a relationship with self and others..
This is reinforced in the Gospel reading this morning from John: “When the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth.” We know from the life of Jesus that the truth John speaks of is love. Jesus tells us that the purpose of our lives is to love God, love self, and love others.
Baptized into the life of Christ, gifted with the Holy Spirit, we are therefore grounded in God’s hope, grace and love. We are then called by the Holy Spirit, by God’s Wisdom to share this same love with others. Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, calls out to us to be the hands and heart of Christ, to mend the brokenness of this world. Hope, grace, and love are a gift to us, but they are also our responsibility. A powerful Celtic hymn, known as St. Patrick’s breastplate, sung often on Trinity Sunday or at ordinations reminds us of this: I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity. As Christians we are bound in Name, in our baptisms, and through our various gifts, to live the love of God poured out in Christ and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Listen! Wisdom is calling!