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Woman Wisdom: Love, Wonder, and Delight

Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31

June 12, 2022

By: Rev. Karen Howe

This is what I think of when I think of Proverbs: “A wise son harvests in the summer; a disgraceful son sleeps right through the harvest.” Well, yes.

”Those who walk in innocence walk with confidence, but those on crooked paths will be found out.” I mean, true, but not very revelatory.

There is the fairly well known description of “the good wife,” with just that subtitle making me twitch a bit. There is the description of “the foolish woman,” which is definitely irksome.

I realize I am blatantly imposing my modern lens on these ancient writings, but you can understand how I did not immediately see the lectionary reading of Proverbs 8 as my top choice.

Even the less irritating admonitions such as “don’t stray from your marriage,” and “listen to your mother and father,” are not bad, but definitely status quo and conventional. The one that made me smile a bit and feel better about some of my thoughts was “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid.” Stupid? Stupid is a Biblical word?!

But, getting past those, I circled back around to Proverbs, Chapter 8, and there was Woman Wisdom. No standard, behaving, color in the lines woman here. The reading starts out strong, with her voice of assurance and authority: “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” A female personification who calls out, who raises her voice! That’s not very conventional.

Nor is this voice confined to the home, or even the temple. Woman Wisdom is everywhere! She is on the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads, beside the town gates, at the entrance to the portals. All of these places where life intersects with life; where life opens up to possibility!

Woman Wisdom is standing on the top of the walls, calling to all of humanity! She is beside the roadway where travelers journey, at the crossroads where merchants trade their goods, beside the town gates where disputes are settled, land is bought and sold, families are intertwined. She is at the entrance to the portals. She herself seems to be a portal to the Divine. Woman Wisdom is everywhere!

Today is Trinity Sunday, the beginning of Ordinary Time, which is the longest season of the liturgical calendar, stretching from today through Reign of Christ Sunday, just before Advent. What will this season hold for us? For the world? How will we choose to spend this long season?

The past two, now almost two and a half years, have changed us. I think we have been shaken, awakened to an expanded awareness of our place in the universe, our place in Creation. I think there’s a new awareness of both our vulnerability and the importance of our connection to everything and everyone. I think there’s a new understanding that we truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring; that we, despite our knowledge and learning and abilities, are not in charge. I think that has brought, for many, deeper appreciation of the now.

We may have thought a global pandemic would be enough for a time, and yet we have seen more and yet more struggles around the globe.

You all have welcomed Afghan refugees and now Ukranians have had to flee their homes. In the course of twenty-four hours, there were a thousand families in Boulder County displaced by fire; there have been a staggering number of mass shootings, including one in our own neighborhood; heat and storms are threatening much of our country, much of our world. Anyone writing end-of-times, dystopian novels has lots of material! How do we deal with such devastation?

We have been changed in some ways, and in other ways I see people pull into the core of their being in order to reach out to serve others even when reserves are low. I feel a renewed energy and understanding of our calling as vulnerable, yet important parts of God’s great Creation! As people of God, we put our hope in that which is greater than human confusion, destruction, and disconnection. We place our hope and trust in the Divine Creator who is multi-faceted, has created goodness and love, and desires connection, wonder, and delight.

So Woman Wisdom steps into the scene, telling us from where she came, and when. “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.”

She tells us that “God created me,” “brought me forth.” Here is an image of God giving birth to the very first of God’s creative acts.

The Hebrew “qnh” in verse 24 speaks of “fathering,” and “hul” in verse 25 says “giving birth.”

Not only is she first, but Wisdom goes on to actively participate in God’s acts of creation. She was beside God even before there were deep oceans, she tells us, before there were rivers and springs, before the mountains took shape, before earth and fields.

She was there as God created the heavens and the earth. That’s a pretty cool image! What do you suppose she said to God: “More stars! Throw more stars up there. Toss some more up; you can’t have too many stars!”

And then perhaps, “Who could ever have imagined mountains like that! Who knew such rugged, majestic beauty could rise up from the earth.

And the blue of that sky? What name can we possibly give that hue? And God, you have outdone yourself with these oceans: the vast array of life, the movement of the currents, the power to shape weather and land and life.”

She was there beside the Creator. Her role is somewhat ambiguous, as it is sometimes translated something like “master worker,” or “architect,” and sometimes as “little child.”

If we combine those two understandings, we have the curiosity, creativity, lack of inhibition of a child with the creating forces of a co-creator, of a grand architect! We know from our Creation story in Genesis that God saw that all things were good. Perhaps God got this nudge from a wide-eyed, clapping, delighted child co-creator!

Delight, play, and joy are the proper response to the miracle of God’s Creation! Capacity for joy is a divine gift. When was the last time you considered having fun as an expression of wisdom?

To heed Wisdom’s call today is to look for ways in which we, as Wisdom’s children, may serve as co-creators to bring life and beauty to situations where the forces of chaos swirl. And it does feel like there are many such situations today.

In the Common English Bible (CEB), verses 30 and 31, say, “I was having fun, smiling before God all the time, frolicking with God’s inhabited earth, and delighting in the human race.” Right there, those two verses hold a lot of what I, at least, do not do often enough. When was the last time you frolicked?

When was the last time you delighted in the human race? There have been times when that has been sorely tested, and yet, there is Wisdom, saying, “Delight in the human race.” Pleasure, delight, and playfulness are built into the very structure of things, making possible a spirit of discovery and generosity that implies that Woman Wisdom is about opening up the world to possibility.

Wisdom invites humanity to engage in a joyful search for God’s dynamic presence through and in the world. We are a part of this joyful, beautiful, fun-loving presence of God!

I have not been able to attend this church for quite a while, as I was working at Frasier Retirement Community, and yet I know this church and many in it. I know that as individuals and as a congregation you live your faith out loud.

You are on the heights, and at the crossroads, and along the paths where there are people in need. Supporting sanctuary, creating a new home for refugees, building new homes, walking alongside. These acts of justice and compassion bring expressions of God’s love to a weary world.

And, in, and amongst, and through all of that we are to heed Woman Wisdom’s words: “I was having fun, smiling before God all the time, frolicking with God’s inhabited earth, and delighting in the human race.”

I suggest that we add frolicking to our list of spiritual practices! Frolicking, and fun, and smiling before God! Joy, wonder, and delight are such needed expressions of God’s love in this weary world. May we be a part of such expression! Amen.

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