Let us pray: Bless our hearing of your word, O God, and speak to us the truth we need to hear. And may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. In your holy name we pray, Amen.
Synod Assembly was last week. I love Synod Assembly. I love the chance to see other pastors and hear about what else is happening in the synod. It’s a great reminder that we’re not alone in what we do here, that there are other churches also serving and worshiping and facing problems together.
And, honestly, I love the chance to see red paraments and red stoles. We don’t use red much as a liturgical color. It’s the color of the Holy Spirit, of the tongues of fire at Pentecost, and so of course we bring it out for Pentecost. You can use it for Reformation Sunday if you want, as a reminder of the Holy Spirit’s work in reforming and renewing the church in both Martin Luther’s time and ours. It’s the color for ordinations, because everyone is praying for the Holy Spirit to come and be with the person being ordained in the ministry they’re beginning.
And it’s the color for Synod Assemblies. At opening worship and closing worship and every worship in between, the pastors wore red stoles and the table had a red tablecloth. We use red for Synod Assemblies because we believe that we come together as a church to make decisions, guided by the Holy Spirit.
It doesn’t feel like it, of course. When we say that we’re guided by the Holy Spirit, or wish to be, we most often imagine something mystical and momentous, like a mysterious light or a deep, wondrous certainty that we’re on the right path and that one way is the way God is calling us. The experience of Synod Assembly is more like: we spent twenty minutes arguing over the agenda of the meeting, my voting machine is broken, and I have a cramp from sitting too long so I’m going to go pace the back of the room.
And yet… God does deeply care about the every-day of our lives. Not that I think there is a one right agenda for our meeting, because I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that small questions or small moments are unimportant. And there’s something deeply important and holy about coming together as Christians and making decisions together, and then respecting the discernment of everyone together. We live in a society that tells everyone to make decisions for themselves, and yet we come together to discuss and pray and eventually decide. We do our best to respect one another, and listen, and whether we succeed or fail we worship together.
Together. We are called to be together, in relationship, and this isn’t just something that God tells us to do without doing. Besides God’s relationship with us, there is the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all in relationship with each other. Jesus talks pretty regularly about God the Father, about how they have different roles, about how Jesus obeys the Father and humbles Himself before the Father. Sometimes, as in our passage today, Jesus also talks about the Holy Spirit, who will come after Him to all believers. Paul picks up the thread as well, outlining how each person in the Trinity has a different role, a different job: God gives us grace and peace, but Jesus came so we could access that grace and peace, and the Holy Spirit connects us.
But I’d like to focus on our reading from Proverbs, where the author speaks as a personified Lady Wisdom. Wisdom is a character throughout the book of Proverbs, reminding people of the joy and fruits of wisdom, warning of the dangers of foolishness and ignoring God, and speaking of her special relationship with God. The writer imagines Wisdom as a personification of God’s wisdom given to humanity, as the joys and truth of what God asks of us given form. Lady Wisdom was given form before anything else: she was there with God at creation, working beside God as a worker and delighting in creation.
Many early Christians saw this, and read it as a beautiful pre-Christian discovery of part of who Jesus is. Wisdom’s role here echoes the role John gives to Jesus: “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 1:1-3). And wasn’t Jesus God’s love and truth for us given form, given a body so that God could speak with us directly?
Obviously it’s not a perfect fit. Wisdom talks of how God created her at the very beginning, before the earth was created, when we know and believe now that Jesus is God, and therefore never was created. Jesus, as a part of God, has always existed. And Jesus is far more than a personification of wisdom. But still, it works, I think, as poetry, as an early glimpse of truth.
And here’s where it comes together–in Proverbs, Wisdom says of God during creation: “then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always.” Wisdom and God work together, delighting in one another. Loving one another. And that, too, is a truth about the Trinity: the three persons of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, are all in community together. They love one another. They delight in one another. We like to talk about the Trinity as a shamrock or an apple or all these other tangible images, but the most famous icon of the Trinity is just three people sitting together at a table. God, just hanging out with God and God.
And yet God invites us into that community: the community of the Trinity, and the community of all of God’s family. That is why we come together on Sunday, to worship and to eat and to ask each other how we’re doing. That is why we come together for Synod Assembly. That is why we reach out with food bank donations, and serving meals, and making blankets, and offering space, and all the other things that we do as a church and as a community.
God offers us community, and we live that out together, even when it’s utterly unglamorous, even when it’s arguments over agendas and staying late to clean up and having compassion for mistakes. We are in this together. Alleluia, and Amen.