A sermon delivered by Wendell Griffen, Pastor of New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Ark. on May 30, 2010.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; John 16:12-15
Although Christians claim that we believe the Holy Spirit to be one with God, our living often follows a binary instead of a Trinitarian faith. We pray to God our Creator. We affirm confidence in the redeeming living, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the Holy Spirit gets much less attention. And when we manage to think about the Holy Spirit, we may focus on New Testament passages entirely.
But if the Holy Spirit is truly one with God and the Eternal Son, our living and faith should reflect as much. If the Holy Spirit is one with God, then the Spirit is as real as God the Creator and the Son of God. And if the Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, and we are one in Christ with them, then the impact of our lives and living is more powerful than we can imagine.
In what was his final discourse to the first followers before his arrest, crucifixion, and death, Jesus told them that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” [John 16:12-13, NRSV] Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.” Allow me to suggest that we think of the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of wisdom.”
And in that sense, the reading from Proverbs 8 sheds new light on the role of the Holy Spirit within the operation of God. Proverbs 8 begins with the powerful image of Wisdom calling, shouting, imploring humanity in a raised voice. In Hebrew, Wisdom is feminine and speaks as a distinct personality. She is present in places of power (“on the heights”). She is present along the streets and roadways of life (“beside the way”). Wisdom is present at the intersections of our relationships (“at the crossroads she takes her stand”). And in the places where business is conducted, politics is worked out, and judgments are made about human controversies (“beside the gates in front of the town” and “at the entrance of the portals”) Proverbs 8 declares that Wisdom “takes her stand.” At those places, Wisdom “cries out.” Wisdom calls to all humanity (“To you, O people”), wherever humanity finds itself, conducts its affairs, and does its living.
If every good and perfect gift truly comes from above, and if wisdom is the gift of understanding what is true, worthwhile, and excellent, then wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit. And in Proverbs 8, we learn that God’s Wisdom calls to all humanity ”at Proverbs 8:4 we read, “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.” The wisdom of God calls to us through the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God teaches us through the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God guides us through the Holy Spirit. The wisdom of God corrects us through the Holy Spirit. And the wisdom of God comforts us through the Holy Spirit.
And Proverbs 8 shows that Wisdom is not a matter of conventional thinking. Wisdom “was set up [ages ago] before the beginning of the earth [v. 23], “[b]efore the mountains had been shaped [v. 25], and before all other creation [vs. 26-29], Divine wisdom, the insight to truth about what is right, loving, just, and in keeping with the will of God, is not a matter of local tradition or popular culture. Wisdom calls to us from beyond time and place to speak with us about truth that is eternal and universal.
In doing so, the Spirit of Wisdom is part of God. At v. 30-31 we read, “I was beside him [God], like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” Divine Wisdom is not some aloof, insensitive, and detached thing, but is personal with God, personal in the world, and personal with us. Wisdom is part of the personality of God, and calls to humanity to become personal with us.
Do we hear that call? Do we hear the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, calling us as we live? Are we alert to the wisdom that does not depend on the shifting winds of popularity? Do we realize that as we go about our living minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year, the Spirit of Wisdom is calling, pleading, shouting, warning, teaching, guiding, weeping, rejoicing, and hoping?
When we allow ourselves to understand that the Spirit of Wisdom is part of the same God from whom we have been shown the Spirit of Love in Jesus Christ, several lessons come into view.
God’s love for creation and humanity is not blind, stupid, or foolish. God is not ignorant about what happens to us, what we do to ourselves and others, and the situation facing the creation and humanity.
¢ God is not blind, stupid, or foolish about the human addiction to violence and the many ways we express it, from the individual violence we do to each other to the global violence we commit through wars and other evil conflicts.
¢ God is not blind, stupid, or foolish about how humanity as a whole is more inclined towards greed than generosity.
¢ God is not blind, stupid, or foolish about what the history of humanity proves us to be as much of a threat to the creation as we are to each other. We are as capable of killing other species of life as we are as taking the lives of our fellow humans, and we are quite proud of the way we can rationalize doing so through convenient lies and by ignoring inconvenient truths. In the past month, oil that was safely kept beneath the floor of the ocean has been gushing into the sea where it poisons sea life, rises to the surface, flows toward shorelines, and has done more damage than we care to calculate. Some experts estimate that at least 5000 barrels of oil a day (one barrel=42 gallons) has been gushing from that leak over the past month. We are not smart enough to stop wasting energy. We are not smart enough to design safe energy devices. We are not smart enough to fix the mess we made, or even stop it. God is not blind, stupid, or foolish about how much of a threat we are to ourselves and the rest of creation.
¢ God is not blind, stupid, or foolish about our evil ways. We are the blind, stupid, and foolish to go about our living as if the Spirit of Wisdom does not know right from wrong, does not understand what our conduct proves about our character, and does not shout to us in countless ways to turn from our sinful rebellion against truth, love, joy, hope, and peace.
God’s Wisdom is with us! We may choose to neglect it, ignore it, defy it, or denounce it, but God’s Spirit of Wisdom is with us. The same Spirit of Wisdom that inspired the Hebrew prophets and other prophets of truth in every place and time is with us. The same Spirit of Wisdom that inspired great works of art and courageous living by noble people of every social rank throughout humanity is with us. We are not alone. We are not moral or spiritual orphans.
Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would guide us. The Spirit guides us because we need guiding, and while sharing our journey. The idea that God’s Wisdom is somehow detached and insensitive concerning who we are, what we face, and what we need does not come from God.
God’s Spirit of Wisdom calls us because we can be called and changed! We are called because we capable of being called. Wisdom calls us because we can hear ”if we choose to hear. We can change ”if we choose to accept God’s gift of forgiveness and restoration. We can become healers rather than hurtful, agents of joy rather than suffering, sources of peace rather than confusion, people of God’s glory rather than God’s wrath.
In Jesus Christ, God has demonstrated holy love for and toward humanity. In the Holy Spirit, God reveals holy Wisdom for and toward humanity. The issue is whether we, individually and in our various relationships, are willing to accept that Love and Wisdom for living. That is the great moral choice you and I face every minute, hour, day, week, month, and year. It is the great moral choice our societies face. It is the choice to be wise, foolish, or simple. It is the choice to live by the Holy Spirit or by the spirit of human greed, ambition, the lust for power, and our addiction to violence and other poisons of the soul.
The good news is that God has given the Spirit of Wisdom to us because God loves us. If we love God, we will accept that Spirit. If we trust God, we will heed that Spirit. If we desire to be people of God, we will order our steps, our lives, our relationships, and the world according to that Spirit.
Then the Spirit of Heavenly Wisdom will rule the hearts and minds of people on earth. Then the Spirit of God’s love will govern how we treat one another and the rest of creation. Then the Spirit of God’s peace will operate to bless people by our words, deeds, and practices. When the Spirit of Wisdom lives with us and in us, we will be guided to glorify God minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, step by step, and life by life.
What a way to live! Who could ask for better living than that? Who but the Spirit of Wisdom can lead us into that kind of living? What are we waiting for?
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, and a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion.