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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8:1-9, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15

Although this is Trinity Sunday, this week’s readings do not give us much insight into the nature of the doctrine of the Trinity, nor am I’m going to make any significant attempt in this blog to come up with anything definitive about the Trinity. I’m happy to settle for it being an attempt to explain the various ways in which we experience God. As far as I’m concerned, it could just as well be the God of a million expressions rather than just three. Rather than get hung up on doctrine, I would call us to think about the various ways in which we experience God.

So, what do we do with this week’s lectionary scriptures?

In Proverbs, there is a feminine Spirit called “Wisdom” (Proverbs 8:1) who is created at the beginning (vss. 22) and has been God’s companion throughout the unfolding of creation (vss. 23-31). In Romans, it is “through the Holy Spirit” that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” (Romans 5:5) In John’s Gospel we return to the passage about the Spirit being one who “will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13) Each of these “takes” on the Holy Spirit would be worth developing. Wisdom, Love, Truth—three ways of experiencing God in the interactions of human relationships.

There are other things in each of those passages that might give us food for thought and guidance for living, most notably the familiar sequence starting in Romans 8:2—“suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us . . .” What about it? The oft-spoken words that suffering will strengthen us, that something good will come of it, are not always that comforting. Sometimes they may be downright infuriating.

I recently read the words of a poem by Robert Browning Hamilton:

I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow, And ne’re a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her, when Sorrow walked with me.

Although I hope you never hear me talking glibly about suffering, I am reminded that, at the very center of Christian identity, the one from whom we get the name “Christian,” was one who suffered. In his suffering the power of love was revealed, the power of love to bring newness and hope even in moments of despair. Most of us know, or have known, enough suffering that I pray we will find a Spirit which leads us through and to hope on the other side of that suffering.

Here are the questions that most grabbed my attention in reading this week’s lectionary passages: What is the place of humanity in the workings of creation and God? Who are we in the scheme of things?

Psalm 8 famously declares that God made “human beings . . . a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” (vss. 4-5) It is a repeated scriptural declaration that we partake of the nature of God and Jesus. We are created in God’s image. Wisdom is there at the beginning, “rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (Proverbs 8:30) Paul, in Romans 5:3), boasts in the “hope of sharing the glory of God.” Jesus, in John 16:14-15, says that everything God has “is mine” and that the Spirit will take all that and pass it on to us.

I worry a little when Psalms 8 goes on about the dominion given to humanity, putting “all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and . . . the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea . . .” (vss.6-8) Are we really the crowning glory of creation? We certainly haven’t always done a great job of exercising dominion. Yet there is an inner “Spirit” that sometimes tunes us into a divine spark within, reminding us that we are part of the love that drives all creation. The reformer, Martin Luther, sometimes spoke of us as “Little Christs.” The dominion to which we are called is one of humble love which works not for self-aggrandizement and power but for the well-being of all. If somehow we are inhabited by the “glory of God,” if that is what it means for the Holy Spirit to be at work in us, it is important to remember that the God we’re talking about (emulating?) is a God whose love is revealed in one who was called a “suffering servant.”

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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