Sermon,  Sermons

Inherent Wisdom

sermon video. Click for parts 2 and 3.



When I was pregnant for the first time with Samantha, Howie and I wanted to be intentional about how we parent, beginning with the birthing process. At that time, we were serving at the First UMC of Ardmore, OK, and the wife of the lead pastor there gave me a book about attachment-style parenting and natural childbirth. It was written by a Christian couple, pediatrician and nurse, and what they said made sense to us. We knew this was the approach we both sensed God was leading us into.

            The birthing style we followed was the Bradley, or Partner-Coached method. Unlike the complicated breath patterns of Lamaze, this approach teaches partners to engage deep relaxation and controlled breathing, along with guided imagery to reframe the intense process of expelling a human being from ones body.

            So, we went to the hospital with our birthing plan, but labor needed Pitocin to induce productive contractions, which translated to still more intense contractions . . . and Howie needed to up his attentiveness game to guide me through those hours riding the wave, visualizing the beach, scanning each set of muscles from head to tow to loosen and relax, sink into the mattress, and then for the pushing . . . Suffice it to say, he worked really hard to bring me through bringing our daughter into this world.

            This may be why, when we showed pictures of the two of us holding our newborn child on the hospital bed shortly following her arrival, everyone remarked that Howie looked more worn out than I did! Of course, that is utterly impossible. But, doing pregnancy and childbirth this way set a precedent for our parenting, and made the bonding process exponentially more assured.

The father of our children, Co-Parent. We followed instructions that in our inmost being we sense for the wisdom it was. And our children are living evidence of the inheritance of that wisdom every time they partner with others and walk with them through pain and joy, love and advocacy. 

            We are created as inherently predisposed to contain wisdom. What do we know about her?

God created Wisdom. Proverbs 8:22-31. And Wisdom participated in the creative action of God.

Deut4.6 – if you follow/tell of God’s laws, you will find Wisdom

Deut34.9 – Joshua filled with the spirit of wisdom

1Kings4 – Solomon’s wisdom – producing peace between 2 mothers, other nations

Job12 – she does not necessarily come with age, and is only from God; (v28) she is hidden, yet in reverence of God (devotion to, union with God), and the keeping from doing evil, from doing harm (that is, anything that is not from Love) there is Wisdom.

Wisdom is in the natural order, in creation, the care of one another – the nurture and care, not forgetting – neglecting – the helpless, the vulnerable. This is wisdom.

Ps104.24 – in Wisdom, creation came into being.

Prov 8 – because Wisdom was with God before creation – and in the creating of everything, Wisdom is already infused – inherent – in all of creation. In you and in me.

There is something about the spirit of Wisdom that informs us about the Trinity.

            We’ve already spoken at length about the Shekinah:

Trinity embodies and enacts shekinah, the glory dwelling amid each other, making space for one to be filled and fill the others’.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Being transformed by degrees of glory. (2Cor3) Glory is where God is, where God is recognized. So when we are being transformed bit by bit, sometimes in leaps to fullness of glory, we become more perfectly God’s image, true to who we are created to be – free from the constraints of what others want us to be. From what we think others want us to be.

            Where the Spirit is, where glory is, where God is recognized in you and in me, there is freedom. Freedom to be fully alive!

Prov 8 – because Wisdom was with God before creation – and in the creating of everything. Wisdom is already infused – inherent – in all of creation. In you and in me.

The glory of God, the glory we share, is infused with wisdom – the knowledge of, reverence for God, and the care for one another and all of creation. That is wisdom. That is Glory. That is the fullness of transformation, Jesus making all things new!

            So when Paul says in Romans 5 that faith (hope) opens the way to sharing in the glory of God, this takes on new meaning – for me anyway.

Suffering, endurance, character, hope – and hope does not disappoint – When our hope is in God. Because God’s LOVE has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that is given to us. The holy spirit given to us – giving up space to be poured into our space so we can make space for others – to fill their space . . . There we will find Wisdom: in creativity, nurturing, making peace, Love.

And so we view another facet of Wisdom when we look to Fatherhood in Jewish tradition and scripture:

Omen

One theologian explored the use of the Hebrew word, omen. In the case of the Numbers 11 text the word is ascribed to God.  “The word is primarily associated with roles and activities focusing on children . . . [and] denotes three actions with young ones—1) nurturing (suckling), 2) rearing, and 3) educating. It connotes qualities of reliability, trustworthiness, and steadfastness.

