June 16, 2019
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us is the First Lesson read from Proverbs chapter 8.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Just for fun, when I started writing this sermon, I “googled” the word “why.” Know how many results I got? 8.46 billion…with a “b.” Must be a WHOLE LOT of people out there looking to the Internet to find answers to their “why” questions. And maybe you have some too.
Let’s start with “why is the color white today?” White is a color of perfection and purity. It is often used to celebrate high, holy days in church. The color for Christmas is white. The color for Epiphany is white. The color for All Saints’ Day and Thanksgiving is white. The color of Easter is…you guessed it…white. White is a natural choice for today’s celebration of the Holy Trinity. Today we focus on our perfect and pure Triune God and what He does for us, hence the color is white. Next week, we switch to green making 4 color and paraments and banner changes in 4 weeks, and right about now the Altar Guild wants to nail what’s left of my hide to their sacristy door.
“Why do we even have a Trinity celebration in the first place?” In the 4th century, a controversy broke out in the Christian churches. Focusing on Proverbs chapter 8 – our lesson for today – the followers of the priest Arius argued that the Son of God was a created being and not eternal God. They argued that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. Much of their argument rested on a faulty Greek translation (Septuagint) of Proverbs 8:22: “The Lord created Me,” instead of “The Lord possessed Me.” To refute the Arian controversy, the Athanasian Creed was written and adopted by the Christian Church teaching all three eternal, not made persons of the Triune God. Every year the Church celebrates the 1st Sunday after Pentecost as “Holy Trinity,” and this celebration is the only time during the year that we use the Athanasian Creed in worship.
In our modern day, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken up this ancient heresy. To support their false doctrine, they mistranslate Scriptures like Proverbs 8:22 and John 1:1. For John 1:1, their New World Translation says, “The Word was a god,” instead of, ‘The Word was God.” Big difference! Their false translation makes Jesus a second tier god alongside the heavenly Father. Clearly, this teaching does not fit with Holy Scripture, which teaches that there is only one God!
“Okay then,” you may think, “if the Triune God is so important today, then why are you talking about Wisdom from Proverbs 8?” First of all, you ask a lot of questions. Secondly, I didn’t want this to be a theological lecture on the Triune nature of God. Finally, when we talk about wisdom, we ARE talking about the Triune God, specifically Jesus Christ.
According to Proverbs, Wisdom was present already in eternity, before the creation of the world and, consequently, before there even was such a thing as time. Along the same lines, Jesus said, “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:5). I don’t know what the Jehovah’s Witnesses do with that verse! Wisdom was present with God in the beginning (Pr 8:22). At the time of creation, Wisdom said, “I was beside [God], like a master workman,” (v. 30) verifying the co-eternal nature of all 3 persons of the Triune God.
I get it. I can see the glazed looks up here; like a cow looking at a new gate. When we come face-to-face with the eternally begotten Son and other mysteries concerning the Triune God, don’t be shocked if you’re confused. We are in realms beyond human comprehension. We can no more capture and define our eternal, omnipotent 3-in-1 Triune God within our minds than we can hold all of the Gulf of Mexico in a 5 gallon bucket.
Which, I suppose, leads to the next “why” question. In Proverbs 8:31, it says God “rejoices in his inhabited world and delights in the children of man,” then why do so many bad things happen to me? Why do we suffer so much?” Well…there it is. If “what is Heaven?” is the $64,000, then “why do we suffer” is the 64 million dollar question. “Why God, why? Why is my life the way it is? Why can’t You make my life better? Why won’t my kids or spouse listen to me? Why do my joints/my back have to ache all the time? Why can’t I have more than enough money to pay for once? Why did you have to take him/her out of my life? Why can’t you turn my life around?” Why can’t I for once wake up in a good mood? Why? Why? Why me, God? Why? It is a question that haunts us day in and day out.
Why? As God’s people, we live each day by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We look around at the circumstances and events of our lives, and in our wisdom we want to know “why?” But there isn’t always an answer. Paul reminds us in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live…The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Living by faith means that we may not know the answer to “why?” It means we may not see the why, but we know and trust that, in God’s wisdom, there is a “how.”
As silver and gold are refined by fire, God is wisely refining our character through our suffering. We endure so that we can be an example to others. And we have to, and I mean that we HAVE TO remember that God sees the “big picture” and you don’t. In his wisdom, God is working all things for your good which will ultimately turn out more favorable than we ever could have imagined. It’s been my experience that joy cannot be found without the piercing anguish of sorrow and suffering first. “Why” is the wrong question. “How.” How is God’s Triune wisdom being applied to my life? That’s a much better question.
The true wonder of it all is that the almighty Creator has come to us to save us. Jesus is God; He is Immanuel. He is true God and true Man, a Savior who has suffered, died, and risen for us for the forgiveness of our sins. Without this loving sacrifice at Calvary, our God would be an unfamiliar god of wrath and anger and punishment. But that’s not who we confess Him to be. He is a God whom is Almighty, Loving, Eternal, and will return for final judgment of His created world; an event we need not fear, but is something we want to happen!
My prayer for you this summer is that you will come to a deeper understanding of your loving and saving God and what His Word – His Wisdom – teaches you not only for the summer, but for all eternity.