Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.
Morganís Wonderland is an ultra-accessible park that has been specially designed to meet the needs of special needs children and adults. Every inch of the park has taken their special requirements to heart, creating a place where those who are disabled can experience the world with the freedom of a butterfly. The rides have special seats for wheelchairs, there are six different types of swings and the play areas are safe with activities that will make anyone happy.
Gordon Hartman, a former builder in San Antonio, retired from his work to begin a foundation that gives grants to organizations that serve the special needs community. He has a reason: his daughter Morgan is autistic, and so heís familiar with the challenges of living with disabilities and the joys that are found in overcoming those challenges. Mr. Hartman thought of the idea after watching his little girl try to play with a group of children at a hotel pool a few years ago. The children wanted to play, also, but they did understand Morganís unique distress in unfamiliar circumstances. The relationship never occurred.
Mr. Hartman thought that it would be a good idea to have a place where the special needs of these children can be met while offering an opportunity for kids without disabilities to learn how to share time, space and fun with these unique individuals. Everyone is welcome at Morganís Wonderland, and everyone leaves with a feeling of peace and understanding.
I have talked about Morganís Wonderland in the past, but I thought about it as I was reading through the scriptures for this week. Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday, the last special festival before we enter into the ordinary time of the Pentecost season. In the next few months, weíll hear scriptures that help us to understand the God we worship, the place of the Church in the world and the work we are called to do. The next few months are given to us to help us learn what it means to be a disciple. What is the cost? What is the responsibility? What is the reward?
With this Sundayís scriptures, we begin the quest of understanding the God we worship. We are beginning at one of the most challenging of all ideas. What is the Trinity? Theologians for generations have tried to understand what seems obvious while at the same time beyond our grasp. Weíve come up with analogies, human experiences that can help explain the divine, but none are truly accurate. No example will ever be completely accurate because God is greater than the creation.
Yet, as I was thinking about the scriptures for this week, I began to see some parallels between the creation of the world and the creation of Morganís Wonderland. Gordon Hartman is certainly not God, Morgan is not Jesus, but we can see similarities in their relationships. Mr. Hartman is the one who has done the work; it is beyond Morganís ability and resources to accomplish such a great feat. Yet, she was there at the inception of the idea. She was the force behind the creation of the park. It was done with her special needs in mind. It was done out of love for her. In his speeches, Mr. Hartman gives Morgan the glory. She is the face of the park, the flesh and blood reason for its existence, and the one after whom it has been named. See any parallels yet?
It is interesting to be at the park when Mr. Hartman stops by. We (everyone: staff, volunteers, visitors) seem to look at him with a sense of awe. He is not worshipped by any means, but we wonder at the love heís given to his daughter and put into this park. He cares about everyone. No matter how busy he might be, he stops to talk to anyone. He asks us if we are well, thanks us for being there. He is admired and often held at a distance not out of fear but wonder. Who is this man who would do something so wonderful? Yet, he does not keep himself separated from those who enjoy his creation. See another parallel?
When we talk about the creation, we know that Christ was there from the beginning. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul says that it is by Him all things were created, and all things were created by and for Him. He is the first and in Him all things are held together. John tells us that Christ is the Logos, the Word and that He was there at the beginning. Whatever God spoke came to be, His voice spoke His ideas and they became manifest in all of Creation, including the human beings who were specially chosen to be Godís reflection on earth. When the time was right, God spoke again, and Christ came in the flesh of Jesus, to restore Godís people to Himself. He was there in the beginning. He is before everything. Without Him, nothing would exist.
Early Christians recognized that Wisdom, particularly in this Proverb, is the Word, the Logos, Jesus Christ. In Proverbs 8 we see that Wisdom is both personified but also possessed by God. Wisdom is separate, but also a part of God and equal to Him. The Proverb talks about the divinity and eternity of Wisdom. Nothing is equal to God, or divine like God, or eternal like God. Therefore, Wisdom being possessed by God is an aspect of God and is God. Jesus, the Son, is also by God, brought up with God, ever present and before all time, equal with God. Godís attributes are a part of Himself. Jesus the Son is an attributeóa unique part of the Godhead, separate but not separate, unified with God the Father. We have certainly heard that recently in the Gospel readings from John, ďThe Father is in me and I am in the Father.Ē Jesus existed before He was incarnated at His birth. The Spirit existed before being given to the people of God. They were, and are, always part of God.
Wisdom existed before it was expressed in the voice of God at creation. When God spoke and wisdom was made manifest, then creation was given life and it is in that voice that we can know God. Finding Wisdom, knowing Jesus, brings life. It is not enough to believe in some unknown and unknowable Ďgodí. Life, salvation, is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, ďI am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.Ē Wisdom took pleasure in men, took the nature of men, dwelt among us and filled us with unspeakable treasures. It is no wonder that the early Christians saw Christ in this personification of Wisdom.
Wisdom does not mean that we will know everything. Sometimes the wise man does not seek to explain the unexplainable. Though it is helpful to put to words our ideas about God, can we really expect to use words to describe that which is indescribable? I suppose it can be daunting to think about serving a God that we do not fully understand, particularly in this modern age when we can study the smallest microscopic things of this world and the largest suns in the universe. We do not want to believe that there is a mystery we will not solve. It troubles us, leaves us without peace. But the purpose of discovering God is not to know everything, but to experience His love and find the peace that He gives.
