Proverbs 8 – Trinity Sunday
When I was in Seminary, one of the required readings was Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Edwards, he was one of the driving forces behind the “First Great Awakening” in the early 1700’s with his insistence that people recognize and repent of their sin. Now, Edwards was charismatic but to be honest, he was also a little bit scary. You see, the image of God in this famous sermon was not that of a loving God, or even a grandfatherly God, but one that seemed positively sadistic. Edwards depicted God as an angry God who dangled sinners over the fires of hell like someone might dangle a spider over an open flame.[i] Not a very attractive image of God. In fact, I’d say it’s an image that would drive you in the other direction.
But, fortunately, the Biblical view of God is very different. The Bible presents us with a God of love, a God of relationship, a God of community.[ii] Community. That’s an important word especially as we consider our understanding of the Trinity today. But why? Why is viewing God as three persons so important? Well, to begin with, we have to confess that know less about God then we actually do know, in this lifetime anyway. And since we can only imagine God from our limited human capacity to understand, then we must use human images and symbols to envision God. And one of these images, one very important symbol is love.
Now, we know as human beings that love is most fully expressed when there’s a counterpart; a partner or another. So, it should come as no surprise that God, who is actually love itself, has counterparts in the Bible; Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is central to our faith, because the love it represents is the basis for everything God does; including both creation and salvation. [iii]
Now, recently, I read a book by Richard Rohr called the Divine Dance and the bases of this book, as the title indicates, is to recapture an understanding of God as Trinity by adopting the image of God as engaged in an unending dance. Creator, Christ, and Spirit ever-twirling, ever-dancing, ever-circling one another in the mystery of the Trinity. Rohr begins by reminding us that “…mystery isn’t something that [we] cannot understand.” Rather, that it’s something that [we] can “endlessly understand.” “There’s no point at which [we] can say, ‘I’ve got it!’ Always and forever,” Rohr says, “mystery get you!’” He then says, with this understanding of mystery in mind, that, “Circling around is an apt metaphor for this mystery that we’re trying to apprehend.”[iv] In other words, community among the three-persons of the Godhead and their coactivity, their movement, is both dynamic and fluid.
Rohr goes on to say that, “…this is not some new, trendy theology from America. This is about as traditional as you can get. The very mystical Cappadocian Fathers of fourth-century eastern Turkey eventually developed some highly sophisticated thinking on what we soon called the Trinity. It took three centuries of reflection on the Gospels to have the courage to say it, but they of this land, including Paul of Tarsus before them and Rumi afterward, circled around to the best metaphor they could find: Whatever is going on in God is a flow, and radical relatedness, and perfect communion between three; a circle dance of love.”[v] And here’s the really cool part. “God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself.”[vi] And God is the dance of life from the very beginning.
This is where we encounter the Wisdom of Proverbs today. God created and continues to create everything from God’s desire to have a relationship with, to extend God’s internal community with, and to include all of God’s creation in …this circle dance of life. In other words, God is not “other-then” but rather around and within all things. Our lesson from Proverbs for today is a beautiful image of all this. In it, God creates as a master craftsman, as a skilled artist. And like a skilled artist takes delight in a sculpture or a painting, God takes great delight in the whole of creation.[vii] (even mosquitos)
And surprisingly, though it, pre-dates Jesus by several centuries, there is already hint of God having a counterpart. Our lesson describes “Wisdom” as God’s companion in creation. But more than that, Wisdom is God’s counterpart, not only applauding with joy at every aspect of creation but also working with God to make sure everything fits as a “master craftsman.” might. [viii] I like the way Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message: “I was right there with him,” Wisdom says, “making sure everything fit. Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying his company, delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family”.[ix]
But what does all this have to do with us? Well, I suspect that in your everyday conversations the idea of God as Trinity doesn’t come up very often. Am I right? It seems like an abstract concept that only theologians and philosophers like to debate. But I’m going to propose that nothing could be further from the truth. The point of our belief in the Trinity is that God is a God of Love, and not just a Love that cherishes from afar, but a Love that acts for us and among us and within us. God is Love, a Love that reaches out to us and seeks a relationship with us; community with us. My friends, this is an image of God who takes great delight in the beauty of the natural world and takes great delight in the human family. And this is a God, our God, who invites each of us to join in the Divine dance, the ever-fluid, ever-moving, ever-flowing dance of life. A life lived here on earth and beyond this life, eternally, forever circling, with the Wisdom of the Creator, Christ, and Spirit.
Amen and the people of God said, Amen!
[i] Edwards says, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire
[ii] Jürgen Moltmann, God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology, 101: The biblical image of God is “God in community, rich in relationships. ‘God is love.’”
[iv] Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (New Kensington: Whitaker House) 2016
[v] Ibid Rohr
[vi] Ibid Rohr
[vii] Pheme Perkins, “Beside the Lord,” The Christian Century (May 17, 1989) 522: “The Lord rejoices in her [Wisdom] as she rejoices in all of creation, including the human race. This image of creation is very different from the mechanical putting-it-together activity that we might regard as part of making something. Creation is shared. It is an object of beauty, order and delight.” Cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 311.
[viii] William P. Brown, “Proverbs 8:22-31,” Interpretation 63 (July 2009) 288: Wisdom is God’s full partner in play, and all creation is hers to enjoy. The world was made for her sake, for her Ibid Rohr God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God, 9: “Through the energies and potentialities of the Spirit, the Creator is himself present in his creation. He does not merely confront it in his transcendence; entering into it, he is also immanent in it.”
[ix] Ibid Brehm