The Inheritance of God Worship Series: THE INHERITANCE OF WISDOM
Trinity Sunday - June 16, 2019
The Inheritance of Wisdom
Welcome to the first week of our worship series, “The Inheritance of God,” which begins with a calendric doozy: This Sunday is not only Trinity Sunday in the liturgical year; it also coincides with Father’s Day from the civic calendar and Peace with Justice Sunday from our United Methodist calendar. Moreover, we are nearing the end of the appointment cycle, and many of us are anticipating change, whether it is a physical move or moving into a new phase or season of our shared church life.
In the midst of the chaos, we encounter a confounding Bible passage about personified wisdom on a day when many in the congregation will expect some wisdom on the Trinity, on fatherhood, or on peace with justice. While this week’s preaching notes are tailored to addressing Trinity Sunday, there are some nuggets for other topical approaches.
For Trinity Sunday, we may be tempted to get caught up in theological gymnastics discussing the finer nuances of Trinitarian thought. However, because hopefully we are praising the Triune God explicitly and reinforcing those theological nuances throughout the year, we (the Discipleship Ministries planning team) thought it pertinent to ask a narrower question: “What does this inheritance of wisdom teach us about the nature of our Triune God?”
Here’s what we know about Wisdom according to the portrait in Proverbs:
- First, Wisdom is a creation of God, the first of God’s acts long ago, even before the earth was created. [Here it may be tempting to draw a Trinitarian parallel, but it is clear from the passage that there is no co-eternal aspect of Wisdom.]
- Second, Wisdom participated in God’s handiwork (v. 30 – “then I was beside him, like a master worker”) and rejoiced in God before the outset of the world.
- Third, Wisdom not only rejoiced in God, but also shared in God’s delight for humanity (v. 31).
There’s a unifying thread at play here. The relational nature of God is revealed through this passage about Wisdom. From the very beginning, God—with Wisdom as God’s playmate and master worker—was relational in the process of creating, molding, shaping, illuminating, and delighting in the created order. This portrait of Wisdom and God is not some kind of inchoate Trinity, but it does affirm the relational quality of God that we see in the inner workings of the Trinity. God is not a lone ranger.
The gospel reading from John 16:12-15 more explicitly demonstrates the inner relational dynamic of the Trinity. Jesus announces, “All that the Father has is mine,” a reality that will be declared by the Spirit.
While this may sound simplistic on a daunting day like Trinity Sunday, the simple truth is that our Triune God is relational. There is something beautiful about divine mystery being expressed in such a simple term as “relational.” God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit are beautifully entangled in a relational dance, reminding us that God’s very nature is communitarian.
The nature of God challenges our individualist orientation and speaks prophetically to our culture’s glorification of personal agency and individual sovereignty. If our God is at once individual and communal—One in Three—then we are called to mirror that dynamic in our own lives.
God’s communitarian and relational nature is a key bridging concept you could make for whichever approach you are taking for this Sunday’s sermon.
- If you’re talking about Trinity Sunday, preach about the inherent relationality to our Triune God and what that means for our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Being a disciple of Christ cannot happen in solitude. Spiritual formation and growth do not happen alone. No matter how “one” we think we might be, we are always “more” because of our call to live, to be, and to grow in community. We are individuals, but as children created in the image of our Triune God, that means we were created for relationship.
- If you’re talking about Father’s Day, ponder the connection between God’s relational nature and parenthood. How does this inheritance of wisdom and relationality inform parenting (at any stage) in a twenty-first-century culture? Cling to the image of relational playfulness we see in the Proverbs passage between God and personified wisdom.
- If you’re talking about Peace with Justice Sunday, highlight how the relational nature of God is expressed in our missional witness to the world. We are not called to give only of our finances or material goods to those in need, but to make relational connections with all God’s children. If God is a relational God, then the missio dei—the mission of God—is relational too.
This relational inheritance from God is the bedrock of our faith, and we see that in the Proverbs passage and in the gospel reading from John. Here are a few questions to reflect on devotionally or to think about in terms of story sharing in your sermon:
- Where in your own life have you recognized that you are more than an individual?
- Where in the life of your congregation have you seen the relational nature of God at work?
- What would it look like if we embraced our relationality to the fullest extent?
- How would our society shift for the better if we lived into the relational dynamic of our Triune God?
God is One. God is Three.
So preach that good news!
Rev. Nelson Cowan, Ph.D., is an elder in the Florida Conference, a scholar of worship, and a member of the Hymnal Revision Committee of The United Methodist Church.