Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sophia Evangeline - sermon for B-Ordinary 20

B – Ordinary 20 Rev. Laurie Furr-Vancini
Proverbs 9:1-6 Palms Presbyterian Church
Ephesians 5:11-17 August 16, 2009

“Sophia Evangeline”

The title of the sermon this morning is my name suggestion
for Pastor Andrew and Caroline’s new baby
who will be greeting us sometime in December.
This name suggestion is an early baby present to you.
This morning we are called by Wisdom.

Wisdom searches for us and hopefully we search for Wisdom.
We speak of Wisdom as Wisdom woman
because Wisdom is feminine in the Bible.
Lest we females get pumped up about that,
her evil twin, Folly, is also feminine.
Wisdom personifies all the positive characteristics
of womanhood in early Hebrew times.
Folly personifies all the negatives.
Wisdom calls to us.
But, Folly is out there calling to us, also.
So our question for this morning is which twin do we embrace?

Theologian Paul Tillich has this to say about Wisdom:
“One speaks of experience, insight, knowledge;
and indeed those area related to wisdom and often part of it.
But none of them is wisdom itself.
Wisdom is greater than these.
It is one of the great things that profoundly concern
every human being in every period of conscious life.
Widsom is not bound to old age.
It is found equally in the young.
And there are fools at all ages of life.”

If, as Tillich proposes, we are to search for wisdom at all points in our life.
I propose we turn today to wisdom.

There is never a better or worse day to start than today.
And there is never a better undertaking than to start being wise.
I know many of you are wise everyday…..
so for you….sit back and think about how lovely it will be
when the rest of us are as wise as you.
Because the rest of us are beginning today. Right now.
We are going to be wise.

You may think that today may be the worst day to start being wise.
Some may be starting back work after the summer off
or a summer slow down.
Maybe you are thinking about summer ending and the fall heating up.
Hurricanes are coming…I just know they are.

You may have any number of reasons for not starting to be wise
beginning today.
But, whatever reason you have is Folly.
It is best to be wise beginning today.
It is best to move into a new school year with intentionality.
It is best to confront chaos with scripture and care.
It is best to have structure in your daily walk.
Beginning today.
Today is always the best day to begin.

The other day, I heard these words…..”mama, you gotta watch!”
My seven year old was bouncing in a bouncy house at Pump It Up.
Pump it Up is a warehouse of chaos with high ceilinged rooms filled with
huge inflatables and lots of squealing and screaming kids.
She is bouncing up and down and then on her bottom and back up.
And my job is to pay attention.
Interestingly enough, I am trying to journal at the edges of Pump It Up….
But she reminds me, I am to live where I am.
And I am at Pump It Up.
“Mama, you gotta watch!”
Beginning right now….beginning today, you have to pay attention.

You have a life to live.
And there is the life you have been living
and the life you have been meaning to live.
Beginning today, you are done with the life you have been living.
Beginning today, you are going to turn to Wisdom, the one
who has been calling you to a new life…..
the life you’ve been meaning to live.

Beginning today, you are going to make steps to live that life.
The life you’ve been meaning to live becomes the life you live.
Are you with me?

Wisdom is calling to you.
She is standing out on the street corner.
A street corner preacher…that makes us nervous doesn’t it.
But she finds the place where everyone will see her.
You can’t miss her….
And she calls to everyone…..
I told you she was calling you.
She is pursuing you.
You don’t have to go off into a quiet place to meditate for days.
You don’t have to search her out on a mountaintop.
She might be at Pump it Up, “for God’s sake”.
She doesn’t send others to do her work.
Did you catch that, she sent away her helpers, her maids…..
She herself will make personal invitations to you and to you and to you.
Everyone is invited.
She may be the first evangelist in the bible.

And now it is time to tell you her name.
Theologians and biblical scholars call wisdom Sophia.
Wisdom’s name is Sophia which is the Greek translation for Wisdom.
The name makes some people nervous because we think there was and
maybe a goddess cult that took her name.

I happen to agree with some theologians that Wisdom is the feminine embodiment of God – God herself…..and this also makes some people nervous and anxious (thinking of God with feminine qualities).
But…please stay at ease…I am not here to push that down anyone’s throat, because Sophia would not approve.
Sophia Wisdom is not at all combative stating her case, setting her table.
Calling us to her table, calling us to partake of her hospitality.
Which has no place for either gorging or force feeding.
Calling, telling the good news, inviting, evangelizing
Evangalizing means telling the good news
So I give her a middle name….Evangaline.
Wisdom, the Evangalist.
Sophia Evangaline.

