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Wisdom Teeth

Date:8/19/18

Series: Ordinary TIme

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: Proverbs 9:1-6

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

(preface-Sermon writing experience)

For more years than I can remember now, I’ve wanted to write a play that centered around the dinner table of my youth. You’ve all heard bits and pieces. A loud Italian family coming together at about 1 or 2 in the afternoon. It took place in a small two bedroom apartment in the Bronx at a time when this part of the Bronx still had gardens and lawns and flowers. The lobby to my Grandparents building had marble floors and mirrors with ornate gold trim and big chandelier in the center. I remember walking around that lobby, pretending to be a queen, because why be a princess when you can be a queen. My parents would take the elevator up to the fourth floor but the kids would run up the stairs. And I could smell my Grandmothers cooking getting stronger incrementally with each set of stairs. The door to the apartment was always left slightly open for us to walk into. Because in those days you could also leave your door open. I’d be wearing a dress, my Sunday best, sometimes one my grandmother, who was a seamstress, had made for me. When I walked in the apartment there would be standing one or both of them to greet me and after what seemed like endless kisses form my grandmother, I’d run to find the pepperoni. Now the table, as you can imagine in a small two bedroom apartment took up the dining area so that you’d have to plaster your body against the wall while the person seated scooched all the way in. At times there was as many as 12 of us. It’s the cast of characters that makes me want to write the play. My conservative Grandfather at one head of the table who professed he was not a racist because he knew a colored fella, and my liberal Uncle who had long hair and an earring challenging my Grandfather at the other end of the table, like Archie Bunker and meathead. Their banter was like background music for the entire meal which lasted, I kid you not for about three hours. Most of the food had been prepared all week long. My grandmother would spend all week preparing hand-rolled gnocchi, eggplant parmesan with eggplant sliced so thin you could see through it, the attention she gave the preparation of food was meticulous and labored. As a kid I only knew how good it tasted and I would hold up my bowl to my mouth and lick it clean and say, look Grandma you don’t have to wash it. This joke became a ritual joke of ours and it never got old. There were endless rituals of jokes and sayings all of which never got old. Every piece of this experience became a ritual including saying goodbye with leftovers in our hands. At the time, no one thought of it as a ritual, but just routine. But when you add time, memory and nostalgia, I can’t help but to understand it now as sacred time, sacred space, because of the labour of love involved in it’s weekly creation. And the core of the experience was centered around this table and this food. Three or four hours, antipasti, pasta, meat, eggplant, broccoli rabe, salad, meat, bread, cannoli, fruit, and demitasse….I remember adults unbuttoning the top button of their pants…

Then later that night, after driving back across the bridge 50 minutes to Long Island at around 8 pm, opening up the left over pasta in the fridge and with my hands picking at the pasta and licking up more tomato sauce. 

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to re create my grandmothers tomato sauce. Morgan learned how to make his own sauce by the age of 13 and now impresses girls at the age of 22 by cooking it for them. I’ve never been able to make my sauces like hers…and I’ve tried every which and when I would ask her for a recipe, she would say, ehhhh, you just make it. 

It was just something she knew. She just knew but couldn’t impart to me through a recipe or formula, but something I would come to know, or my version of it. Not unlike Wisdom.

Wisdom is something we all crave and seek. Since the beginning of time. Which is why we have this book of Proverbs. These teachings. There’s an entire wisdom tradition. Wisdom is so big that she’s personified as with God at the beginning. Some liken her to God’s wife. Some see her as what should be the fourth person of the holy trinity making it a quadrinity.

In this morning’s reading, she invites people to her table. 

“You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense, she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”

The way of insight is wisdoms way. And it welcomes the simple and senseless. Which makes it an unconditional welcome. This feast, this banquet, this invitation to live a meaningful and wise life begins by choosing to show up, at the table to eat.

God created a world in which all creatures have to eat, have to eat because our life depends upon food.

So here comes wisdom with an invitation to survive on the food she offers. Unconditionally. I hope as Christians this sounds familiar to you. We have a table as the focal point of our worshipping space. I know some of you still like to call it an altar, because like me you were raised in a Catholic church, or because that’s what's commonly used in movies and books. But it’s not an altar and it’s not just semantics. For years I called it an altar and for the years I worked at Westminster, Rev Barbara Rowe would correct me, sometimes form her office because the walls were thin. I’d say altar to someone while planning something in worship, and from her office, I’d hear Communion table. And for years, I thought, oh what's the big deal. Now I’m happy to be here to tell you it’s a big deal.

