1 Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4 "To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. 22 "The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.- Proverbs 8:1-4
Wisdom calls. Wisdom takes a stand at the crossroads and before the city gates. But is anyone listening? It would seem not. It would seem not when we, as a nation, have selected as one of the major candidates for our highest office someone who seem to revel in ignorance. I do mean we, as a nation. When we can’t have a rational, reasoned debate over issues without it instantly degenerating into name calling, when we literally can’t agree on the truth that is right in front of us—have you seen the video of the college kids who couldn’t challenge or question the white guy saying that he’s actually a 6’ 5” Chinese woman?—Wisdom’s call is clearly being drowned out in all the noise.
No one is listening or heeding wisdom’s call. But there are certainly a lot of people speaking as if they knew. Literally everyone seems to have a firmly held conviction about God and spirituality. Even those who aren’t sure we can know anything for certain are sure of this one thing: we can’t know anything for certain. The two subjects you never discuss in polite company are religion and politics. Why? Because everyone has an opinion. And everyone feels very passionately about that opinion. And God help you—literally!—if you try to challenge, let alone change another person’s opinion.
One of the most important questions to ask is simply: “How do you know?” or “What led you to that conclusion?” How many people would be able to answer that question? The reality is that we’ve made ‘truth’ whatever seems right. We live under the tyranny of the ‘self’—whatever I think or feel is true and no one can challenge that.
But I’m not talking to them today, am I? I’m talking to you. We have the same problem, don’t we? The Truth used to matter—especially within the church. Now, there is a disdain for doctrine even within the church. What I believe isn’t as important as how I feel about the church. How important is it that what we teach and believe is true? One of the best measures would be to consider this question: If I, as your pastor, did something you didn’t like—not something seriously wrong, or immoral, just something you didn’t like—would you think about leaving? Would you consider not coming to church anymore? Which is really more important? That I teach the truth or that you like me?
Consider another question: What is it that we need to be teaching our children? If we gave you the chance to question the confirmands last weekend, what questions would you have asked? Questions about doctrine? Questions about basic Bible knowledge? Or would it have been more important to you to ask about their relationship with Jesus—how often they pray? How often they read their Bibles? How often they share their faith? Or would it be important to you to question them like that at all? Does what they know or what they can answer matter?
Or let’s move the calendar back a little earlier. What is it that is most important to do in a Sunday School? The trend over the past decade or so has been toward more games. To teach the kids to enjoy coming to church and to enjoy learning about Jesus. And, in the end, whether they actually learn about Jesus or not isn’t nearly as important.
We are living out the same thing that we see going on in the gospel reading. “These guys—the religious elite—had their visions and expectations of what the Christ was supposed to look like, sound like, and act like, and this lowly schmuck Galilean, Jesus, matched none of those criteria. These guys were looking for the glory of God, and Jesus wasn’t it. There was nothing glorious (or even exceptional) about this bum. They didn’t see what they were looking for, though it was “hidden” right there in plain sight, standing right in front of their faces the entire time. Think about that! Jesus was standing there—face to face—speaking to them; the very Son of God, in whom the Father was truly revealing His glory; in whom the full glory of the Godhead dwelt bodily (cf. Col 1:19, “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”). The problem was that God was revealing that almighty glory to them in a very unexpected, loving, meek, and humble way so that His Almighty glory would not consume them, but instead give them life. They couldn’t see the forest for the trees. More specifically, they didn’t want to see the forest for the trees.
And just like it is for the people in our culture and our day and age, “religious” as they might claim to be, the Pharisees’ hearing of the Word of God—the very Word made flesh that came to die for them and forgive them—simply wasn't glorious enough for them. It didn’t measure up. In fact, it was downright offensive to them. “Repent? Turn and believe? Who do you think you are? What about all my good works? Don’t those count for anything? You mean that God-forsaken beggar, that tax collector, that prostitute is going to receive a spot in the kingdom, while good people like me are in danger of missing the cut? You’ve got to be kidding! This can’t be it!” God’s revealed glory and wisdom in Christ didn’t match their expectations. Why? Because the wisdom of God seemed foolish to them. The glory of God was hidden/veiled in the person of the simple man standing before them and simply speaking to them, this Jesus of Nazareth, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and buried.
Of course, as I said just a few moments ago, the Pharisees’ unbelieving blindness and deafness to reality is nothing new. In fact, the problem was there long before the Pharisees, and the problem is still alive and well in our day and age. The full glory of God is still hidden and still standing right before you in this holy Christian Church; this communion of saints. As far as we’ve come in the past two thousand years, so many people claiming to be “religious” and “Christian” still continue to reject the glory of God revealed in both Word and Sacrament today. It's still just not glorious enough. It doesn’t measure up, so therefore it simply cannot be.”
