She Who Makes All Things New

Sep 16, 2018 by

by Paula Papky

 Proverbs 1:20-33;  Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1;    James 3:13-18;  Mark 8:24-30


A Dialogue with Wisdom


me (reading to myself):  Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.  At the busiest corner she cries…Wisdom…

Wisdom:  Did I hear my name?  Did I hear someone mention Wisdom?

me:  Who are you?

Wisdom:  I am Wisdom.  That’s Wisdom with a capital W.

me:  Ma’m, I’ll need to see some identification, as they say on TV.  What is your full name and where are you from?

Wisdom:  My name is Wisdom/Spirit Of God.  And you might say I’m everywhere and always have been.  Before anything was created, I was.

me:  Says who?

Wisdom:  Says the Bible.  In the beginning I brooded over chaos.  I hovered and soared .  I was wind – that’s Ruach in Hebrew.  I was breath.  I was pure energy with the power to create.  I was Spirit, capital S.

me:  I thought you said you were called Wisdom, not Spirit.

Wisdom:  For centuries the creative force in the universe, the wind, was known by my name, by Wisdom as well as Spirit.  I was beyond gender, comprehending male and female.

me:  That’s news to me.  How did you get lost?

Wisdom:  I am not lost.  Humanity, especially the female, got lost; lost under centuries of male power to name.  But if you look carefully, I’m still to be found in the Scriptures.

me:  Oh, I do see you – Wisdom!  There you are in the first chapter of Proverbs, crying out in the street.  Where else would we find you, Wisdom?

Wisdom:  Have you never heard of Wisdom literature?  I have a whole book called, The Book of Wisdom.  Of course, it’s more commonly known as The Wisdom of Solomon.  But I’m in there.

me:  Are you ever!  It says, “She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God…more beautiful than the sun…she reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other…”

Wisdom:  And if you look in Ecclesiasticus, in Sirach, in (interruption)

me:  Wait, wait.  Those books aren’t in the Bibles we use here at MacNeill.  They’re only in the Catholic Bible, as far as I know.

Wisdom:  Well, and who benefits from leaving these books out of your Bibles?  Who chose what was in and what wasn’t, men or women?  After the first century, the church wanted to forget the Divine Feminine.  They preferred the Divine Masculine on a high throne.  But I’m not without power.  And I’m all through your Bible, too, even without those other books they call Apocrypha.

me:  I thought I knew my Bible reasonably well, but really, I wouldn’t know where else to look.  Are you actually named Wisdom all through our pew Bibles?

Wisdom:  Listen to Job, in the 38th chapter:  “But where shall wisdom be found?”  And he says, “the price of wisdom is above pearls.”  Job makes it clear that Wisdom was there in the beginning, but hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.  Wisdom is with God, he says.

me:  Okay.  Now I remember hearing of you in Job.  But where else?

Wisdom:  I’m there in some Psalms, quite a few, actually.  I’m in Isaiah and Exodus and Deuteronomy and Hosea and…(interrupts)

me:  I believe you, I believe you!  I gather the ancient story-tellers thought of you as an explicit way of speaking about God in female language and symbol.  But I can tell you right now, it’ll be a hard sell around here.

Wisdom:  Really?  You mean God here in Westdale is usually spoken of in male language?

me:  Almost always in male terms.  On Pentecost it’s okay to talk of the Holy Spirit in female images; or on Trinity Sunday maybe.  Oh, and sometimes in our prayers we begin, “Mother God”, but then we slip into the more familiar Father God.  Mostly it’s not intentional.  People just assume we know the Divine Feminine is implied; and that God is beyond gender, male or female.  Supposedly we’re using the inclusive “he”, not to be taken literally.

Wisdom:  If it‘s not meant that God is male when masculine imagery is used, why the objection when female images are used?  It’s kind of amusing, really.

me:  I’m finding it less amusing all the time.  I’d love it if we used equivalent images of God male and female.  It seems to me that would do greater justice to the dignity of women.

Wisdom:  And since you mention justice, there’s something unjust about limiting the Holy One to Father God almost exclusively.  The name Father limits God, as well as female dignity.

me:  The image of Father, Son and Holy Spirit definitely limits God in my view.  I don’t want to take away the masculine nature of Jesus, not at all.  (p. 163)  Jesus’ gender is simply a part of his being human.  But do we always have to be so literal in referring to God as he, his…  It’s all connected, isn’t it?  I’ve heard one theologian say, “If God is male, the male is God.”

