The Sermon Mall



A Sermon On Proverbs 9:1-6

Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:53-59
The Old Testament Reading today is from Proverbs and describes Lady Wisdom
It’s not an accident that Wisdom is a she
For the writer of Proverbs is describing SOPHIA—
A different kind of wisdom—A feminine way of knowing—
Most of the time we think of wisdom in more masculine terms—
The male way of wisdom concentrates on logical explanations—
The male way wants universal answers—or absolutes
Our image of that way is the person on the mountaintop
The person who ascends above the mundane to some great abstract truth
But Sophia is different
Sophia is a wisdom that focuses on particulars
A wisdom that is able to dwell in the confusing contradictory world in which we live
For example,
After Jesus’ birth—the shepherds are visited by the angels
And they are told of the miraculous birth that is to occur
They go to Bethlehem and tell Mary about the angels
Luke writes “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
That’s SOPHIA—not to jump to any global answers—any universal propositions
But to ponder the mystery in her heart
They let what is seep into our souls
Robert Frost once wrote:
We dance round in a ring and suppose
But the secret sits in the middle and knows
Sophia is the wisdom that enables us to sit in the middle and know
To treasure events instead of analyze them—
It’s what John Keats described as negative capability—
A willingness to be with complexity
To allow a certain messiness—to live the questions, as Rilke says
Or—as Jesus says—abide with me
Now, let’s link this to the gospel
and see why SOPHIA is important:
Jesus speaks to the disciples
but he doesn’t use any warm and fuzzy images here
He doesn’t say “I am the good shepherd”
or “I am the vine” “I am the way” and so on
His language actually takes them aback:
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them
They probably want to say—What about a metaphor here Jesus?
Flesh—Blood—those are too graphic—too explicit—
And there is an underlying religious problem with his words
The Law forbids Jews from consuming any blood whatsoever
The life principle or nephesh is in the blood
So it is a sin for a human being—a being filled with nephesh—
to consume the nephesh of beasts—much less the nephesh of another person—
That’s why the Orthodox soak meat in water for 30 minutes
Salt it, let it stand for an hour and then wash it again
to draw out all the residual blood before it is cooked
So when Jesus gives such concrete imagery
He makes it hard for the disciples—who were Jews—and hard for us
We don’t want to eat flesh—
We don’t want to drink blood—
We want our religion neat and logical and abstract
It is so tempting to keep Christianity as a mental activity
We’d prefer to think about the Cosmic Christ as a sort of Life Force—
An anonymous energy field—
Another temptation is just to make Christianity into a set of rules
A list of causes and prohibited behaviors
Over and over we see the temptation
to have the Church give simple solutions for complex problems
But—look at the gospels—
The Pharisees are always asking Jesus to give them yes/no answers
And Jesus is always telling them parables
And the word parable means—thrown together
It’s when both sides are knotted together to preserve the mess of the world
If we just focus on abstractions—
Or if we just focus on rules—
we can just stay in our heads about Jesus
and never get down to the radical implications of the Incarnation
Never have to eat the gospel—
Never have to take the good news inside us so it is part of the mess our lives
And—therefore—never know what faith—real faith is;
That’s why we have so much religion—and so little faith
Faith is not about being certain—
faith is about surrendering to a God who is moving in our lives
Moving in surprising—astonishing ways—
Ways that lead us further into the mess of the world
Christianity is not a mental activity
It’s an encounter with the Word made Flesh
Jesus didn’t say: “Think nice thoughts and I’ll be with you”
He didn’t say “Just memorize these rules”
No, he said: You must eat my flesh and drink my blood—
A priest was giving 1st Communion instruction to children
And he was trying to explain that the bread was the body of Christ
One boy raised his hand and said—“Is it his whole body?”
Knowing he was in trouble, the priest tentatively nodded his head—
And the boy asked back—“You mean his bottom too?”
That’s the scandal of the incarnation—
If the Word became flesh and dwells among us
It means that to get Jesus we must encounter the world—
All the world—Even the messy parts
Eat the flesh and drink the blood—
There is always part of us that wants a privatized Jesus that is sanitized—
We want a Jesus made in our image of what is holy
That nice man with the beard who is always sweet
And spouts off universal truths while sitting on a mountain top
But SOPHIA pushes us into the world
SOPHIA makes us deal with the Incarnate Christ—the living Christ
You must eat my flesh and drink my blood
That means we have to deal with mess—and ponder it in our hearts—
Because the banquet that Christ lays—the banquet that Sophia lays is not in our souls
It’s found in relation to other people
It’s found in the messiness of the world—
It’s found
When someone hurts us and we have to resist our temptation to run away
and go and work it out
It’s found
When we stop labeling those who are poor as lazy
And see them as children of God
It’s found
When we keep faith even in the face of suffering—
When we finally tear our scripts up for how we want the world to work
And embrace the mess that is—
It’s found in the adventure of being embraced by a living God
For our world—our complicated illogical lives—our mess
All of that is the flesh and blood of Christ—
And if we want him, we must grab hold of our messy lives
And eat.
The Rev. Porter Taylor