“In the traditional patriarchal model, these qualities of nurturance and sustenance are assigned to women and are not stereotypically associated with strong males. Yet, in these texts, both males and females are described in supportive, caring roles with children. The point to be made here is that the Biblical text is consistent in its use of masculine and of feminine verbs based on the gender of the acting subject. When female nursemaids are referred to, the feminine form, ‘omenet, is consistently used.

“Therefore, when the masculine for, ‘omen, is used, child nurturance by males is being stressed. Put another way, in the Bible, nurturing is a masculine as well as feminine attribution.”1  Nurture, to guide and to teach, to bond with each other – to be in relationship.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada have demonstrated that fathers-to-be undergo hormonal changes as the birth of their child approaches.2 The researchers found that men’s testosterone production leveled off significantly in the three weeks preceding the delivery of their child. Estrogen production was significantly higher in fathers-to-be than in the control group while the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) were lower in soon-to-be fathers.

Prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin are among the hormones that are found at higher levels in men around the time of birth. Increased production of prolactin is known to promote bonding, attachment and caring (and initiate milk production in nursing mothers). Raised vasopressin levels induce a man to want to protect his family and remain close to home. Vasopressin is also known to promote a sense of commitment. When a father is intimate with his child, especially through skin-to-skin contact, his oxytocin production increases. Elevated oxytocin in a father is recognized as a key component in sparking and maintaining bonding and nurturing instincts.

These studies have focused on fathers-to-be in proximity to the pregnant partner, though similar findings have been shown to coincide with the responsibility of caring for a child regardless of contact during the pregnancy of his partner.

All of us – male and female – are created with Wisdom, the instinct to nurture, make peace, be in relationship with one another.


Therefore, we find peace with God . . . grace upon grace, and share God’s glory.

Wisdom is found in the production of peace. It is in the unity with God and with one another – the bond, the relationships we make, to nurture and protect. Wisdom is infused in the glory of God, the evidence of God’s presence in us and in creation. It increases with the transformation of us into the More Than – into more of who God created us to be – image-bearers, glorious. Love.

We dim the light of glory, dampen the power of life-giving presence by taking our eyes off of the source of that life and light, place a veil over that image, obscure God’s glory, Wisdom, out of fear – of the other, or of not measuring up . . . to the other . . . .

I love how Nadia Bolz-Weber puts it in her book, Shameless:

“To God, everyone is different but no one is special. You’re not special for being straight. Or gay. Or male. Or cis. Or trans. Or asexual. Or married. Or sexually prodigious. Or a virgin. We all have the same God who placed the same image and likeness within us and entrusted us imperfect human beings with such mind-blowing things as sexuality and creativity and the ability as individuals to love and be loved as we are. The church may provide a center-pivot irrigation system for those in the small circle, but God provides rain. We don’t earn rain, and we don’t control it. We don’t get to decide where it falls or in what amount. That shit is free.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless

God is a plurality – Trinity. Finding a pronoun to refer to God is impossible. Their. I’ve always had trouble with using the plural as an inclusive pronoun for one person, yet, can any of us really be distilled to one of two? Not any more. We are not made like the 2×2 creature scenario at the Arc, nor are we any longer male or female. We are so much more than that. Why do we continue to insist on categorizing one another? Do any of us fit in a box? Do any of us really feel like we totally fit in? this is not merely a teen-aged angsty-thing. We all still question whether we fit – well, a few of you might feel completely adjusted and perfectly comfortable in your skin. The rest of us, though?

Wisdom in our inheritance and Wisdom is inherent in each of us – from the beginning. When we are creative – making something that has never existed before; when we nurture one another and promote a bond, relationship; when we make peace, work toward justice – we are glorious! We are being transformed in God’s glory, to make all thing right, a new thing.

Today is Peace with Justice Sunday: Peace with Justice Sunday is one way United Methodists work together to seek justice. As one of The United Methodist Church’s six Special Sunday offerings, Peace with Justice Sunday supports annual conference ministries as well as global denominational work. On this special Sunday we pray that the spirit of truth – Wisdom – will move through our congregations, pouring out love as we support ministries that build up peace and justice in our conference and around the world.

            The envelope in bulletin. Also:

Korean American Campus Ministry (UC)

The Inclusive Collective (UIC)

Wesley Foundation (NIU)

University Christian Ministry (Northwestern U)

Native American Ministries of NIC Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors

NCC – United

1. Forster, B. “The Biblical ‘Omen and Evidence for the Nurturance of Children by Hebrew Males,” Judiasm 42, 3 (1993): 321.

2. Berg, S.J., K.E. Wynne-Edwards. “Changes in testosterone, cortisol, and estradiol levels in men becoming fathers.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 76, 6, (2001): 582.