The Rev. Winnie Varghese
I’m so honored to be with you this morning. I bring you greetings from St. Luke’s Church in Atlanta, where this morning God was praised on Peachtree Street. And right now, immediately after the service, our community ministries groups are meeting together in the good work of serving those in need, and working together to do our part to preserve the functioning of American democracy through the practice of safe and fair elections. That seems to have fallen a little more heavily on Georgia than in the past. And we would appreciate your prayers and you have ours.
In the beginning. In the beginning, we get to read on Trinity Sundays, no less than in the beginning. The multiplicity of God gathers it says, breathing, moving, creating, speaking, touching, molding, making the world that we know. Today in Proverbs we read, before the beginning. Did you hear that? Before the depths. Before the mountains, wisdom was established and remains. May it be so. Our meditation for this Trinity Sunday and Pride Sunday is on the pulsing wisdom of God. The God of whom we all emerge, wisdom alongside the creating God we read today: “I was beside God like a master worker and I was daily God’s delight, rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” This reading is from the book of Proverbs in which a wise teacher addresses the prominent young men of the time about lives lived well as good citizens in absolutely every aspect of their lives.
Wisdom is the aspect of God that is addressed as gendered as a woman from before the beginning, which can get lost in our translations. Wisdom is associated with Jesus in John, another “in the beginning” passage, interestingly, multiply gendered, right? Definitely outside of the binary appropriate for our day. Jesus, different than Ruach, the holy breath of creation, a holy spirit also gendered as a woman, potentially lost to us If we are not vigilant. The Trinity is not trapped in the world, as it is. If you note one thing today, please note that. The Trinity is not trapped in power as some might want it to be, but it is creating and provoking and moving among us in all times, in every generation. Before time rejoicing in this inhabited world and delighting in the human race in its diverse expressions of humanity. So, watch for it, pay attention, choose delight. It is the way of wisdom.
Are these the things that are too great for us to bear that we read about in John? Or is it the suffering that will come, as we hear in Romans, the suffering that has come, that is with us, if we love this world, as God loves it. The suffering, which we will endure and be defined by, and within which our sure hope is grounded. So I don’t know about you, but I love a Trinity Sunday and who doesn’t love a Pride, right? It is very, very good to be here with you for it. And in the year of our Lord, 2022, these words that we’ve read could have been written for this day: “delight in what God delights in, and the world might ascribe to you suffering, if you love, as God loves.”
In my lifetime, the protests at pride parades have shifted from what used to be the fundamentalist Christians with their very tall signs. Remember those? With Bible verses in flames. Remember those? You still see those sometimes. But now we have armed neo-Nazis at our parades. The culture wars were a difference of opinion in the eighties and nineties when I was young, and they were a difference of opinion among sides reflected in our own parishes in disagreements and debate. Disagreements with profound consequences for ordination and families, for people’s lives, but ultimately disagreements about what God delights in, what aspects of creation were of the creator. That is different today. Because to be clear, progress has been made. It is a result, a reaction to movements for social change, to social change, that things are different. Today, we have people heavily armed, testing their capacity to be armed in our streets. Testing and illustrating who the police will choose to protect or defend. Overturning any illusion we held that diversity and inclusion are merely matters for debate within an otherwise settled and safe society. Matters of mere civility in this robust democracy.
Wisdom, Proverbs tells us, walks in the marketplace, the places of commerce and debate. She is at the city gates and places of judgment, is herself a wise judge. Is heeded by the wise. Wisdom sounds to me so stayed and settled. The people in Proverbs sound elegant, like all of you, with the extra goodness of very good ideas moving about in their midst, in our midst. Solid integrating ideas, the kind that make us better than we were before. Like considering how we use pronouns and calling people by words that resonate deeply for them, with how they understand themselves, in the great diversities of this creation in which God delights. The Bible says, even rejoices.
