Monday, May 17, 2010

Trinity Sunday Year C

Trinity Sunday C
(Revised Common Lectionary)

Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31; Psalm 8; Romans5:1-5; John 16:12-15

There is not another text in the whole of the Hebrew scriptures quite like chapter eight in the Book of Proverbs.  Here the poet returns to the creation stories with an innovation.  "The Lord created me [Wisdom] at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts long ago.  Ages go,  I was set up, at the first, before the beginnings of the earth."  "...I was beside him, like a master worker...."

In a state of wonder at God's creation, the psalmist cannot help but ask: What is humankind that You should regard us?  Yet, God has given humankind such a consequential role in creation!  

Given Paul's legalistic and judgmental preoccupations, the times he acknowledges God's grace are that much more outstanding.  In this excerpt from his letter to the church in Rome, Paul asserts that "Since we are justified by faith," we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is a peace that endures through suffering.  We have another gift from God to sustain us; "the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

In John's narrative, Jesus concludes his final, pivotal teachings/instructions to his followers with one final revelation that changes expectations for good.  Jesus tells them he will leave them before he has finished saying "many things...."  He could overwhelm them, he says.  But that does not mean that God's revelations stop: "when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth...."  In the future, the Spirit "will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

Walter Brueggemann regards the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs as a "countertestimony."  (Theology of the Old Testament, p. 342 ff)  "Now Wisdom (personified as 'she') is a differentiated agent of force for life in the world, who bears the markings of Yahweh's own intentionality."  "Wisdom, according to this remarkable poem, occupies an intermediate place between God and the world of creation.  On the one hand, wisdom is a 'creature' who is 'created' by god.  On the other hand, wisdom, the capacity and agency for generating life-giving order, is prior to all creation and all (other) creatures...."  While this extraordinary poem did not influence other Hebrew scriptural texts, Brueggemann continues, it flowers abundantly in Christian writings, especially the Gospel of John and sapiential themes in Paul's lettersHe concludes that "Proverbs 8 imagines and articulates a way of God with the world that is not intrusive and occasional, but that is constant in its nurturing...."

In that monumental farewell address in John's narrative, (chapter 13-17) Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit as a co-worker/co-creator with him and the Father.  One brings "glory" to the others and all share the same "glory."  And, critically for the church, guarantees that what Jesus initiated continues open-ended, unfinished, always evolving, always changing, dynamic and with our total participation!

Jean-Luc Nancy homes in on what he regards as this distinctive trait of Christianity and asks: "What of the opening of Christianity or of Christianity as (emphasis added) opening: an opening of self, and of self as opening?"  (Dis-enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity, p. 145)  He concludes: "... Christianity brings progressively to light as its truth because it does not in fact come to pass all at once...;" (p. 146) I did not tell you everything at once, Jesus intentionally tells his followers the Holy Spirit will reveal to you more things.

Yet, whatever new revelations there may be, because they are the on-going, nurturing work of the Holy Spirit, they will be totally consonant with all that we already know about the love of God through the gift of creation and the witness of Jesus, the Christ; one brings "glory" to the others and all share in the same "glory." This is the church's mandate to be vigilant for the never-ending work of the Holy Spirit, so she can name it, abet it and honor it wherever and whenever it appears.  We can always recognize it because it will be some surprising enlargement of God's love, which we have already experienced with the Father and the Son.