The Rev'd Dr Thomas Sharp, Succentor
Proverbs 8.1,22-31; Psalm 104.26-end Colossians 1.15-20; John 1.1-14
The Succentor's sermon preached at the Choral Eucharist on the Second Sunday before Lent.
Quite early in my undergraduate studies in Law,
I took an introduction to the Law of Tort,
more commonly known as Ambulance Chasing for Beginners.
One of the views which is very common among lawyers,
perhaps fostered quite deliberately during their studies,
is that, at the end of the day, if you dig deep enough,
all human beings are fundamentally incompetent.
If you leave an opportunity for someone
to slip up or fall over or into something,
or to drop something, to hurt themselves or another person,
then the law of averages,
and the law of fundamental human incompetence
will conspire so that eventually, someone, somewhere will do it.
And it’s not just lawyers.
In geopolitics as well as sociology,
the realists teach us that that the world is full
of incompetent, venial actors,
people, nations and corporations,
all vying for their little slice of the pie
of life, the universe and everything…
and, in this worst of all possible worlds,
these selfish incompetents are left to their own devices
to make themselves rich and powerful,
so that, eventually, the last one standing shall indeed stand
on a heap of the poor and the powerless,
the defeated who remain,
still scrabbling amongst themselves
for the crumbs that fall from the table.
Selfish, incompetent fools… that’s humanity…
it’s just how we are, how things are, and always will be.
So the realists tell us.
An endless cycle of vying for power at every level of our lives
that we can never win
and in which we will always be selfish, incompetent fools.
In the beginning…
in the beginning the Lord created me.
As someone who is autistic,
I struggle to get to know people.
It’s not for want of trying
or because I don’t like talking – I love talking with people. And listening.
Not just preaching.
It’s because I don’t feel like I know someone, really,
until I know their story…
what makes them tick, and why…
and most importantly, where they come from.
I don’t think this is peculiar to those of us who are autistic.
I think we all want to know the origins, the background,
the things that matter and have mattered
to the people we know and love.
But it’s hard to get to know people,
when “Tell me your life story” is really what you want to ask
as your opening gambit.
“Tell me your story… tell me where you have come from.”
The problem with the realists, with the pragmatists,
who can only see the world through the lens of today’s struggles,
who think that the world, that we, are condemned to an eternal cycle
of power and conflict and one-up-man-ship…
the problem with those who think that we are doomed
to live lives trapped
in the incompetence and selfishness and hopelessness
of our present, of the turmoil of today
is that they haven’t asked for creation’s story.
they haven’t looked for humanity’s story.
They haven’t asked one another… where did you come from?
In the beginning.
In the beginning…. what?
In the beginning… was power? Was fear? And hunger? And darkness?
And struggle, and the rich and the poor?
In the beginning… the Lord created me.
Who? Who are you? Are you Selfishness? Are you Warfare?
Are you Capital and Investment and Growth?
No. In the beginning… the Lord created me.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth –
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
I was there, as the Spirit hovered over the waters,
and none other. I was there with the Spirit’s breath,
with the Spirit’s life pouring through me and into all things.
I was there as the Father created, and I am there as the Father creates.
And pours his Son’s shape into all things
and his Spirit’s life…
and in all this Creation… I am.
I am who I am made me and fashioned me
so that you would not be made in darkness
so that all things would be created with me.
For in me there are great riches and great life
and truth and hope
and the Spirit’s life and the Son’s reason and the Father’s love,
for I am not darkness or fear or hatred or power,
or hunger or want or selfishness or foolishness.
I am something greater than any of these things can ever be.
I am a signpost… I am a waymarker… I am to point you to life…
to the one who is and always has been your life.
From the beginning I have been showing you his face
even when you couldn’t see it.
From the beginning I have been showing you his life
even when you refused to live it.
From the beginning I have been showing you his love
even when you turned your faces away.
Do you know who I am?
I am wisdom.
My name is wisdom.
And it is with me that you are made.
I am where you come from in God.
I am your origin, your beginning,
in God’s hands… wisdom is your birthright,
from Creation’s first breath and your first cry.
Wisdom… your foundation, your foothold, your stepping stone…
rest on me, learn from me, breathe me in… and out.
I will show you the way to Him who is your life.
For that is what Wisdom does.
I am not an optimist.
I don’t think that everything is for the best
in the best of all possible worlds.
I don’t think that human beings are innately sensible,
or that left to our own devices,
the nations and corporations will of their own free will
arrive at world peace and global justice.
No. I’m not naïf.
But I do believe that humanity, along with all creation,
has a trajectory.
From God’s wisdom in the beginning of our creation
to God’s life in the fullness of the Kingdom.
We know, we Christians, the beginning of the journey:
creation in love.
And we know the end of the journey: the fullness of life in the kingdom of justice and mercy and peace.
But on the way, we carry with us the marks of our creation,
of our beginnings…
and those beginnings were in love, and in hope and in wisdom.
We carry the fingerprints of divine wisdom in us as we make this journey.
Learn from her… learn from her
that you may know the life of the one who created you
and left her marks in the clay of your heart.
O Holy Wisdom,
which camest out of the mouth of the most High,
and reachest from one end to another, mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.