Rev. Keli Shipley Cooper | 6.15.22

“Trust your instincts.” “Go with your gut.” I can’t remember the first person that told me this—probably a gymnastics coach or a math teacher, but I can tell you that I hear it a lot. I even say it a lot. Trust your instincts. Your intuition. Listen to what the universe may be telling you. You’ll know when the time is right. Yes—and, well, maybe not.

Lately, I talk a lot about becoming a parent. Before Annie was born, I, no joke, had a color-coded binder with all the research I did about raising a child. And then Annie was born. She came out like a bat out of hell, full of personality. We felt like we had no idea what we were doing. And people love giving parents unsolicited advice. Folks would tell us “You’ll know when something is right or wrong.” And yes, this is sometimes true; but my google searches suggest otherwise. In a world filled with many voices, noises, and unsolicited advice, it becomes increasingly important yet extremely difficult to listen to our gut.

Last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost—a celebration of the church receiving the Holy Spirit and being sent out into the world. The Spirit is often known as the advocate, our guide. Perhaps even our intuition. Our gut. Today is Trinity Sunday—a feast day when we highlight the relationship—the connectedness—the oneness of the Godhead—three in one- God. Christ. Holy Spirit. We’ll focus on the reading from Proverbs—our first reading in today’s service. This is a text often known as “Lady Wisdom”—a female personification of who many of us call the Holy Spirit. Since, in my opinion, the Spirit doesn’t get as much discussion as the other two, let’s spend some more time with the Spirit today. As we learn about one, we come to learn more about the three in one- the Trinity.

Hear again a portion of our first reading. Listen to it as an origin story. A history.

1 Listen! Does wisdom not call,
and does understanding not raise her voice?
2 On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand.
3 beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals, she cries out:
4 “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
30 then I was beside God, like a little child,
and I was daily God’s delight,
rejoicing before God always,
31 rejoicing in God’s inhabited world
and delighting in humankind.

This is the word of our Lord. Thanks be to God.

The Book of Proverbs offers us timeless wisdom, practical advice, and images of Lady Wisdom alongside her antithesis, folly. This text is a hymn to wisdom, bringing voice to a female personification of wisdom herself. She was with God before the beginning of the earth; she was there ages ago. And she was like a little child—standing right beside God—in awe of God’s work. Can you see it? The sweet smile on her face—the order created out of chaos—the good, life-giving moments amidst the bad. She saw what was intended of this earth and saw that it was good. The Old Testament often gets a misleading reputation for describing an angry God. A wrathful God. But here, we have God—and a Spirit—who delight in humankind.

But, of course, there was sin. And there is evil. There was evening and there was morning. The earth is not perfect, and humans are not without fault. Life is not without death. And wisdom is not without folly. But listen, does not wisdom still call us—and does not understanding raise her voice?

She shouts within the chaos that is this world. When we’ve done something wrong, can you not hear her? When we read news of mass shootings, perpetual gun violence, war, people persecuted because of their sexuality, formula shortages, hunger, people losing choices over their own bodies. Do our guts not wrench? Do we not hear her nudge? Her shouts. Wisdom is offered not just to some people, but wisdom is offered to all people. Wisdom demands to be heard by all people. And we are not only equipped with the Spirit but we are also encouraged to listen.

In seminary, I took classes on church history. Polity. Biblical Greek. Hebrew. And while these are super helpful—here are the classes I also needed: Copier and Printer 101. Managing a Pandemic 201. 301. And 401. And then the pieces that aren’t necessarily taught in a classroom—but perhaps cultivated—the emotional intelligence. Finding good mentors and colleagues. Learning to set boundaries- recognizing our own limits. Triaging situations- understanding what the pastoral priorities are at that time—when and how to respond. Perhaps you can think of examples of this in your own lives- your own ministries—your own relationships. Life lessons. Things you did not learn from a textbook; but rather, wisdom you gained from life itself.

I feel like we focus a lot on the mind. Discuss the inner workings of the heart. But the gut—the feelings. That which is unseen. The guiding compass of our lives. The thread that connects each of us.
Wisdom, just as she was at creation, is still with us today—she is at the crossroads, at the front of the town, she is calling out, “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.” The church, the Body of Christ—is in relationship with one another just as the Godhead is in relationship with one another. Wisdom comes in lots of forms—from literature to meditation to conversations with close friends to unexpected meetings with strangers. Wisdom is there—are we listening?

Many people pray the Serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is not just a prayer reserved for addicts and their loved one, it is a prayer for all of us. Because here’s that word wisdom again: wisdom. Yes, there are things we cannot change. There are people we cannot change. And yes, there are things we can change. Policies we can change. Our own minds can be changed. And then wisdom. Wisdom, who has been with us since the beginning, who has been with God since the beginning, is with us. We continue to fine-tune our ability to listen to our gut and to trust ourselves.
Take a few deep breaths in and listen. Does not wisdom call? Perhaps hunger is also calling as lunchtime nears, but bear with me here. Remember to take deep breaths, meditate, talk to someone, seek help, ask, doubt, question. Verbally process. Inwardly process. Listen.

Because in the beginning, when God created all things, God saw that it was good. And we have innate goodness- wisdom. The Holy Spirit filled within each of us that we relate to one another. On Trinity Sunday, we are reminded that we are never alone. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are within and around each of us. Our spirits, our guts guide us. When we may feel lost or alone, we are reminded that wisdom has been here since the beginning of time. And wisdom continues to be with us. So, yes. Trust your instincts. Listen to your gut. Listen with open hearts, minds, and spirits. Wisdom is calling.

Amen.