Sunday, 8 February 2015

Can't make it to church - 8 February 2015

What's in a name?

Today's readings all cause us to ask this question and then provide some potential answers too.

Today we find ourselves in difficult and confusing places (and I will probably make them all the more difficult buy the time I've finished).

Looking at Proverbs we find the feminine Sophia (wisdom) - and the John passage taking us to the word Logos (masculine).  So are we finding here the attributes of the invisible God (male and female - He made them both 'in His image') made visible and given the attributes of being? The Colossians passage takes us back once more into the invisible becoming visible and confirm this for Jesus, but what of sophia, are we seeing something earth-shattering but passed by (perhaps because it's all about suppressing the feminine) or something else?

It is a day of comparatives and the Collect and post communion prayer help us with this task as we find references to the tree of life (in the centre of Eden) and the bread of life and are encouraged do discern God's hand in His works and His likeness in His children (us).

The book of Genesis tells us of creation - and the tree of life (something tangible and physical) - and of Eden and before that, when creation was - the Spirit brooding. Is this sophia that which was present then - can we assume that there Holy Spirit and sophia are one and the same?

Are we, in the proverbs passage experiencing anthropomorphism* as 'it' becomes 'she'. In the John passage we see 'the Word' - part of the Trinity, become 'He' and that 'He' is, in case you weren't sure,is Jesus.

Some traditions have it that Sophia (hagia sophia - holy wisdom) is more than an attribute of God but the third person. God the source - God the word - God the holy wisdom.

We probably all know the John 1 passage in the English (and perhaps the Greek too):

En arche ain ho logosIn [the] beginning was the Word.

kai ho logos een pros ton theon and the Word was with the God."

kai theos een ho logos and God was the Word.

But probably have not registered the proverbs passage in the same way.

We have before us a real intellectual struggle as we find before us - The male Father - the female Sophia and the male Word as the Trinity? Many sermons I have heard over the years lean on this and use the 'in His image He made them both 

So wisdom - the third member of the Trinity? I would have to admit to struggling with this because of the the words: 'The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago,' for, as with the Jesus debate that was a big issue in 325 AD in Nicea+ - I trouble with this 'created' element for this implies subservience whereas I am under the impression that there is a harmony and equality. One substance - three natures as the traditional explanation of the trinity would have it.

But wisdom is more than being wise - and could it be that the glimpses of god and the ability to see what is good! right and holy and make it ours (something so very Holy Spirit-like) is something we ignore or diminish in today's society and with the Church of Christ.

Source - Wisdom - Word  is this (as some tell me)  Father - Spirit - Son?

The brooding Spirit of Genesis and the wisdom of Proverbs do indeed contain similarities and resonances BUT … in Proverbs, where we first hear about wisdom (which is why it is called both poetic and wisdom literature) and then have little epithets and saying by which wisdom can be seen and made ours - do we find someone to be added? Do we find the identity of the hagia sophia (holy wisdom) as the third person of the Trinity  or are we adding a fourth person to the party?

A sermon I listened to a few years ago spoke of women’s freedom from oppression and how sophia could lead them into freedom from the male dominated Trinity - either by adapting the Holy Spirit or be adding a new dimension for women to take up and reside with. The female, creation, voice of God perhaps?

And here I have to dash the idea to the ground and say that it is something anthropomorphic - that is giving human attributes and characterisation to something which is not truly a person but something to be embraced  - something that disrupts the ‘do this - get that’ linear world that existed then, and now! Wisdom says that whilst we can set things up to meet our needs and fulfil our expectations - we won’t always get what we have hoped for. Wisdom is so often borne out of experience - and that is often prefaced with the word ‘bitter’.

I would go so far as to say that wisdom confirms the rational expectations but also introduces the unexpected - and this cocquetishness is truly something alluring, attractive and yes, female. Wisdom calls out us and to recline in her presence - to explore and consider and take up the right path - often tempered by experience (ours and others) and with the subtext that from out most foolish of choices there can sometimes be fruit - but wisdom guarantees that fruit more consistently. 

So it is sensible to seek wisdom. But we do this in the knowledge that the Word (logos and Logos) guides and upholds us and sets us free by the light that they bring - The invisible God - made visible in Jesus, the Christ, calls us to walk the paths of wisdom as we walk the path of the Cross.

Wisdom is created and inferior to God - Jesus is one with the father and this is where the path that led to Nicea (325 AD) and Arianism  is found, and this confusion, whilst giving us the Nicene Creed, is merely misplaced.

So seek wisdom but remain steadfast in Jesus, the Christ, the invisible God made visible.

Accept no substitutes and seek no alternatives :-)

Proverbs 8.1, 22-31
Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 

Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped,before the hills, I was brought forth - when he had not yet made earth and field or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, 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. 

Colossians 1.15-20
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

John 1.1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

The Collect
Almighty God,
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer
God our creator,
by your gift
the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise,
and the bread of life at the heart of your Church:
may we who have been nourished at your table on earth
be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross
and enjoy the delights of eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Why not listen to this and as you do - invite Jesus to meet with you?

Hand Him the stresses and strains, the needs and the failings (yours and others)?

Listen and let His Holy Spirit fill and heal and enable you?

Yeah - I know it's not modern - but let the timeless enter into the temporal and rejoice in it!

*anthropomorphism - giving human characteristics to something which is not human.

+ Council of Nicea - worth looking up and reading about


Geoff said...

I like what you have written here. A tough subject but you have given me food for thought rather that issues trite or unfounded "facts'. No opinions and yet plenty of opinions for me to make my own or refute.

Wish I'd done this in my sermon - can see where the wrong turns were made in the light of your post.



Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Just seen this - glad it helped,