The Third Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/8/2015)

Lessons:Exodus 20:1-17 Psalm 19 1st Corinthians 1:18-25 St. John 2:13-22

Prayer of the Day: Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1st Corinthians 1:18-25New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Power

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 1st Corinthians 1:18, 25

These words, the first and last verses from this weekend’s second lesson, are nothing less than breathtaking.

The foolishness of the cross, and the weakness of God: on these two ideals we stake the very future of our lives. Or at least we are invited to do so, because this is both the most inspiring aspect of Christian faith, and one of the most difficult beliefs to embrace.

Our world, of course, is built on exactly the opposite premise. This was the case for the first century Corinthians as well. A great, thriving center of commerce and trade, the people of Corinth understood what made their world tick. Everybody knew who the “wise and discerning” business owners were in their community. They struck a hard bargain, they made a good profit, and they lived a luxurious life. So too, today. Those who are able to understand and put into practice “the wisdom of the world” can work within that wisdom to find economic, social and political success. Those who discern how to manage economic and social structures can work them to their own advantage. Get a good education. Determine what your gifts are. Connect with the right people. Work hard. Take advantage of every opportunity. Success will come your way. This is the way of the world, but much as we might twist the message of Scripture in service to this ideal, it is not the way of our God.

Instead, our God is one whose wisdom is seen in foolishness; whose power is seen in weakness. God has dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Nazareth, who was wiling to give his life on the cross that we might be put right with God, and who invites us to pick up our cross and follow him. The Apostle is right to note that the world thinks of this as foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Power hidden in weakness. Wisdom hidden in foolishness. A truth that is hard to see. A truth that is even harder to live. Yet a truth that leads to life eternal.

As Hollywood has recently reminded us, on “Bloody Sunday” — March 7, 1965 — state troopers showed up on the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, Alabama, armed with billy clubs and tear gas. Their intent was for the power of the state to be on full display that day. But what the world remembers is the power of those who stood up against racism and injustice. Willing to give their lives if necessary, bloodied and beaten by law enforcement officers, their non-violent stand became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement. The weakness of their sacrifice proved stronger than the power of the state; the foolishness of their commitment overcame the wisdom of the culture; and the movement for civil rights and equality advanced.

Or rather, consider the words of Pope Francis. He has been a surprise to Christians and non-Christians alike, but we shouldn’t be so surprised. He is a man who knows Christ; a man who understands the Apostle Paul; a man who has seen time and time again that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom; that the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly. We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord.

The most powerful reality there is can be found in the foolishness of the cross; in the weakness of God. May it also be found in us!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Paul’s vision of faithfulness contrast with that of his day?
  2. What is inspiring about weakness and foolishness when we consider what God has done?
  3. How does this view of faith undergird the ministry Paul carried out?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What about weakness or foolishness is displeasing to me?
  2. Have I ever known someone who modeled a power that comes from sacred weakness?
  3. In what ways might this Bible passage inform my own personal faithfulness?