‘Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? When the Lord marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker, delighting in the human race.’The Bible: Proverbs 8.1; 8.29-30
It’s Trinity Sunday, and this passage from Proverbs bears repeating, as it gives us such a powerful and beautiful image of the Trinity – working together, creating together and delighting, together, in their creation. The Trinity is one of the foundational ideas of the Christian church, but it is one often seen as a challenging mystery. But perhaps, as we shall explore later, mysteries are not such a bad thing.
Let’s start though, by focusing on wisdom. And goodness me, could we do with some wisdom in the world at the moment… Whether its denials of climate change, Brexit, war and terror around the world, or even ‘Love Island’ … (who on earth came up with that concept?) we really could do with wisdom calling out to all people, at the gates, at the crossroads, on the heights and beside the way.
To follow the way of wisdom is to live in the world as the creator intended, to follow those wise teachings will mean ultimately, you will make the world a better place both for yourself and others. But when Wisdom becomes personified, as she does in this passage, we are drawn suddenly into the mind of God, we are in the presence of the source of all wisdom.
In the passage we have read this morning, Wisdom is standing at the busiest and most noticeable parts of the city and she is shouting. She is shouting to everyone, trying to get everyone to listen, not just a few, not just a few intellectuals or a few people who are interested but everyone. In her view, wisdom, living rightly, living attentively is for all to engage with. And it’s something joyful, something to take delight in.
But what does this mean, to live by Wisdom? It means to live in tune with the world, with the Trinity’s ongoing creation – of course creation wasn’t just seven days, it continues in and through every one of us. Living in tune means that everything that happens, good or bad, will deepen our understanding of who we are in relation to God. There is a seismic shift in our perception when we view the world in relation to God. The desires and priorities of the world; whether that’s money, fame, and power are turned on their head. The authenticity of a life lived in God, lived in Wisdom, brings us freedom, relief and delight.
In our gospel reading, Jesus talks about the Wisdom as the spirit of Truth, who will guide us into all the truth. This is powerful stuff in a world that recognises only its own version of the truth, in a world where authenticity in public life is hard to find.
In 2016, the Oxford dictionaries selected ‘post truth’ as its word of the year, and defined it as ‘shorthand for circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ let me read that again because it’s a bit wordy, the definition of post-truth is ‘shorthand for circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’
I’ll leave you to think one the last few weeks of incidents you may have seen in the news where objective facts have been less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief
The journalist Matthew d’Ancona writes passionately about this in his book ‘Post Truth – the New war on Truth and how to fight back.’ He notes the current global movements towards populism, towards a sceptical approach to experts and science, towards a focus on individually defined nations rather than diversity. For Matthew d’Ancona, there is a choice for each of us to be made – a choice between two very different approaches to reality.
So how do we, as Christians, navigate our way through this post truth era? How does the spirit of truth help us when the world sacrifices Wisdom in the pursuit of power?
A phrase we hear often at the moment is ‘speaking truth to power’ now this phrase actually came from a Quaker book written in the 1950’s, but it has been quite regularly in recent times. Often, involves people with limited power standing up and speaking frankly to authority on behalf of others – so Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist, who has stood up for climate change is one such example perhaps of speaking truth to power. Speaking truth to power is an imperative for those of us who have touched the hem of Wisdom’s cloak.
We talked about the Trinity as a mystery. But in the words of the theologian Sam Wells, a mystery isn’t a problem, a mystery is something can only be entered, explored, and appreciated. The dance of the Trinity, mysterious as it might be, draws us all in, turning misunderstanding into wisdom, mistakes into creative hope and regrets into insight. The Trinity leads us deeper and deeper into authenticity when we engage with and explore its mystery.
Matthew d’Ancona remains hopeful in the face of his description of the post truth era, commenting: ‘We are ultimately hardwired to resist falsehood.’ That hardwiring in humanity is Wisdom, the Holy Spirit. While the world can seem currently somewhat out of control, spiralling towards the surreal, when we as Christians are given courage through the Holy Spirit to speak truth to power, there is always hope.
Hope to create a community where all are included, where truth is valued, and where power comes from God alone.
- 6 January 2021: A video of this sermon, and the Post featured image were removed following a GDPR request.