Foolish, Lowly, Weak . . . The Tools of Our God
God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things! Those are his tools! Based on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, we learn about “Foolish, Lowly, Weak…the Tools of Our God.” February 2, 2020.
The State of Wisconsin participates in a scholarship offer that it gives to the valedictorian of every public and private high school in the state. (I know this because I looked it up, not because I earned one, unfortunately!) The list of colleges willing to accept that scholarship is long, because most every school wants that caliber of student.
A perfect score on the SAT is 1600. That’s a feat that less than .02% of students who take the test accomplish. But for those that do – you can imagine that life gets just a little bit easier for such a student. The college search becomes more of a college choice. I don’t know of too many colleges that are turning away at 1600 SAT earner. You’d think that getting a job is a little easier too! That’s a nice little detail to be able to add to the resume: “By the way, I scored a 1600 on my SAT.” You’d better believe that a lot of employers would love to have brain power like that working for their company!
The San Francisco 49ers had the second pick in the NFL draft this past April. They picked the player that they felt was the best on the board- a defensive end by the name of Nick Bosa. And most would say that their pick was a good one. Nick and his team are in Miami today and are playing in a little football game later this evening. And they are playing in that game with a chance to finish as champions because they picked the best and most talented player that they could!
The car dealership is looking for a new salesman. They want to beat last year’s record year. There are two applicants. Steve is a charming, out-going, boisterous, funny kind of guy. Bob is quiet and reserved, he knows cars but not a lot about interacting with people. Who do you think the manager selected? It’s no surprise that Steve got the job!
There are certain characteristics that are good to have and one’s that are not. There are traits that will help you get ahead in life and some that might really hold you back. There are things that the world is looking for in people and things that the world scoffs at! And then there is God!
God does not look at people the way the world does! God does not judge by the world’s standards or choose the way the world chooses. If you are foolish, lowly or weak you aren’t going to impress very many people in this world. But Foolish, Lowly, Weak…Those are the Tools of Our God.
The city of Corinth was known for being a place that championed intelligence. A prominent Greek city, along with Athens, they were known for philosophy and the people there considered themselves to be some of the wisest and most well educated in the world.
This proved to be a challenge for the church that Paul planted there. It was in Corinth that Paul broke his usual pattern. Normally he would stay in a place for a few weeks or a couple of months to raise up leaders and gather a group. Then he would be on his way to the next place. On his second missionary journey, Paul stayed in Corinth, for 18 months, to pastor the group of new believers that he was blessed to be able to serve. But even after that stay, even after proclaiming the truth of salvation through Jesus by faith alone. He stayed for 18 months to help this infant congregation cut its teeth. But they still couldn’t totally shake the desire for wisdom. That’s the reason that Paul goes on to write in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 about what real wisdom is! These are the words that come right before our text, and they give us a context and background for our lesson:
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…For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18,25).
God could have chosen a philosopher, a word-smith, a highly educated well respected spokesman. But instead he chose Paul who said of himself in the words that immediate follow our text: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
It’s the same reason that God didn’t take the thorn away from Paul. Paul thought he’d be a better missionary without it. God spoke the truth: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
That’s the truth that God had in mind to proclaim through his servant Paul in the text that is before us today. He speaks it about the people in Corinth, but I think this group of Wisconsinites fit the bill pretty well: 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. 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. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
Foolish, lowly, weak...the tools of our God. Those descriptions fit us pretty well as a group, wouldn’t you say? Even though your Kindergarten teacher told you that you were special, you and I and this group are hardly the “Dream Team” of believers that would be shoe-ins for God to pick up for his team. We aren’t all first-round draft pick followers. In fact, we’re far from it!
And the first defense of that statement is that a lot of you figured out where this was going by the theme and were a little uncomfortable with the theme of today’s sermon! You laughed uncomfortably at the joke about your Kindergarten teacher being the only one who thought you were special, because deep down there’s someone else who thinks your special too – it’s you! Yes, there are foolish, lowly and weak people here at Grace, but it’s not any of you right? “Those are good descriptors of some, but not me!! I bring more to the table than that!!”
