On Monday we saw the forces of nature unleashed with a massive category EF5 tornado, the most powerful category for tornadoes. It ripped through the southern limits of Oklahoma City, directly in Moore, devastating the town and the people there. 24 people were killed, 9 of them school children, and 237 were injured. The tornado cut a 1.3 mile wide path with terrifying winds up to 210 miles per hour. New reports say that at least 10,000 people are directly impacted by the storm. Not only are people’s homes gone, but beloved family members, and children are gone.
Fred Phelps Jr. minister of Westboro Baptist Church has sent messages out via Twitter and other social media sites that the tornado was God’s wrath on America for its sinfulness. In a video, on his church’s website, he quotes the prophet Jeremiah, using prophetic literature to spew his hate and malice.
This church is infamous not only for its preaching of hate, but also of its members showing up at military funerals to protest and to proclaim their message of God’s wrath. There was talk they would also protest at the funeral for a child killed by the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. But, just in case, members of a motorcycle group showed up a 100 strong to block their view of the funeral procession and the victim’s family.
Wisdom takes her stand.
Whoever finds her, whatever you might call her – Wisdom, Sophia, Word, or Advocate – whoever finds her, finds life. For the book of Proverbs tells us that she was there at the beginning of God’s work in creation, she was beside him, like a master worker or a darling child, and she was his delight, rejoicing in creation and delighting in the human race.
We hear today that Holy Wisdom stands at the crossroads, on the heights, beside the way, in the crowded places of life, the centers of power, at the city gates, and she cries out and raises her voice, “My cry is to all that live.” She calls out to all so that all may have good life.
Thinking about Wisdom and her form and function made me remember a book I read a while back. It was “The Shack” by William P. Young. It is an interesting dissection of the Trinity, in which Young attempts throughout the chapters to describe God as three persons, which the main character “Mack” meets in a cabin in the woods over the weekend. God appears as a warm, welcoming black woman named “Papa”. Jesus is of course, a young man, a labourer, Middle Eastern in appearance.
But it is Young’s character, Sarayu, which I remembered as I pondered over the reading from Proverbs. In Young’s book, she represents the Holy Spirit, and he describes her as a small Nepalese or Mongolian woman, ephemeral – hard to see when looked at straight on, better seen in peripheral vision. Her clothes and hair seem to change colour and move. Young writes, “She wafted about like a playful eddying wind and Mack never quite knew which way she was blowing.” Like a darling child or a master builder or the breath of God present at the beginning.
Importantly, and also in line with wisdom literature from scripture, Sarayu is keeper of the garden – in this case, creation itself, but also the garden of main character Mack’s heart, tangled and chaotic, but also orderly with life and love.
Our reading today tells us that Wisdom sets all of this wonderful creation in motion with a joyful dance, a shimmering movement of light and joy. And it is Wisdom who speaks to our hearts and the good in us, that part which is “little less than divine” as the psalmist writes. This week’s passage from Proverbs is part of a long introductory poem which describes the source of our joy as being created by a good and even an orderly God.
Julian of Norwich, who was a 14th century English visionary, was thirty years old when she received the first of several revelations of divine love. She thought she was dying. For three days she had been mortally ill. It was on the fourth night when a priest came to give her last rites, and as she was looking at the cross which he held in front of her face to comfort her as she died, when all of her pain suddenly vanished and she felt as well as she had ever been.
It was at that time that Julian saw two things: the face of Jesus, with blood flowing down his face from his crown of thorns, and something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in her hand. “What can this be?” she asked herself.
“It is everything which is made,” came the answer. Julian held all of creation in her hand, as round as a nut.
And looking at it, she understood three things: that God made it, that God loves it, and that God preserves it. Fifteen years later she was still asking what it all meant and another answer came to her – “what, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For Love.
Most especially on this Trinity Sunday, with the aftermath of the winds of the tornado and its forces of destruction, with those horrible voices proclaiming God’s vengeance on the people of Oklahoma City, this Sunday especially is a good time to stand still, to pause and to reflect on God’s nature – if not for 15 years, at least for a little while.
Can we perceive God’s graceful hand at work in creation, even with the images and realities of destruction? Can we reflect on God’s love made flesh and living among us, as we see community near and far come together for the sake of the hurting? Can we give thanks for God’s Spirit, whose power sustains us right here and now, and stand with her in this beautiful but hurting world?
It is for love that the community of Moore and the global community have come together to mourn the dead, to heal the injured, and to slowly and painfully rebuild what was lost. This is God’s goodness at the heart of creation, God’s wisdom, which beats in our own hearts as well. Paul echoes this thought in his letter to the Romans, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” As part of that good creation, as “little less than divine” we take a stand with Holy Wisdom, with the Advocate, at the city gates, in the places of hurt and despair, and declare life and love.
One commentary’s elegant words perhaps say it best: “This is the truth of God: Creation is a holy web of relationship, a gift meant for all; it vibrates with the pain of all its parts; but its destiny is joy.”
Pr. Katherine Altenburg