Sunday, January 2

sermon

Second Sunday of Christmas - January 2, 2005

Jeremiah 31:7-14 or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:(1-9), 10-18


24:10 In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.
24:11 Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place, and in Jerusalem was my domain.

I minister before him.

Before God, I tell my story. Before God, I sing my song. With harp, voice, word, sacrament, icon, hymn, chant…in darkness and in light, in sorrow and in joy it is before God that I set forth worship, where my work is done. There I bring forth my produce, my offering to God of my labor and myself. Taste and see that the Lord is good, that the LORD, the Great I Am, is God.

And I am with him.

When I was in college, I had the wonderful fortune of taking a class in Wisdom literature. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the genre, Wisdom literature is a strain of Hebrew canonical and extracanonical writing. Proverbs, some Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon are all examples of the tradition. In it, Wisdom is personified. Wisdom is usually female. Wisdom is with God in the beginning of all things. God created her and through her, God created.

In our readings for today, we are presented with a good sample of the Wisdom tradition including the prologue to John. “In the beginning was the Word”…God’s breath made active, real, incarnate. Many scholars include this prologue in the Wisdom literature genre. It is mystical and yet, as wisdom, practical.

As I began to understand this tradition through my studies, all manner of things became clear. This was where the incarnation finally began to make sense to me. I do not know why hearing about Jesus, the man, Emmanuel, never had the same impact, but that is the truth of it. I guess I was in need of Wisdom.

There she was, standing before me, worshiping God, calling out, creating, praising and even warning her beloved creation. Wisdom called me to repentance…to bear the truth of God present and not absent. That fateful day when we read the prologue to John’s gospel in class, when the Word came down, then I saw. Then I saw God before me. Then I had a glimmer of understanding about Jesus. Then the pieces slowly, painfully began to come together.

It was as if I was remembering something long forgotten, like remembering a promise, or perhaps, a memory of food. Certainly, it was like a memory of being fed. Do you know what I mean? The smells and tastes come together. It is as if I could step back in time and experience it all for the first time all over again. It was a food memory. I have food memories.

One of my favorites is from Brasserie Jo’s on Hubbard Street. They have chocolate mousse that is beyond compare. I remember the first time I went there and ordered the mousse for dessert. The waiter wheeled out a cart. On the cart was a white soup tureen. From that tureen, he served the mousse spoon after spoonful on our plates. Then came the vanilla cream sauce and the chocolate shavings. Amazing.

I went there years ago. Occasionally I have the cravings, the memory comes back to me. I can smell the restaurant. I can taste the mousse. Praise God, Trish and I had the opportunity this Christmas to go to Brasserie Jo’s for dinner. The hospital gave its employees gift certificates this year and I talked Trish into going. I had not been in years.

The food was great. At least mine was. The mushroom soup was rich and thick. I could have stopped there. But I did not. The seafood-filled pastry shell I had as an entrée was outstanding. It came on a bed of rice with blanched spinach leaves; salmon, swordfish, scallops and shrimp with caramelized onions and leeks in a lobster cream sauce. The French love their sauces.

And as if that was not enough…

…then it was time for dessert. You know how this must turn out, don’t you? Mousse. It was just as I recalled it. Out came the tureen. The server had a large spoon. He only had to dip it in twice.

Scoop. Scoop.

There it was: chocolate mousse. The cream came next, thick and sweet followed by the shavings of chocolate. It was everything I remembered. It was perhaps even better than I remembered. It simply melted in my mouth. With the coffee, it was perfect. The combination of tastes had me in a stupor. How I love food. How I love to eat…to taste, to savor. It is a great joy.
19 “Come to me, you who desire me,
and eat your fill of my fruits.
20For the memory of me is sweeter than honey, and the possession of me sweeter than the honeycomb.
21Those who eat of me will hunger for more,
and those who drink of me will thirst for more.
Maybe my food memories are a gift. In Sirach we find Wisdom with this list, a sense-ational list of fragrances and tastes. She is beautiful to behold. She is seen. She is heard. You can smell her and taste her. She is no mere thought, no mere idea. She is Wisdom, herself both created and creator.

This is whom she brings to worship, to her rest in Jerusalem. She brings herself.
23 All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the law that Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the congregations of Jacob.
She is all Law, all Wisdom. This is who ministers before God. This is whose liturgy is established.

Okay Larry, this is for you.
24:10 In the holy tent I ministered before him, and so I was established in Zion.

Roland Murphy, who was professor at Duke Divinty School, reminded me that the Greek in this passage for ministered is “eleitourgesa.” Liturgy. This is liturgical worship, he says. Wisdom is established in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is where Wisdom rests on earth, in worship…in our liturgy, in the work of the people manifested in the City of God. This is enough food for thought for our little church to last us for a good long while, is it not?

But this is still a memory. This is a food memory, it is so close, so true and yet I still miss it. I may catch it at a glance. But, it is only in the rare moments that all the pieces come together that I can gather them all. And even those are mere moments. Fleeting.
22Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,
and those who work with me will not sin.’
I do not always obey. I do not always work with Wisdom. No matter how hard I try, I fall short. I know that I read too much Calvin for some, but I do firmly believe that he is right when he says that there is nothing we can do on our own to fulfill this injunction. No matter our thirst or hunger, our will is not enough.

God must come to us. Our will is for our choice.

It is Christmas…yes, still Christmas. God is here with us. God has come to us. We can choose Wisdom. She stands before us.

The Christ child is present. The Word is made flesh. Wisdom lies in a manger. In the flesh of the Son of God, Wisdom will heal us, teach us, preach to us, pray for us and even dine with us. Wisdom is loose in the world as in the beginning.
3‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
4I dwelt in the highest heavens,
and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
5Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.
6Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
and over every people and nation I have held sway.
Our little church sits in the midst of the world…in a stall of our own. We all have our memories, a promise kept safe. We can taste hope. There is sweetness like honey. We hunger for God made flesh in our midst.

It is Christmas.

The promise is fulfilled. Wisdom is here.

Taste. See. Tell your story. Sing your song. Give life to memory.

Amen.