But let’s remember who is doing the choosing! It’s God. It’s God who gives us his standard of perfection. It’s God who knows all things, even the things that we try desperately to hide from others. It’s God who knows our real character. It’s God who sees our sinful hearts. He sees who’s really number one in our lives. He knows who we consider most important! He knows where he rates in our hearts and how easily we set him aside for shallow and momentary pleasures.
Foolish, lowly, weak! Those are actually pretty kind descriptors, considering... Disgusting, depraved, damnable is more like it!
Yet the God who knows all…the God who knows the true nature of our hearts did something!! God chose you! He chose you to be his! He chose you to be with him! He chose foolish, weak, lowly you and foolish, lowly, weak me! He chose us!!
He chose us! That’s great news all by itself, but it’s even greater when you consider who he chose you over! He had a choice between you and Jesus and he chose you. He gave up his One and Only Son so that you could be his sons and daughters. And Jesus chose you too! He could have stayed in heaven or ran out the back gate in the Garden or jumped off the cross when the mocked and jeered him, but he didn’t. He stayed the course to choose you! He wanted you to be with him forever. He wanted you to share in his heaven, so he stayed and he bled and he died! He wanted you to live, so he died sins death. He wanted you to know victory, so defeated sin. He wanted you to have glory, so he gave you his own.
And even in the way that Christ saved you, it’s through plain and unimpressive means. He came not to the Main Streets of Rome, but to a lowly barn in lowly Bethlehem. He was born not to royal parents, but to poor, young commoners. His birth was not front-page news, but proclaimed to some third shift shepherds. His birth changed history forever, yet the cattle slept through it all. His life the greatest that has ever been lived, but when he was thirty no one knew who he was! He was followed by some fisherman and rogue tax collector, and after three years of schooling they still failed the test! He won the greatest victory the world has ever seen and he won it hanging between heaven and earth, with blood dripping down a cross. He won a victory that the world would know him by and his reward– a grave!
Seems like folly to the world. The message of the cross is foolishness! Believing that we live because Jesus died! That’s makes us fools to most! But who cares? Because to us who are being saved (the cross) is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18).
And we know it! We experience that power. We have faith to see the cross not for foolishness but as the power of God’s love! We have it because God chose us! He chose you to be a Christ-follower, not because of your wisdom or your prestige or your strength. He chose you because he is love! He chose you not because of your life, but because of his love! He chose you not because of what you bring to the table, but because he wanted you at his table, and the heavenly feast that he’s prepared for us!
God uses common things to build his Church! Those are his tools! That’s how he operates. For millennia he’s been putting the treasure of his gospel into Clay Jars! He’s used foolish and lowly and weak sinners to proclaim his love and lead his Church and it’s been working. The elect are being called into the fold, the Church is growing and lives are being forever changed by the gospel of Christ.
God uses common things to strengthen his children! Those are his tools! That’s how he operates! He calls young and old into the fold through simple and ordinary, you could say weak things! It’s foolish to think a few drops of water could make any kind of change – but in Christ baptism is the power of God. It’s foolish to think that a small wafer and a sip of grape wine can feed us for an eternity, but with his Word – communion is the power of God!!
God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things! Those are his tools! That’s how he operates! Motivated by his gospel love, we can bring glory to God through lives of service. We as ordinary people can live ordinary lives and still be about working in his kingdom. We can serve the Lord wherever he’s put us and whoever he’s made us to be. We can rally together as a church to serve this community with the love of Jesus. We can use our common and ordinary gifts to do extraordinary things for the Lord! Look at what he’s done with foolish, lowly, weak. He’s made us righteous, holy, redeemed! He’s won our place in heaven!! It’s he alone that can work such a change! It’s God alone who deserves our praise: It is because of (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Amen.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on February 2, 2020