Wisdom:  Yes.  It becomes hard to imagine the female as equally created in the image of God when we rarely say she or her.

me:  What I struggle with is the need to find language and symbols that set women free.  I mean, wouldn’t that be good news for women everywhere to hear?  Maybe we at MacNeill aren’t guilty of making our girls and women subordinate to males, but look out there at the world.  The adult ruling male is presented as a paradigm for the humanity!  These are not emancipating images for women or for men or for the Divine.  A great deal of the world’s suffering is caused by this world view of a male God on a throne.  In this Season of Creation, maybe the church needs re-creation.  Our names and symbols need re-construction.  But how do we make that tearing down and reconstructing sound like good news for the high and mighty as well as the lowest people, women and men?

Wisdom:  You begin by rediscovering the language and images already at your fingertips, in your Scriptures.

me:  Sure.  I get that.  But even you are easily overlooked in our Scriptures because in most of the Bible, you aren’t capital W Wisdom; you’re just wisdom, lower case w.

Wisdom:  Yes, that’s an editing decision that goes way back.  And we know who made the decisions on what’s in the Bible and what’s not, back when Empires and Kings abounded and were the model for God.  Women were far down on the scale of importance, just above slaves and children.  But listen, even when my name starts with a small w, it’s still me:  Wisdom.  Or Wisdom/Spirit, if you prefer.

me:   Oh, I see what you mean.   Luke writes of Jesus: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.”

Wisdom:  Yes, he was filled with wisdom.  He grew in me, just as he was conceived and birthed by me.  In me he flourished.  Look, I’m not so hard to find and to ponder if you look beyond names.  Look to Wisdom’s acts in the world.  Many of those acts could be described as female.  Paul writes to the church in Rome, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now.” (8:22)  That’s obviously a birthing image, isn’t it?

me:  And you, Wisdom,  are the midwife.  We see clearly your action as the Divine Feminine, helping new life, new creation, to be born.  You are forever making all things new.

Wisdom:  The psalmist had me in mind, too, when he wrote, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”  This the Divine Feminine, the knitter of every life, even though I’m not named Wisdom here.  You infer from my life-giving action that I’m there.

me:  I’m certain that language shapes experience.  I’ve thought that for a long time.  And so I ask myself, what language for God best frees us for new ways of living with each other and with the earth?  There is so much suffering throughout the whole created order.  And that great myth in Genesis leads us to see the Divine action of giving birth, of giving life to all, even the cosmos.  Why are these images so unacceptable in our churches?

Wisdom:  I think it will help your people to see the way ahead if you remember that Spirit and Wisdom are two names for the Divine in the story of creation and re-creation.  You might say I am “She Who Makes All Things New.”  I breathe new life into the dried bones left behind after war, as I did so long ago in the valley of dry bones.  I feed hungry people, cradling them in my arms, nursing them at my breast.  I was there in the man, Legion, chained in the graveyard, in the grip of evil spirits.  At work in Jesus, it was I, Wisdom, who restored the man’s life and gave him back to his community.  I’m at work where women are demeaned and cry for justice as the mothers of Rohingya do, their husbands all slaughtered.  These women need to know they too are made in the image of the Divine who is beyond gender and creed and race.

I must warn you, though, don’t fall into the trap of imagining the Mother God, the great I Am, as sweet and domestic and mostly harmless.  That description of women has served countless males on thrones over the centuries.  Yes, I am as the Wisdom book says, pure, peaceable, full of mercy.  But those who demean the ones created in my image, those who destroy my beloved creation, will find me as Hosea described me:  “I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs:  I will tear open their breast.”  Or as Isaiah wrote, “I will never forget the children of my womb.”  Wisdom/Spirit can be fierce.

me:  There’s a little story in Mark 7 that I think I see in a new light now.  There’s a woman, a Gentile living far from Jerusalem, who has heard stories of this Nazarean healer named Jesus.  She has a little daughter with an unclean Spirit, which is another way of saying the girl is very ill.  This mother went to Jesus and fell at his feet and begged him to cast the demon out.  Neither she nor her daughter was part of Jesus’ mission as he understood it at that time.  He believed at this point that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  And so he answers the woman, saying that the children of Israel must have priority; they must be fed first.  But this unnamed woman, of no status, this woman on the margins, challenges Jesus:  “Sir,” she says, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

And in that moment Jesus understands his mission is far larger.  He understands the need to welcome Gentiles who have faith in him, who believe he has the power to renew life.  Jesus praises her:  “For saying that, you may go.  The demon has left your daughter.”

me:  Is it you, Wisdom, who sets this woman free?  I believe You are the Divine working through Jesus to free this little girl from death, to renew her life.  I see you there, Wisdom, in that life-giving moment.

Wisdom:  The good news?

me:  The good news is that even now She is making all things new; re-ordering creation; gathering the powerless to her breast; sheltering them under her wings until they grow strong; until they, and we, are strong enough to share with her, Divine Wisdom, the work of transforming the world She has created.  Amen.

Many of the ideas in this dialogue are from She Who Is, by Elizabeth Johnson, Crossroads, 1992.

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