Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Canticle 13, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15
You cannot bear them now, preached by The Rev. Peter Courtney
When people come to us to explore what Christian marriage might be like, we put them through the paces. You know and I know that they are not interested in Christian marriage. They are interested in a “ceremony” which they hope will not be judged too harshly by their friends. But we do it anyway. We have an instrument designed to ferret out a lot about who these folks are and some of their secrets and besetting sins. Remember sins are not bads, sins are the part of us that falls short of the glory God intended for us.
One of the questions asks:
“What concerns you most about entering into a marriage covenant?”
The most common answer is something like: “Do I know enough about myself and my partner to keep this covenant for life?”
Do I know enough? Do I have the wisdom to know if this is what I am supposed to do? The natural follow up to this question is: “How do I get this wisdom?”
Our passage from Proverbs does not help much. It tells us that Wisdom was at God’s right hand from the very beginning, a kind of celestial engineering firm pointing out where the foundations needed to be strengthened, the roof secured, the insulation packed in. It tells us that it was the Wisdom of God which saw that creation was good, and that God could “delight in the human race.”
It is wonderful that we have a God on such good terms with wisdom. All of us want wisdom; or if we don’t really want to be wise we will settle for being right; and if we can’t be right we’ll settle for attractive; and if we can’t be attractive, there is always violence. Brutality trumps wisdom and good looks, at least in the short run.
In Romans, Paul exhorts us with this wonderful series of outcomes:
We know that suffering produces endurance,
5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
For many of us the cost of hope, major dollops of suffering, endurance and at least a smidgen of character, seems awfully high. In effect we want hope on the cheap, without the suffering, without the endurance, without the character.
Wisdom tells us that cheap hope is not worth it.
So I tell persons about to be married, or people entering one vocation or another: you cannot know. Only God really knows. God has known from the beginning. It is for you to suffer, endure, produce character, then you will not hope in vain.
After all hope, like faith, is a gift. It cannot be earned by suffering, endurance, or character. Many of us have discovered that the gift of hope doesn’t have much weight without these costly experiences. So we marry and then we live it out.
I have often wondered about what it was the Jesus would have told us if he thought we could bear it. He says in “16:12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” You cannot bear them now.
The Gospels are full of things that Jesus’ hearers could not bear. He had already told them these things, and many people hated him for it, and in the end assassinated him for daring to speak the truth. The people who hated him the most were the ones who had the power to deliver him up.
Sometimes we dare to ask: Why did Jesus have to die? I never know about “have to.” I do know about what happens when you get between power and money. Jesus got in there. He probably knew better but he did it anyway. It is a dangerous and expensive place to be. Much better to act seductively, promise things that don’t matter, dress up the ugly and forget about suffering, endurance and character.
In the end it does not matter what Jesus did not tell us since we have already been told and ignored it. On the other hand if you want to profit from wisdom and receive your gift of hope pressed down and overflowing, here is some homework: Ask the unaskable question.
When have I settled for less than justice?
When have I chosen to endure?
When have I compromised my character?
When did hope seem only like a cheap trick and not the fabulous gift God intended it to be?
There are many things wisdom can tell you. She has told me all kinds of things I did not want to bear and led me to places I did not want to go. There is hope for us all. Wi