[broaden statement to “The Truth”]
The Truth of God is difficult. It doesn’t give us all the answers we’d like to have. It says things we don’t like to hear. And it even says things that don’t make sense—like the Trinity. “This is precisely why we do and say what we do on Trinity Sunday. I know some of you don’t like the Athanasian Creed because it’s so-o-o-o long and redundant. I know some of you think today is a waste of time because you already know about the Trinity. Some of you may be disappointed because, being Trinity Sunday, you expected to hear something new and revealing about the Trinity. Sorry to disappoint you. Today is not about giving you some inside, secret knowledge about the Trinity that no one else knows. Today is about getting back to basics and listening to and following the Truth and Wisdom of God while we walk and dwell in a world that promotes lies and half-truths and condemns God’s Truth.
Just look at what is happening here today in your very midst. Here is the glory and wisdom of our almighty and Triune God present and at work. Our heavenly Father continues to send His only-begotten Son to feed us and nourish us with His life-giving, life-saving Word and Body and Blood. The Father hasn’t ever stopped sending! Our heavenly Father continues to show mercy to us because our resurrected and victorious Christ Jesus continues to show Him His crucifixion wounds, reminding Him that it is indeed finished, once and for all. The voice of God—Wisdom incarnate—still calls out and raises the voice to all who will hear. “Come, all you who are heavy-laden. Come, all you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Take and eat. Take and drink. This is My body. This is My blood, given and shed for you for the complete forgiveness of all your sin. Depart now in peace.” The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from both the Father and the Son, is actively at work in these means of grace, opening our ears, our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to faithfully behold the glory and wisdom of God to us, for us, and among us. “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, but the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies me (and the Church) in this one, true faith.”
I know these elementary morsels of doctrine probably seem redundant to some of you. After all, you’ve already done confirmation. You’re good. Believe it or not, but getting back to basics isn’t a bad thing. Staying grounded in the basics isn’t a bad thing. Elementary repetition can be very good! This is how “muscle memory” happens. The same goes with faith. Today especially we do revisit and allow God Himself to remind us and re-orient us to who He is and what He’s all about. Today our elementary focus on the Trinity helps us so that we don’t miss anything; so that we don’t miss almighty God at work and in our very presence. We live in a world that is filled with demonic lies and half-truths. The devil lies to us. This fallen and sinful world lies to us. Even the Old Adam flesh in the mirror lies to us all the time. It’s all very seductive and appealing. It’s all very empowering and “liberating.” It’s all so glorifying and makes us feel so good. It’s all so very sad, and none of it is new.
This is why I (just like Pastor Allen and Pastor Schlicker and all the other pastors who have served you) are constantly pointing you to examine and discern what it is you are hearing, learning, reading, marking, and inwardly-digesting, and clamoring after. Is it of God, or not? Is it the Truth, or not? Is it the Wisdom of God, or not? The Wisdom of God is offensive and folly to men, but…that doesn’t make it wrong. Is the Word and Wisdom of God rightly taught and His Sacraments rightly administered?
Folks: This is how the Almighty and Triune God abides with us and continues to work our salvation; through His humble and hidden-in-plain-sight means of grace. I don’t want you to miss any of it, and neither (and especially) does your almighty and Triune God, who desires the death of no one, but desires that all may hear and turn and have the abundance of life that’s found only in Him.
I’ll close by simply asking you: Given all this merciful goodness of God, can you ever get enough, let alone “too much” of this “hidden” glory of God? I suppose that does depend on whether or not you behold these gifts of life and forgiveness through the worldly eyes and ears of fallen and sinful reason, or through the opened eyes and ears of simple, child-like saving faith that our almighty and Triune God desires to give to you and to all who will hear His Wisdom. As Christ said, that does depend on whether or not you are of God.”
Questions like “How do you know?” and “What led you to that conclusion?” matter. There is a Truth that is outside of us that cuts through all the subjectiveness, cuts through 7 billion personal opinions, sets us free from the tyranny of the self. The blessed truth is that the youngest child, speaking based on what he or she knows from God’s Word, speaks with more authority than the most brilliant and educated earthly expert. Wisdom—Jesus Christ—is calling.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear! As children by faith who do hear and keep His Word, may the Almighty and Triune God continue to bless you with this absolutely free gift of saving faith so that you will never miss the heavenly forest for the gracious abundance of holy trees already firmly planted in your midst. As you prepare to disperse into this great big world of ours, may He grant you the open mouth that naturally comes with this saving faith—the open mouth that can’t help but bear faithful fruit by proclaiming the Good News of Christ Jesus crucified and resurrected for all mankind.