Proverbs 8, 22-31
- Thus says the Wisdom of God. I last heard these lyrical words three years ago, as an ancient witness spoken in the midst of a busy and
transforming civilization. With each Cycle C, we use our earth movers and bombs
to push that pristine image of heaven and earth farther and farther away. So
do I try to fetch my best national park imitation, evoking those few places that we have not yet ruined? Or do I search for a message hidden right in the grime of our workplaces?
- From of old I was
poured forth. I hear many
‘time’ words, such as beginning, long
ago, before and especially when. But the passage testifies to a time before time began.
My listeners care about their children, their jobs, their ambitions, or just how they will spend this afternoon when
they get out of church. Dame Wisdom’s speech… could be a late night
monologue on a downtown street corner for all we care. Maybe a few will connect
her with the ‘intelligent design’ debate.
- When there were no
depths, no fountains, before the mountains, before the hills. Today we celebrate the mystery of the Trinity. And in this
reading we are reminded of God’s ways, God’s time. God moves slowly,
like glaciers, tectonic plates or galaxies. So should I. I’m looking for something like the measured pace of the spiritual ‘Nobody knows the trouble
I’ve seen.’ Or how about ‘Were you there when God made the
earth and sky?’ I’ll try for a coarse or gritty rendition.
- When the Lord established
the heavens I was there. The
series of “when’s” that follows should sound like a litany feeding our imagination.
- Then was I beside
him as his craftsman. The
translators want to convey the poetry that lies at the heart of the passage. Let
me find my poetic voice, and above all the pride of an elder who has seen much in life and who does not hesitate to say so.
- Climax: I was his delight
day by day. Scripture says that God delights in the creation, and here is
one expression of that.
- Message for our assembly: Wisdom is playing before him all the while, finding delight in the human race. Do
we listen to the deeper rhythms? Can we escape the rat race we have mostly built
- I will challenge myself: To slow my delivery and make it heavier to
match this evolution. No cut words now; every syllable must weigh in! I want my listeners to imagine such a beginning.
Romans 5, 1-5
- Since we have been justified by faith… I find here a kind of reminder of something central to all of us, not something new or unusual. The assembly is familiar, or at least will feel it is familiar, with the subject. I don’t have to exaggerate now, but I need to practice a clear reading.
- We have gained access – by faith – to this grace
in which we stand. I find three verbs here, counting our active faith. And this is just the beginning of a chain of actions cited by the apostle.
- We boast in hope of the glory of God. I note that hope is the last in a line of recommended actions: endurance,
proven character, hope. We do not just wait for someone else to come through for us! We
long for the Lord, we pray for his coming, and we do our part to make the world a more loving place. Some bureaucrats in places of authority call this Pelagian or Promethean; let them deny the words of Paul
and the Gospels.
- The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit. Of course, we honor the Trinity today, and in the last sentence
we acknowledge the action of the Spirit. Let the congregation hear all three
- Climax: Hope does not disappoint.
I could emphasize one of the three words, but I should decide during rehearsal which it will be. I don’t want my reading of scripture to disappoint! I
think I should build to a strong “disappoint.”
- The message for our assembly: We boast of our afflictions. Everything works to our advantage. Do
we, in our parish or in our country, have the patience to wait?
- I will challenge myself: To take my time once more as I jog through the list of positive actions connected
John 16, 12-15
- I hear echoes of Pentecost in this brief selection, with the coming of the Spirit.
- (I have much more to tell you…) I will not emphasize the first sentence, since our objective today
is in fact to ‘bear up’ from everything we hear, becoming more church in the process.
- (When) the Spirit of truth comes. Well, the Spirit has indeed come and accompanies the church and its members. We need frequent reminders of this. Again, I don’t need
to overpower the congregation but rather assure them with warmth in my voice. And
I won’t claim to know how the Trinity functions; every preacher today runs the risk of heresy. All I have to do is transmit the words of Jesus in a way that people will understand and from which they
will take heart.
- He will speak what he hears, and declare to you the things
that are coming. In other words, the Spirit will act like a prophet or voice
of God in the assembly.
- He will take from what is mine – and declare it to you. ‘Declare’ comes three times today, along with other actions: guide and speak. Again,
the Spirit makes Jesus present in our assembly by passing on faithfully the witness of Jesus.
Here ‘truth’ is adapted from the Hebrew word ‘faithfulness’ which the ancients used to describe
the one God. So it is that Jesus, the genuine article, is present among us.
- Everything that the Father has is mine. Again we remember the Trinity today as a complete sharing, a complete giving of self.
- Climax: The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth in
action and speech.
- Message for our assembly: All the good that comes from us can be traced back to the Spirit. Let us take none of the credit for ourselves.
- I will challenge myself: To rehearse until I understand all that I am reading, so that my listeners will also understand
and be grateful to God.
From Word to Eucharist: Not
a bright Masonic pyramid, not a shamrock in the field, definitely not a triad of electrons circling each other, but someone
warm and close who is manifest in the depths of our human nature and especially in the people at prayer: let us remember this
rather than our crawl over the narrow pew or the raucous communion song as we come forward to share in the Lord’s body