God has made it clear through His creation that He is God and that He is Sovereign. He is greater than the highest mountain, deeper than the deepest see, larger than the universe and farther from the furthest sun. Yet, we can know Him intimately. We are nothing, yet we are the crown of His creation. We are given dominion over all that He has created, but even more importantly, He has made us children and heirs to all that He has. In the reality of our place in Godís Kingdom, we are specks on a speck in the universe. Even the universe is a speck compared to the fullness of God. His ways are higher, His thoughts greater than anything we can imagine.
Yet, we are called to live out our faith in this world, to continue the work of Christ in the world, to be the visible manifestation of Godís love to our neighbor. To do this, we begin with wisdom. We begin by knowing Christ. How do you describe faith? How do you define hope? What is the peace that Jesus promises? What is the love of God? What happens at baptism or at the communion table? Who is the Father, the Son, the Spirit? How do you explain the Trinity? When we have answers to these questions, then we can take the Christ we know into the world. Will we have all the answers? Will we be able to explain the mysteries of God? Part of our quest for understanding is the discovery that wisdom does not necessarily equal knowledge. Wisdom comes with faith.
It is not through reason that we are justified. We arenít saved by knowing how to define faith or how to explain the doctrines of our faith. We donít have to be a theologian and write theses on Church history or doctrine to be wise in Godís Kingdom. We donít get closer to God by having an intellectual understanding of His character. We are saved by faith, faith that comes to us through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit. In faith weíll do what God has called us to do. He has called us to live as He would live, to take care of the Creation He created, to serve our neighbors in love and mercy and grace.
We may never have the words to explain the Trinity or what it means to be a Christian, but we are called to share our faith with the world. It need not be a lengthy dissertation on the meaning of the great doctrines of Christianity. We need only share our experiences of God with others so that He might work in their lives to spark the faith that will make them part of Godís kingdom on earth. Isnít it amazing that God has made us part of this process? The psalmist asks, ďWhat is man, that thou art mindful of him?Ē Not only does God care about everyone and everything He has created, He has made man the crown of His creation and given us authority over everything.
With that authority, however, it is our responsibility to treat it as God would treat it. The wise man is one who will not abuse or waste what God has made. The wise man is the one who will seek to understand what God intends for the Creation and to use it to His glory. The wise man will go forth in faith and share the reality of Godís sovereignty and majesty with the world. It wonít be easy. We are tempted to do what we want with what we have been given. We face situations that leave us questioning what God would do. We donít always understand what God intends, and we fail. Sin plays a role in everything we do, no matter how much we try to avoid sinful behavior. Though saved by grace and sanctified by the Spirit, we are still sinners who make mistakes.
And we will be disciplined. Now, I know that many do not like the word discipline, because it often focuses on punishment and suffering. We would rather not worship a disciplinary God. Yet, discipline is not just punishment; discipline is training. We gain wisdom by studying and experiencing the world.
Morganís Wonderland was started as a simple park with some ramps and wide sidewalks to make it more accessible for those in wheelchairs. As the park was being built, however, they realized that they could do something extraordinary. The swing sets were expanded to include a specially designed swing for wheelchairs. A train and carousel was added, specially designed to be wheelchair accessible. Every detail was considered: color, sound, comfort, accessibility. As activities were created, guests were invited to try them. Problems were solved, changes were made. Even now, after the park has been open for several months, we are still trying to make the processes and programs work for the best interests of all our visitors. We make mistakes.
But through it all, we are getting better at doing the work that Mr. Hartman intended when he started building the park. The guests experience a sense of peace that theyíve never had at a park. They leave with joy and excitement, hopeful for their next visit. Our trials lead us to the right path, help us to gain wisdom so that weíll do better the next time. And next time, we hope weíll provide an even better experience for our guests.
Paul writes, ďAnd not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.Ē As we do the work of God in faith, weíll have experiences that are not pleasant. The trials we face are not discipline in the sense of punishment, but are useful to God to help us learn and grow. Wisdom comes from those experiences and we develop fortitude. Fortitude produces character, and character produces hope. It is all part of the journey we take when we become part of the body of Christ and helpers for God in this world.
We celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday as we enter into the Pentecost season because we need to see that God is more than just the Father, just the Son and just the Spirit. We need the whole Godhead to do what He has called us to do. We are reminded in the Gospel lesson that we could not have done anything if the whole plan of God had not come to be. The disciples would not have accomplished anything as the Church if Jesus had not gone to heaven and sent the Spirit. The disciples could not bear what was to come without the wisdom and strength that comes from having the Holy Spirit dwell within and amongst Godís people.
We donít tell people news until we know they are ready. If it is bad news we say, ďSit down, I have something to tell you.Ē If it is good news we get a glass of champagne to celebrate. The disciples could not bear everything that Christ had to say, so He sent the Spirit to continue teaching the disciples. It is by His power that we have faith. It is by His grace we have wisdom. It is in His strength that we can glorify Christ Jesus by living the life He started when He came in the flesh by serving our neighbor and sharing Godís love. We might not be ready today to do everything God is asking of us, but he will give us all we need to do His work. We need only walk by faith, knowing that God is sovereign over all of His creation. With us as His crown, we can be a part of something incredible: Godís Kingdom on earth, where all people can know Him and live in His love.
A WORD FOR TODAY
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