Joy and Delight
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Proverbs is one of the oldest self help books in the world. Scholars believe the book of Proverbs to be a collection of instructions and sayings attributed to King Solomon that was originally devoted to equipping youth for their passage into adulthood. For christians it is a book that guides us in our values and convictions about how we as humans interact with God’s created world. It is a book of poems that shares wonder and beauty of our Triune God’s presence in the world.
Throughout the poems of proverbs you will encounter many voices, yet the most powerful and inspiring voice you encounter is Wisdom. In our western culture when we hear the word wisdom, we quickly think of the ability to have information and knowledge. In Proverbs wisdom holds a different meaning. In fact the poems of Proverbs personify wisdom as a woman, whose characteristics are strength, dignity, laughter, and compassion. Wisdom throughout this book of instructions is encouraging God’s followers to a certain way of living. In the very first chapter of Proverbs we even hear the encouragement from wisdom that the wise way we are to live our life is one that is guided by righteousness, justice, and equity.
Today’s poem in Proverbs proclaims to us that while God created the earth, wisdom was there as God’s joyful companion. “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago…Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth…When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep…When he marked out the foundation of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
Wisdom was right in the midst of God’s creation, not to prove who was right and who was wrong, but Wisdoms’s truth and sole purpose is to rejoice before God, to rejoice in God’s created world, and delight in the human race. Wisdom is a gift from our Triune God that guides us towards righteousness, justice; and equity and also points us towards joy and delight.
Today is Trinity Sunday and for generations scholars, theologians, and pastors have used today’s reading from Proverbs to debate their various arguments for the ways the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in relationship with one another. Some have even picked this text a part trying to prove why they are right and others are wrong. In trying to solve the great mystery of the faith that is the Trinity it is easy to miss the beauty, joy, and delight of this text. So on this Trinity Sunday may we allow this poem to encourage us to approach the mystery of the Trinity with joy and delight!
We are encouraged by Wisdom to rejoice before our Triune God always. We are encourage by wisdom to rejoice in our Triune God’s inhabited world and delight in the gift of God’s created world that surrounds us. We our encouraged to remember that our Triune God is the source of our joy and delight. Our Triune God is the source of our joy because God our creator, has created us and calls us by name. We are able to have joy and delight because our Triune God’s gift of love, made known through Christ our redeemer, defines our relationship with God and all of God’s creation. We are able to have joy and delight because our Triune God through the gift of the Spirit sustains us and empowers us as we live a life seeking righteousness, justice, and equity towards all of God’s creation.
Old Testament scholar Dr. Bill Brown describes what it means be guided by our Triune God’s gift of wisdom. He writes, “To live in wisdom’s world is to experience the joy of discovery, the delight of discernment, and the thrill of edifying play. To live in wisdom’s world is to walk the path of righteousness, justice, and equity, a path that is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until full day. (4:18)”
To drive home God’s gift of wisdom that guides us to joy, delight, and play there is another way to read these last two verses of today’s text. Hebrew scholars note an alternative translation of for the words “master worker” and this is the word child. “I was beside God, like a child, and I was daily God’s delight, rejoicing before God always, rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race. (Vv.30-31)”
It is always intriguing to witness a young child find joy and delight in things that we as adults might not observe anymore with the same joy and delight. The way their face lights up when they see a playmate, the joy they express when they see a turtle crossing the sidewalk, the delight they show in playing outside in God’s creation.
So often it is easy to get caught up in a cynical and divisive world that is easily fixated on who is right and who is wrong, that we forget the joy and delight of God’s creation that surrounds us. This poem reminds us to seek a mindset of affirmation and encouragement towards God’s creation, a child like mindset of sincere and simple joy and delight towards God and God’s creation.
Wisdom’s voice is reminding us that as we faithfully strive to live a wise life of righteousness, justice, and equity we are not to forget to play and seek joy and delight in God and God’s creation. Wisdom is encouraging us to worship God with joy in our hearts and to allow the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and inhabited world to cause our face to light up with delight. Wisdom is proclaiming to us that the community that God created for us will also be how we experience joy and delight in our life.
Our Triune God’s created purpose for humanity is one that finds communal joy, delight, and play in our relationship with God’s creation. Our Triune God created us to be an intentional community that strives to love one another and be for each a source of joy, delight, and play.
There is no denying we struggle with this communal joy at times. Even in our own nation we struggle with what is right and wrong. We struggle with truth and wisdom. As we polarize our selves from one another we run the risk of losing a handle of what communal righteousness looks like, what communal justice looks like, and what communal equity looks like.
As we isolate ourselves from those who are different than us we soon realize we are not listening to the voice of wisdom, we are listening to the voice of folly. We run the risk of becoming so fixated on our individual self and our needs and not our Triune God’s created purpose for us that we could find ourselves drifting away from our community’s calling to seek righteousness, justice, and equity and even isolate ourselves from communal joy and delight.
A few years ago I read a great self help book that was not named Proverbs. It was a book called “The little book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. You might be asking, why is there a Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark? Well it is because if you are going to research happiness, you might as well have the headquarters be in the happiest country in the world, Denmark.
Hygge is an art of being that is about atmosphere and experience, not things. In this book there are lots of examples for why this mindset leads Danes to be the most happy and content people in the world. Wiking argues that togetherness is the best predictor whether we are happy or not. An interesting statistic lifted up in the book about the happiest nation in the world is “on average, 60 percent of Europeans socialize with friends, family, or colleagues a minimum of once a week. The corresponding average in Denmark is 78 percent.”
While togetherness is an important part for the mindset of Hygge that leads to communal happiness or joy, there is an intentionality to the sense of community. Hygge togetherness is when there is a lot of relaxed thoughtfulness, nobody takes center stage or dominates the conversation for long stretches of time. Wiking writes, “the art of Hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.” He challenges people to think how to shape our societies and our lives to allow our social relationships to flourish because when our social relationships with one another are flourishing our joy and delight flourishes.
While I really enjoyed reading the book and learning more about the art of Hygge, I also found it affirming the purpose of church. Last week on Pentecost we read in Acts about the mindset of togetherness of the very first church, “All who believed were together and had all things in common…Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.”
Maybe it is because I am one of the pastors of this church and I encounter lots of people at church on a regular basis, but in a broken and fearful world the church has been a place to gather together and play together and experience communal joy and delight. Of course the constant source of our joy as a community of faith is worshiping our loving creator, redeemer, and sustainer. As a church we remember God created us to be in loving community. It is in our community of faith where we can laugh tougher and experience together joy and delight before God. It is in our worship of our Triune God that we feel the Spirit sustaining us to go out into the world with joy and delight and expand our comfort zone to go and serve our Triune God with communal righteousness, communal justice and communal equity. Alleluia Amen!