Altars are a place for sacrifices. Its the place to bring to God a sacrifice of penance, in need of forgiveness and in a display of gratitude. 

But in our Reformed tradition, there are no sacrifices required to come to this table. God’s forgiveness and love do not require you’re sacrificial gifts. Like wisdom, the senseless are invited here to dine. The simple is to turn in here.

Which is why I being every invitation to communion as a reminder that this table belongs to God, and all people are welcome here. This table, this wisdom table, is where we dine together in communion with one another in remembrance of Jesus Christ. It’s is so much more than anything I can describe to you in words. 

Which is why the only way I know to get close is to take you back in memory of those meals you’ve shared in love, the ones prepared by someone who loved you unconditionally. For me, my Grandmother was that that person, but maybe for you, it was someone else. But here’s the really good news, even if you don't have that person in your bodily memory from your individual past, you have it here, in this body of the church, in communion with all these people around you.

Jesus Christ is that person now. Jesus Christ is the person who loves you so unconditionally that you're the only response is to want more of it. Because once you’ve tasted his sweet goodness, once you’ve experienced his real presence in your body, it’s just like lifting the bowl to your face, licking it clean proudly and smiling to the person who loves you most who sits across from you wherever you are... 

~~~

You know it was never really about her sauce. I mean it’s always about the sauce, but it’s never about the sauce. Those meals were about the food, but they were never fully about the food. The dinner table was never about eating although we ate. The food, the table, were the vehicle that brought us together in love. The wisdom of that love has been grown over the years. For so many years I’ve walked around craving another Sunday at her house, not entirely sure why. Now I’m older, and I’m wiser, not because I read anything, definitely not because I went to seminary and not because anyone told me… 

I’m wiser because I’ve listened and watched these experiences as coming directly from God. Now, when I cook, should you come over, you’ll be sure to have pasta. When my kids are home, they ask for my pasta sauce. Eric already loves my sauce. When my kids bring their friends, I’m so happy to cook them my sauces… 

Why? because it’s never really about the sauce anymore than it’s about the four water and yeast that make up the bread at this table. It’s about the love received, the love that still lives within, the love we now pay forward as a way of remembering. Like we spoke of a few Sundays back, not a remembering with my head like a memory, but an entire experience of a sustaining love that has grown over time into the shared wisdom of eternal love. A woman who loved us so much that she would spend hours in a kitchen, hands, and feet aching from arthritis, sweating in a small bronx apartment, all so that she could ensure we’d sit at her table to dwell in her love. She only wanted to hear about us, listen to us, feed us, her food was an extension of her love and the more you ate the more she loved you. I knew I made her happy then, but I couldn’t possibly know at 23 what I know at 52. Her love, like the seeds Jesus speaks of in parables, grow. Grow so much that they spread out uncontrollably and infuse all those I have ever loved enough to cook for so that I could listen to them, love them, feed them. That love, her love, is now Christ’s love. They’ve become one and the same. It lives in encouragement, not reprimands. It lives-in unconditional invitation to the senseless and simple, no degrees, no accomplishments.

Do you hear the parallels of how Jesus loves us to a Grandmother. Can you Wisdom with an old wrinkled face with laugh lines and crows feet from years of welcoming all people to her table. Our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who prepares these lavish banquets of love for us if only we would come. We come for the bread and the wine, but we stay for the love. It’s always about the unconditional love and grace that comes from spending time with him. And like Wisdom, His ways will be revealed to you over time. Wisdom shows up over time, but it means we have to spend time, show up at his table and sit there, and answer his questions, and tell him about our day, and stay so long that we so full, we have to unbutton the top button on our pants. Stay and sit long enough, that he becomes a piece of us until it’s no longer really about the sauce, the bread, or even ourselves. 

My grandmother has shown up countless times, resurrected in countless ways since she dies when I was around 23. I used to give thanks to her, but over the years all thanks goes to the god who gave us a resurrected Christ. Because of all this is true about the love of a grandmother, how much greater and much truer is it about the love of Jesus Christ?

To be guided by a resurrected Christ in the Christian tradition is to be guided by wisdom. To see him in the love that shows up in your life, in other people, in gestures, in memory of those who loved you, especially when you thought you couldn’t possibly be worthy of it, is to gain wisdom in knowing that Jesus is at the center of all goodness.

When Paul advise the Ephesians -

Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

He might as well say, it’s not about the sauce. It's about the love of God who gave us Jesus Christ, who like wisdom, has prepared a feast for us to dine on.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.