Skip to content

Trinity Sunday – Wonder of Wonders

May 26, 2013

A sermon preached at the White Plains Presbyterian Church on Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2013

 

Proverbs 8: 1-4, 21-34

Here Sophia, the Greek word for wisdom, is personified as a woman who was with God before creation. “God created me,” says Sophia, “at the beginning of his work … before the beginning of the earth” (vv. 22-23). This personified wisdom then goes on to describe how she was an intimate part of every aspect of the creation.

Some manuscripts describe how she was “beside (God) like a little child … daily (God’s) delight, rejoicing before him always” (v. 30). If you allow your imagination its freedom, you can almost see this little girl, Sophia, skipping around delighting God as God proceeds with creation. For those of you who have little children, you may be able to fill out that image.[1]

FSB-p134_songs from the Bible-c

How interesting – wisdom personified as a little girl.  This passage reminds us that children reveal God and God’s ways to us; that they are beloved of God; and that they are fully and freely members of our community. Wisdom is not a mature woman or man. She is a little girl. This passage invites us to receive the insight and the leadership of children ever more fully into our midst: to wonder and delight with them, to learn with them and from them, to see the very wisdom of God in them.

When we get to the New Testament, the gospel of John develops this understanding of Sophia as the spirit of truth. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, [she] will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16:12-13). This spirit will reveal to us things Jesus chose not to reveal to us during his time on earth.

In John, wisdom teaches us more; she opens understanding, she helps us grapple with things that Jesus never spoke about, she keeps us yearning and learning as a baptized community of faith.

Wisdom and wonder are closely linked; indeed without wonder we cannot be wise.  Little girls and boys remind us that wonder, our capacity to imagine and dream and question, is at the heart of a growing faith. And we are amazed and delighted that God’s love, God’s wisdom has enfolded us before we even knew it, before, indeed, even the beginning of the world.

In 1980 Jane Parker Huber wrote the baptismal hymn which we have just sung (Wonder of Wonders, Here Revealed) to emphasize two things: God loves each of us before we know how to love in return and baptism makes us part of a worldwide family unbound by time and space.

Wonder of wonders, here revealed; God’s covenant with us is sealed.

And long before we know or pray, God’s love enfolds us everyday.

We have seen such wonder this morning, in the baptism of Jackson, and Julia and Julian.

And we have promised to not only tell them the story of God’s love, but to keep learning and growing in God’s way with them and from them. For after all, every one of us, whether young or old, is a child of God.  All of us are children.  Our promise is not therefore simple guidance – it is something far more profound; it is about sharing.  Sharing across generations in a way that is open to giving and receiving from other children of God, whether 9 months or 90 years old. Jane Parker Huber captures this beautifully

This child of God, though young or old, we welcome now into Christ’s fold,

To know with us God’s loving care; here all our joys and sorrows share.

As you know, we’re about to celebrate this congregation’s 300th anniversary. And each week I’ve been inserting a historical fact into the bulletin to give us a sense of our church’s history and context. As I was preparing the font for the baptisms this week, I noticed again the dedication plaque on the cover for the baptismal font that reads:

In Loving memory of

Edward Erskine Porter

Baptized in this Church

September 17th, 1893

Entered into Eternal Life

November 1st, 1918

Aged 25 Years

“To Have a Standard, Jesus Christ”

I have asked many times if anyone knows the story of this plaque. There are no records here that tell the story. Who was Edward Erskine, and why was this font of life given in his memory? Because he died in November 1918, I suspected that he had died in service to our country during the last days of the First World War. So thinking that this might make a nice Heritage Fact for the Sunday before Memorial Day, I walked down to the war memorial in Tibbit’s Park (which runs right down the middle of N. Broadway) to see if his name was listed there. There are in fact no names listed, just the many wars in which men and women from White Plains have participated. But a simple Google search by Stella, our church administrator, discovered that Edward is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Tracking down an obituary revealed that Edward was killed in the Malbone Street Wreck in 1918, a rapid transit railroad accident at the corner of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Malbone Street (now known as Empire Boulevard), in the community of Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Brian Cudahy, author of a book on the subject, says that growing up in Brooklyn in the nineteen-thirties, three recent tragedies taught three important lessons. The Lindbergh kidnapping taught that there are people out there with evil intentions for whom we must always be on alert; the sinking of the Titanic taught that sometimes our most careful and best efforts can come to naught, and the Malbone Street Wreck taught that innocent people can die or be hurt when others fail to do their jobs properly.[2]