Sophia Evangeline is inviting you.
We’ve been eating a lot lately.
Jesus invited us to the dinner on the ground with the 5,000.
Jesus told us he is the bread of life.
And this week there is a table set by wisdom.
She has pulled out her best food, best table settings.
She is the “hostess with the mostest” on a mission from God.
“Here is the way of life- the way of wisdom”
Come to my table, everyone. Today.
Get your head out of the refrigerator,
your hand off the bottle,
your bottom from your work chair,
your eyes off the computer screen,
your fingers off the controller,
your mind off the mindless,
your self talk out of selfishness,
self serving
self deprecating….
None of that is at Sophia’s table.
Come here.
Sit down next to me.
And look into my eyes.
You will see the eyes of God looking back at you.
This is Good News.
This is the way of life.
Sophia was there in the beginning, we are told in the previous chapter of proverbs 8: Sophia was there: in the chaos, the void, the nothingness.
She knows what that is like.

Her evil twin Folly lives there now.
Do you remember the Sirens in Greek mythology?
This is how I picture Folly calling.
The Sirens sit on the rocks and call to sailors as they pass in their boats.
They are beautiful and alluring and they sing the sailors in.
Then CRASH - the boats shatter as they hit the rocks.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, the Sirens sing to Odysseus:
"Draw near ... illustrious Odysseus, flower of the Achaean chivalry, and bring your ship to rest that you may hear our voices. No seaman ever sailed his black ship past this place without listening to the sweet voice that flow from our lips…...”
And there is the problem.
Sophia Evangeline isn’t the only one calling.
Folly is calling also. But her middle name is not good news.
It is bad new. It is death.
Sophia has set a beautiful table in a beautiful home.
Folly has also set a table and in Proverbs 9:17, she says:
“stolen water is sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
Listen what Steven Baugh, a seminary professor in California has to say of Wisdom’s evil twin:
“Folly’s fun house is a one-way elevator to the house of Death – non-stop to the Sheol Suite. And her guests are the dead. If Wisdom is life, Folly is death.”
Again, we stop to question.
If I am to begin today living a life of wisdom, what does that mean?
How do I find wisdom?
We generally know wisdom when we hear it.
We recognize Sophia when we see her.
And according to our scripture today when we see Folly,
we need to not ignore her, but expose her for what she is….
From Ephesians:
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork,
the barren pursuits of darkness.
Expose these things for the sham they are.
It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things
they must do in the darkness where no one will see.
Rip the cover off those frauds
and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!

A public declaration of what is good.
An invitation to a life giving, life sustaining, life altering banquet.
An open call to everyone, not just some.
Jesus or Sophia?
Yes, both.
If Christ is showing the light of God,
the way of God certainly includes Wisdom.
And in proverbs 9 and proverbs 1, as well as psalm 111,
we are told the beginning of Wisdom, is the fear,
the paying attention, of God.
“Mama, you gotta watch!”

Sara Koenig, a bible professor at Seattle Pacific University,
says Wisdom, Sophia, requires the
“obligation to deal with life head on,
head up,
with open eyes
an honest heart
and courageous conviction.”
She continues:
Clearly, wisdom is not a gift: wisdom is a task.
Wisdom costs.
Wisdom calls each of us to be everything we have the capacity to be.
It is wisdom that is the internal force that drives us to become the fullness of ourselves.”
In other words, “the life we have been meaning to live.”

Folly is easy, Sophia Wisdom is difficult.
Folly is docile.
Wisdom is active.
Folly is secretive and often hidden.
Wisdom is truth and sincerity and openness.
Folly is complacency.
Wisdom is a commitment to lifelong learning and changing
and growing. Lifelong.
Folly is status quo.
Wisdom is standing for justice and righteousness and mercy.
Folly is thinking you know it all.
Wisdom is knowing your limitations, your finitude.
Folly is not recognizing our foolishness.
Wisdom is knowing when and where we have turned to Folly
and returning to Wisdom.


So, Wisdom, the evangelist, the caller and teller of Good News
is Sophia Evangeline.
It’s a pretty good name, don’t you think?
You can call her Sophie Eva for short.

No pressure from the name or much to live up to. Ha. Ha. Ha.
I can hear the parents now:

“Sophia Evangeline, don’t you go getting all
uppity with me---like you know what’s best for everyone.”

Oh, but she does know.
She is Wisdom.
And beginning today.
we are going to live the life we’ve been meaning to live.
Folly, be gone!