Sermon: Epiphany 4A, Sunday February 5, 2014.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 18 For the message of 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; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[a] 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[b]
I read this quote during the week by Samuel Rutherford, the 17th century Scottish Presbyterian Pastor, and it helped me understand Paul’s word here on the cross of Jesus and what it means and what it does for us…
“Christ’s cross is such a burden as sails are to a ship or wings to a bird”. (Samuel Rutherford ,Scottish Presbyterian Pastor, 17th Century)
The cross of Jesus, an instrument of shame and pain is a burden to the one who knows it and trusts it, and yet it is a burden without which you cannot fly.
Like a bird that has to carry large and unwieldy wings, those same unwieldy wings enable the bird to truly live.
Paul speaks of this two-sided gift of God to a community doing two things – looking for powerful works of God to convince themselves and others that God truly is present and real, or, constantly searching for self-discovery and wisdom from anywhere they deem fit to find it.
22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified:
So, the powerful sign people are looking for signs of divine power to fly and the self-discovery types are looking for wisdom from experience, guru’s and anywhere else to fly.
Paul lays the troubling truth of the cross of Jesus on both as the only means to truly fly.
The gospel is a burden.
I wish the story I now live in was easier to tell to others. Both because it is the best story to tell and I know it surely is “the power of God for people’s salvation”. But I wish it was easier to live and tell because I have found that this message of Jesus’ death for the sin of the people is indeed often regarded as a stumbling block to powerful sings of the divine or complete foolishness to people. For this reason, living and telling the good news of the grace and power of God given in the weakness and shame of the cross for us hard to tell. It is an upside down world I am living in among people who think they are living the right side up all by themselves!
So, I wish the story I now live in was as easy to share and receive, like the news of an Australian victory in the cricket or as easy as complaining about the government or swapping details re the weather. I wish the gospel story we carry in our hands and hearts was so much more easily spoken and received.
The gospel is not an easy thing to share or even an easy thing to hear sometimes.
Well, Paul says here that the gospel is directly in opposition to the broken human heart. That’s one reason. We are carrying a message that the human heart does not want to hear. How come?