June 2019

God’s Wisdom and Word

1st Sunday after Pentecost – June 16, 2019
– Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, John 16:12-15

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas

It is interesting to note that in the Book of Proverbs Wisdom is personified as a woman who, as part of an inseparable marriage, is the first of God’s creation (8:22), which makes sense. God is like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, who realizes his life is useless without a brain. It seems almost comical imagining God without Wisdom, yet who nonetheless has enough wits to say (non-canonically of course), “Who am I, and what am I doing here? I better create Wisdom before I really screw things up.”

The sage of Proverbs is, of course, speaking metaphorically suggesting that Wisdom and God are inseparable. One cannot act apart from the other. The Gospel of John, most likely influenced by the author of Proverbs, says something similar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1)

For me, this remains a most intriguing theological concept contending with the notion that God must be free to do and be whatever God desires. This concept is most vividly conveyed in the disagreement Moses has with God on Mount Sinai, when God, so infuriated with the Hebrews for creating a pagan idol to worship, decides to wipe them off the face of the earth and start anew. But Moses reminds God of the divine promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to create a nation by which the world would be blessed, and that if God followed through with this plan of annihilation, Israel’s adversaries would say that it was with evil intent that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them. And, as the story goes, the Lord had a change of mind. (Exodus 32:7-14)

God must be true to God’s Wisdom and Word if God is to be God. For Wisdom was the first of God’s creation without whom nothing else could be created. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

God’s Wisdom and Word are expressed in acts of compassion, justice and love, especially for the most vulnerable of society. As Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time before his crucifixion, the people recognized him as the embodiment of God’s Wisdom and Word with shouts of “Hosanna in the highest.”

And when some of the Pharisees told him to order his followers to be silent, he replied, “If these were silent, the stones themselves would shout out.” (Luke 19:39-40) And on the night of his betrayal, he tried to assure his disciples that God’s Wisdom and Word would possess them as a Holy Spirit enabling them to speak the Wisdom and Word that he received from God and declare the things that were to come. (John 16:13)

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, just a few days before his assassination, conveyed a message to both his friends and foes saying “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, I will forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my death be for the freedom of my people. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish,” He then said, “I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador.”

On the evening before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We have some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the
mountain top. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

What is that promised land that Christ, Romero and King lived and died for? The Revelation of John saw it as a realm where God would wipe away every tear. All sadness, suffering and pain would be no more (21:4).

On Juneteenth, or June 19th, African Americans throughout the nation celebrate their independence from slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation, which was officially enacted on January 1, 1863. But because the Civil War was far from over at that time, the Proclamation was not nationally recognized until June 19, 1865, over two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

A more spiritual observance occurs every New Year’s Eve within African American churches called Watch Night. When most of the world is preparing for New Year’s Day, many African Americans gather in worship to commemorate the night before January 1, 1863, when their enslaved ancestors watched to see if their vision of the Promised Land would be realized. It did not come that year.

It did not come at the close of the war. It did not come with Reconstruction. It did not come with the signing of the Voting Rights Act. It did not come with the election of the nation’s first African American President. However, it will come, not only for African Americans, but for all peoples and nations, as long as God’s Wisdom and Word are continually passed on as the Holy Spirit was passed on from Christ to his disciples, and embodied in acts of compassion, justice and love.

In such incarnations of God’s Wisdom and Word we come to see and know God among us. For Wisdom was the first of God’s creation without whom nothing else could be created. And in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.