God Is Still Speaking
Trinitarian Congregational Church
Anthony S. Kill
May 27, 2018
Texts: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, John 16:12-15
In today’s first reading, Wisdom is personified as “Lady Wisdom,” a companion of Almighty God, who was present with God, even working for God, in the very creation of the world. I know this seems like a strange concept, since we Christians believe that there is only one God, and God is one. But on the other hand, we Christians also believe in the Trinity – that there are three persons in the one God. And today is Trinity Sunday, the one Sunday in the church year when we are invited to reflect on the trinity. And it is particularly appropriate that we do so here, at Trinitarian Congregational Church.
In the first verses of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, we read “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth; the earth was a formless void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
And in today’s reading from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom says “When God 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.”
So Lady Wisdom and the Spirit of God are sometimes identified as the same being, especially since the word ‘Spirit’ (ruach) is also feminine.
So also, at the very beginning of the Gospel of John, we read, “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.”
Here John is obviously talking about Christ, the living Word of God – so the wisdom figure in Proverbs is also identified with Christ, the Word who was with God from the beginning, and the Word was God.
As a logical concept, this may be more than we can comprehend or explain. But as a spiritual affirmation, I think it can have real meaning for us, still today. Let me offer a little background and context that might suggest how this might apply to our time. According to Biblical scholars, in all probability, the creation story in Genesis was written by the ancient Hebrews as a counterpoint to the creation myths of other cultures around them. The Babylonians believed that creation happened violently. The father god Apsu and mother goddess Tiamat rose up out of the primal soup of chaos, and mated, and gave birth to numerous children. But these young offspring gods led by Marduk were violent and unruly, and turned against their parents. They killed Apsu, and the widowed Tiamat created a species of monsters to punish her rebellious children.
Then the Babylonian creation story is basically told by describing the violence with which Marduk defeated Tiamat (who’s body was then split into the earth and the sky to hold back the watery chaos above and below.) Humans were then created to be a class of slaves for the victorious gods, and Marduk has chosen the empire of Babylon as his agent in this world, the earthly seat of his oppressive and violent power over the world.
For a long time, the Hebrew people were slaves and vassals of the cruel Babylonians, and for the Jewish people, the chosen tribe bound by covenant to the Lord, the One God, the big question was, ‘Could the Babylonian’s creation story be true? Has the created world come out of violence and chaos, dominated by the strongest or cruelest or most cunning warriors?’ And the companion question, for a powerless people suffering in exile was, ‘Could the our God, the One God, bring forth life out of their seemingly dark and hopeless situation? Could life still begin again for them? Was new life stirring in the midst of the death-ridden waters of their times? Was it safe to trust? Was there any reason to hope? Was it worthwhile to go on living their lives as bravely and as graciously as they could, believing that the light would one day begin to shine again?’
In answer to this dilemma, the story of the Genesis creation was formed, not to make a scientific claim about how the world was made, or in how many days, but to make a confession of faith about why it was made, and who made it. The single most important purpose the authors had in mind, was to say that the One, faithful, creative God was truly the source of all that is on earth. The world was made from creative love and goodness, not from destructive warfare and death. God has power over the chaos, and God still moved over the dark waters of creation, brooding over it and seeking to bring forth life.
When the text says that ‘ruach’ – the “breath” of God or the “spirit” of God ‘hovered over the waters’ at creation, the word for ‘hovered’ in the Hebrew is marahapeth. But the better translation is the Spirit “brooded” over the waters. Some older editions of the Bible translate it that way.
Now when we hear the word ‘brood’ I suspect many of us think of a frowning, dour mood. (Someone is over in corner brooding) But I’m from a farm, and for me that’s not what brooding means at all. When a hen or a mother bird decides to stay on her nest and keep her eggs warm till they hatch, she’s brooding. And when we picked eggs in the henhouse, us kids always knew better than to get our hands near a brooding hen, because she was sure to get protective and aggressive. Nothing would move her off those eggs until they be hatched out as chicks. She would hover over those eggs — brood over those eggs – until new life began to stir under her. Then she’d have her brood of chicks.
So the Spirit is brooding over creation – brooding to create life. It is a powerful image, and it is intended to mean is that there is no chaos, no darkness, in which the people find themselves, out of which God cannot still bring forth life. There is no chaos, no darkness, in which the people find themselves out of which God cannot still bring forth life.
We live in times nearly as uncertain and chaotic and vulnerable as those ancient times. Volcanoes, floods, droughts, school shootings, terrorism, crime, scandals,abuse, corruption, addiction, disease, disorder. We have seen the powers of chaos break forth unleashed in our time. The world we once took for granted, with all its superior security and protection from the chaos that other lands may experience –sometimes it seems like that world has shuddered and shattered and crumbled. It seems as if our own land has become as dangerous and deadly as any other on earth, and our once most trusted institutions seem to have lost any ability to govern wisely or protect us or insure our security.
So the question still seems very much alive: Will the forces of chaos prevail? Is chaos the ruling order of the day? And the answer that the Book of Genesis provided then, and speaks to us still, reverberating on a deep and mythic level: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” and “God saw all that was made, and it was very good!” The world was made by the hand of a loving God, and a loving God is creating among us still. The Spirit of God still hovers over the world, brooding, creating new life. God is still creating; God is still speaking.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus assures his disciples that, even after his ascension into heaven, the Spirit of truth will come, and will continue to be with them, and will guide them into all truth. God’s spirit, Christ’s Spirit, will be with us forever. At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus last words to his disciples are “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the world.”
Genesis starts with…In the Beginning, God created… And Matthew’s Gospel ends with “And behold I am with you always, to the end of the world.” In the beginning, God In the end, God. In between…?
Some of you may remember the movie, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” It came out several years ago. (2011) In a nutshell, it’s about a young man in India who wants to restore his family’s rather run-down hotel to its former glory.
He advertises world-wide and attracts a number of retirees from Britain, who come to India in hopes to survive on their rather meager retirement incomes. But when the first clients arrive, they find that the creaky, dusty hotel is not at all like the vision he had sold them in the brochures and online. They are stunned, and, when one of them complains vociferously, the young man assures them that the work is not yet finished; he is using all his resources to try to keep them happy, and to persuade an investor to loan him the funds to make his vision a reality.
To one disgruntled guest, he uses a phrase that is repeated three times in the film. It seems to be the message of the movie, and I think it’s a message that every believer can take to heart. In the face of repeated disappointment, the young man says, “In India, we have a saying; everything will be alright in the end. So, if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.”
Your life may not match all your dreams or live up to all your ambitions, but God’s work in you is not yet finished. “It will be alright in the end, and, if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.”
The world around you may not seem to live up to the promise of creation or the promise of the resurrection, but God’s work in the world, God’s work in all of us, is not yet finished. “Everything will be alright in the end. So, if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.”
In the beginning, God.
In the end, God.
As our next hymn will proclaim:
“God abides, the Word unchanging, God the First and God the Last.”