05.22.2016 Preaching Text: “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1)
I sometimes wish we could bottle these rare days of spring when all of life seems fresh and new, bursting with color and vibrancy amid days of endless sunshine that sparkle and dazzle.
It is days like these that sometimes remind me of my youth. When I look back, for reasons not entirely clear, I tend to remember two days in particular.
The first was similar to this past Thursday, a day both clear and bright. I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade, though I wouldn’t swear to it, but I have this distinct memory of walking down the hill from my childhood home to a verdant field edged on one side by a small brook.
Because the land was low, and it was spring, the field was that lush green you only tend to find this time of year. I remember the feel of it on my bare toes, soft and sensuous.
The sky was a sun-splashed bright blue, with maybe a puffy cloud or two, and temperatures in the low 70’s. I could hear the sound of rushing water gurgling in the brook as it flowed magnificently to God-knows-where.
The scene was absolutely idyllic, and even as a young child I was aware of how uncommon and fleeting an experience it was. Time seemed to stand still, everything seemed perfect – the temperature, the spring beauty, the sights and sounds. I had this undeniable sense of being perfectly one with nature.
Yet, as I say, I was also aware, even then, of how fleeting such moments in life truly are. It was but a brief flash of ecstasy, of euphoria, and something I knew couldn’t last. And in that sense it was heartbreaking.
The other moment took place, believe it or not, in the library at Western Junior High School. I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. While reading, I suddenly knew I was experiencing some sort of transformative moment. What had been a perfectly ordinary, non-distinct moment in the library instantly become something altogether remarkable.
There I was, sitting and reading, suddenly feeling privileged to be able to do so. I sensed a kind of lightness of being, the godly kind. And I knew it was rare.
In reading Proverbs this past week, itself a poetic rendering of how God’s wisdom both brought forth all of creation and is infused in and through every aspect of it, I thought of those rare moments when God’s wisdom breaks through the fog of everyday life, brief moments when the veil is lifted and we see the light of life as God intends us to see it, just as Proverbs does.
Back in 1964, Bob Dylan, the folk singer, released a song entitled, My Back Pages. I was never really all that up on his work but I do remember as a kid hearing this song and being struck (and confounded) by the constant refrain at the end of each stanza: “Ah, but I was so much older then,” it intoned, “I’m younger than that now.”
At the time I remember thinking how odd and counterintuitive this all sounded, precisely because, I suppose, I was a kid. Youth’s aspiration, after all, is to grow up, to get older, to reach adulthood and its promised independence.
Yet here the songwriter seemed to be celebrating the merits of becoming young again. The idea seemed to be that newfound wisdom had led him to reject the hardscrabble wisdom of the world.
I now know the song was intended as a bold declaration of Dylan’s apostasy from the political “protest” movement that typified folk music at the time.
He seemed to be saying that, in looking back on what he had become, something essential had been lost. He had grown too “old.” But in rejecting the dark wisdom of the world, he had become young again!
As a kid I remember thinking this was somehow profound, though I didn’t really have a clue as to why. But now I think I do (have a clue that is!).
In Proverbs we hear the poet’s voice celebrating the primal beginnings of God’s wisdom. It is the first thing, the first essence, the first source. Out of this source was to come everything that is, and nothing that is was made without it.
At minimum, this means that what was true at life’s beginnings is true still. It is this primal truth that haunts us when we deviate from it and the same truth we experience in those rare revelatory moments when God breaks into time. In this we see what God has always intended us to see. Alas, it’s been there all along, from the very beginning.
Thus the sad wisdom of our world, the “adult” sophistication that passes as truth, is a fraud, a pale substitute for the wisdom which always was, is, and ever shall be.
Last week we commemorated the coming of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost. It is this same Spirit who resides in our hearts today, who touches our souls, who shows us not the “old” things that pass for wisdom in our world, but the much older, truer things that existed prior even to creation, things too often buried under multiple layers of sin’s grim and fate-filled wisdom.
When the Spirit comes to call, our eyes are opened to the things we thought were gone forever, things that also anticipate a glorious future. In these revelatory moments we get a peek not only at that which is older than life itself, but which is, paradoxically, both new and yet to be.
Every Christian, therefore, seeing through the lens of the Spirit, is granted perspective to say, “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
Those moments from my childhood are moments that help define the present, while foreshadowing the future. It is a future related to a primal past, a past infused with the light of God’s creative wisdom and purpose. These are moments as euphoric as they are true, as true to life as at its very beginnings.
Knowing this, Paul, in Romans, encourages us to hold fast to God’s eternal future regardless of the trials we face.
In John’s gospel the Holy Spirit alights upon the disciples, the same Spirit who will guide, comfort, and instruct them as they await the fullest expression of God’s future (which harkens back to life’s very beginnings).
As Christians we are drawn into the Trinitarian community of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, and urged to become young again, to be born anew, to see ourselves as part of a God who not only was and is, but shall ever be. Amen.