So maybe I’m revealing something about myself, how I would like the world to be. A steady and calm wisdom coming from the grassroots, affirmed by the most powerful, a muscle developed through education and the arts, and from the courts and legislatures, elected by a wise electorate. A people overflowing with wisdom, guided by wisdom, marked by compassion, unafraid, able to bear what Jesus tells his disciples they cannot yet bear, the truth of the nature of God’s kingdom.
Maybe we are suffering, but we are enduring, developing character, becoming beacons of hope, you and I. The lawyer and activist, Urvashi Vaid, who died on May 14th of this year, I’m sure known to some of you here, she was in DC for many, many decades. Now, she was not a religious person, as far as I know. And she had a pretty scathing critique of organized religion and its failures and abuses, as well as a solid analysis of how we, as religious people and institutions, can participate in movements for the good for social justice. She noted when we have been good. She named our capacity as Church to have influence when we wanted to, if we chose to do so. So I met her a few times and almost every time, it was at a march or a protest. She was a lawyer, the executive director of the National Gay Lesbian Task Force back in the eighties, nineties. A writer, a thinker, did more than her part within the life of just her own mind, catalytically leading the LGBT movement nationally in that time, the late 20th century, as a movement for economic and racial justice as well. All the parts.
And yet she marched. Maybe she marched first. And it was like literally, a wisdom moving through the streets, among the people, with a sharp word for all who dared to deny the preciousness and dignity of any aspect of this gorgeous creation. Containing, or maybe she was channeling, wisdom. That wild before the beginning force alongside God, our creator, that delights in you and them and us. So friends, these are different times and you can watch it on the news or just go down the street. There are heavily armed people on our streets today.
Some too, many to protest. Armed to protest? We call that war when we see it on the news in other countries. And yet here we are in our own nation Proud Boys and neo-Nazis on our streets, on these streets to intimidate the creating forces of our democracy, our container for human dignity, our pale reflection of God’s delight in our creation. There have been generations like this in the past in this country. Black Americans have faced down armed protest on the side of an old order since their arrival on these shores. As enslavers and homeowner’s associations, at the school door, on the street, they’re coming to take their country back, we are hearing now, back from all of us.
Michelle Alexander writes that, “We are not the resistance. We are the future, the present, the majority in this democracy, and they are right that an old way of life is at stake. One that holds a part of the American imagination firmly enough that they can attempt to occupy our capital, without the full weight of American justice falling upon them immediately.”
God creates the cosmos and the very earth, we read in the Bible, not America, interestingly. The Bible reminds us of a beginning, the beginning more than what the world tells us is our beginning. And today before the beginning. I suspect that it might have sounded as radical and disorienting to the ancients as it should, and it might, for us. A goodness and justice so much greater than us demanding of us, of our people, of our imagination. Greater than our sense of justice, greater even than the limitations of our constitution.
In the beginning, before the beginning, the Bible tells us. Imagine yourself as a part of a creation beyond your power and beyond your weakness as the world defines you, and alive, moving time before time, in which emerges in movement like waters before waters, winds, when there was nothing for a wind to blow. A cosmic movement of holiness that emerges into what is now this created order. You and I and groves of trees, and clean waters and sea creatures, and school children and teachers, queer folk and pride in rainbows, and flowers and you. And God’s self is delighted. God’s self will guide you to delight. There are plenty of things right now that we cannot bear. Far too much for us. But the spirit is moving, friends, swirling among us like Urvashi and all of you, he who seem so unafraid, even energized by the horrors of the day. You who will fight for the most vulnerable and guide us to name the world that is emerging. If this kind of change frightens you, don’t worry. Our fear is younger than wisdom in the timeline of creation.
Can you hear the laughter of God on that day before the first day, echoing through the universe, resonating in your body, ringing through our land, raising up what was cast down? Dusting off what has fallen, holding up the handmade sign out on the street. The Episcopal church is here, believing our bodies count like votes in this nation that is still deciding who we will be. So there is some work to do, but we have wisdom on our side and God creating, the God who journeys, who abides and inspires, the God of Hagar. The God who sees you. Three in One, most blessed Trinity, source of life and breath and hope. And our hope shall never be disappointed. Amen.