Also known as the Brighton Beach Line Accident, the accident occurred the evening of November 1, 1918, at 6:40 PM when an elevated train consisting of five cars entered the street tunnel and tried to negotiate a turn that should have been taken at six miles an hour but was approached at something between 30 and 40. It was the first day of a union strike, and the train was being operated by a man who had never done more than move cars in a yard but who, despite having no training, was pressed into service by the company. At least 93 individuals died, making it one of the deadliest train crashes in the history of the United States.

img_1143221

During the subsequent trial, those who were indicted for manslaughter were each charged with the wrongful death of but one individual: Edward Erskine Porter and another passenger, Thomas Gilfeather, were selected to “represent” the other 91. At the time, each achieved something like celebrity status in their death.

Why remember him with a font? We don’t know who gave this font, dedicating it to Edward’s memory.  But whoever did understood baptism’s profound declaration:  At the font life and death are bound together. At the font we die to sin and rise in Christ. Because at the font we die, Dorothy Soelle reminds us that at our natural death we move from new life to eternal life.

Edward was baptized here in this church by The Rev. Anthony Macoubrey who would have spoken the formula, “I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen.” Twenty-five years later, his funeral took place at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, where the pastor likely quote St. Paul

When we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into Christ’s death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with Christ and shared Christ’s death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of God, so too we might live a new life. For if we have been united with Christ in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with Christ in a resurrection like Christ’s. (Romans 6: 1-4)

My friends, here in church we tell a story: In life and in death, we are not alone. We belong to God.

Here in this sacrament we see God’s grace unbound for all, for me!

May we respond with joyful praise in loving service all our days.

Jane Parker Huber passed away in 2008 at the age of 82. Huber was born the in 1926, the child of Presbyterian missionaries in China. After her family returned to the United States, Jane spent most of her childhood on the campus of one of our Presbyterian related colleges where her father served as President and her mother served on the Board of Foreign Missions. After college Jane herself became deeply involved with the ministry of local congregations, Presbyterian Women and committed to social justice and peacemaking. She was at the forefront of writing hymns with inclusive language, set to older tunes. Jane’s hymns express a keen awareness that the church must always remember that we belong to a global family in Christ.  That our faith is Pentecostal is not tied to any particular culture, language or even time; instead it comes through many languages, many cultures and many times.

I tell Jane’s and Edward’s stories today because they connect us to that larger family to whom we belong through OUR baptism, a community extended through time and space.

Now we our vow of faith renew, stretch wide our sights to global view,

and claim with Christians far and near a larger family held dear.

Jackson, Julia and Julian, we welcome you into Christ’s family.  We give thanks that God’s love enfolds you in life, in death, and in life beyond death. And we delight to share with you, as we all learn and grow together in God’s way. Amen.

.

.

HYMN INTRODUCTION:

We continue our worship this morning by singing another wonder-full hymn, Lloyd Stone’s This is My Song. It is one of the national hymns I am particularly grateful will appear in Glory to God: The New Presbyterian Hymnal. As we prepare for Sarah to lift up in prayer our joys and concerns after this week in which we have experienced the devastation in Oklahoma, heard our president defend deadly drone attacks, and remember those who have died in our nation’s wars, this song invites us to keep before us that global view.

This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine;

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:

But other hearts, in other lands are beating, with hopes and dreams as true as mine.

Stone wrote the first two verses between the twentieth centuries two world wars and focuses on themes of international peace. The third stanza, written by Georgia Harkness, uses the language of the Lord’s Prayer to voice a distinctly Christian perspective.


[1] Stephen McCutchan, Sermons on the First Readings, http://www.sermonsuite.com/free.php?i=788032940&key=uUqstq6fvfQuqjl7

[2] Brian Cudahy, The Malbone Street Wreck, Second Edition, Fordham University Press, 1999.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: