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Worship Theme: The Savior in conflict with false faith
Sermon Theme: Firmly Founded in a Foolish Faith
Over the loudspeakers at the hospital came this message: “A Code Pink has been reported in the East Tower of the hospital. All hospital staff in that location are requested to take appropriate action. I repeat, we have a code Pink in the East Tower!” If you were a patient or visitor in that hospital, you’d probably give a puzzled look, think for a second, “I wonder what that means” and then go on your way! But if you work at the hospital, you’d immediately spring into action. You’d initiate your lockdown procedures – because you know that Code Pink means that a patient is missing and might be in danger. What is spoken into a loudspeaker could make a situation worse than what it already is, so some times codes are used to keep the public calm, safe and sometimes oblivious to what might be happening around them. If panic is allowed to set in amongst the public, that might hinder the staff’s ability to watch for the potential threat. Sometimes the safest thing that can happen is to deliver a message that might sound like foolishness to a lot of people but gives knowledge and important information to the ones that can do something about it.
Today the Apostle Paul tells us that the message of the cross is a bit like a coded message. It sounds like silliness to those that don’t understand it, but to the ones who can see what the cross of Jesus really is and really does, it’s the most important message that we will ever hear.
The city of Corinth sits on the western end of a narrow strip of land that bears the same name. The Isthmus of Corinth connects the Peloponnese Peninsula with the rest of Greece and then also with the rest of Europe. The waterways that come near to the city of Corinth play an important role in the city’s development as well. It had two harbors – one on the north and one on the south. Travelers and traders by land and by sea would pass through the area and build up the local economy. This made Corinth a leading city in Greece. And along with its neighbor, Athens, (50 miles to the east, on the other side of the isthmus) Corinth became a prominent place for philosophy and wisdom to be shared and spread to the rest of the world.
And it’s to these people of Corinth, to people who were known for and who lived for philosophy and wisdom and that Paul writes the words that are before us today. 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.
How contrary to human wisdom is the message of Jesus? How anticlimactic is the story of the cross? How unreasonable to think that an innocent man would or could suffer to set the guilty free. How utterly absurd to believe that anything could be won in an execution! Nailing a person to a cross of wood shows weakness in them, not strength!!
At least that’s the way the world sees the cross. A symbol of torture, and instrument of death, a sign of a tragic loss. Or maybe even worse. The world sees the cross as a symbol of folly, a crutch for the weak, a sorry tale of too many followers easily deceived by an ancient fairy tale. Too many people who are wise enough or enlightened enough to see the world for what it is. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 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.
God’s love is not hiding at the end of a mathematic formula. It’s not waiting to be discovered in a science lab. It’s not waiting for a philosopher to think their way to him. That’s not how God operates. We shouldn’t be surprised if human wisdom cannot find God’s love. God never intended to be found through debate, logic or calculation. And because of that we shouldn’t be surprised that those who look for the answers to life’s problems and questions in philosophy and mathematics don’t find the answers they are looking for. And neither should we be surprised when they mock those who have found the answers that they are so blind to. It shouldn’t surprise us that the world sees the cross as foolish – as well as those who worship the one who died there.
The only thing that should surprise us about the cross is that Christ was willing to go there for us. He could have sat peacefully on the sideline and watched us endure the consequences of our own sins! “You made your bed now you lie in it.” “You do the crime; you do the time.” That’s the way it works. We can’t pass the buck on sin or transfer the blame someone else. Adam and Eve tried that in the Garden of Eden. It didn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for us.
Everybody at work knows Keith – and not in a good way. He is a loudmouth co-worker of yours. He’s rude and abrasive. He tells off color jokes and makes everyone in the office uncomfortable. He’s insulted you to your face. You’re pretty sure that he’s stolen from you and you’ve heard the same story from almost every single one of the 50 other people who work with you. He’s irresponsible and nobody trusts him. But this was probably going to be the end of the problem. The evening before he forgot to shut the garage door in the back, the company got robbed overnight. The assessors estimate that there was $100,000 worth of lost inventory and damage caused by his forgetfulness. Your boss had a long list of reasons to fire Keith before, and now this!?! There’s no way he survives this. That’s when Rob, one of your other co-workers tells you that he is going to go in and take the blame. He’s going to tell the boss that he didn’t close the door and that it’s his fault that the company got robbed. How are you going to respond to Rob’s idea? I bet you tell him not to do it. “Rob, don’t be a fool! Keith did it, he deserves to pay the price. This is his fault. Don’t throw away your career for him!”
The only thing foolish about the cross is that Jesus was willing to climb it for me! That he was willing to die for a loud-mouthed, rude, abrasive sinner like me. I am the one that has made a mockery of God and his law. I’m the one that thinks I always know better and follows after my own path. I’m the one who speaks when I shouldn’t in anger and slander and doesn’t speak when I should in love. I’m the one who is a fool to doubt such a dependable God. How despicably dumb to be angry with a God who has done nothing but love me unconditionally. I’m the one who is a fool. Yet God makes me a follower. Undeserving though I am, God chooses me!
God chooses to open our ears to a message that we could never receive on our own. On our own self-guided tour down the path towards hell, we could do nothing but think that the cross is foolish. After all 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.
And now we are among those who see the power of the cross. We are among those who have received the love of God delivered to us by that once foolish cross. We once were the ones who were perishing, and rightly so, because of our sins, but now we know the power of the cross of Jesus and can see the glory of his love. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
God saved you and he saved me through the preaching of a foolish message. He preached to you and to me a message that could never be understood without him. But he doesn’t leave that message bare. He sends his Spirit to implant that gospel in our hearts. He sends the Spirit to open our eyes and ears to know and to understand and to experience his love.
I bet it looks foolish to the world. A crying baby taken to the front of the church. The pastor says a few words and puts a few splashes of water on his head. But for you and I who have been called by faith, we see what is happening – not foolishness at all – but the power and love of God claiming another child to be his own. The robes of Christ’s perfect righteousness covering over another person’s sin. Another one loved and redeemed by Jesus. That’s not folly. That’s power!
On a little table up front sits a feast for 300 (or 120 or less in COVID days). You can’t fit enough food there to feed a group of that size enough of a snack to last them until lunch. It’s foolish to say otherwise. But through the foolishness of the cross, we know that the Lord’s Supper feeds all who partake through this life and into eternity. And it does so much more than sustains physical life. It gives us forgiveness and grants eternal life to all who eat. Such a simple thing – a sip of wine and nibble of bread – but to us who have been called – it’s the power of God.
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified. So many in our world are looking for flashy and mighty and miraculous. But God works through the simple. His real power is shown in things that look foolishly weak. A tongue-tied spokesman like Moses…a flawed leader like David…he himself entered the world in weakness – in the womb of a virgin. His first bed was in a barn. He chose uneducated fishermen to be his followers. He showed his greatest power when he was arrested and falsely accused. He won his victory in a place where no one else could – on a cross! It looks weak to many, but it is the power of God
We don’t need flashy signs or worldly wisdom. We preach Christ crucified. Did you catch the foolish word in that sentence? It’s “we.” God has called us through the message of the gospel. He’s given us forgiveness and faith to see in the cross the power of Christ’s love and victory. He’s grouped us together with believers of all times and places and made us one big “we” - a family of faith. And “We” have a message to proclaim: We preach Christ crucified. Our God who could send legions of herald angels or who could boom with his own voice from the heavens or as Jesus told the Palm Sunday crowd could make the stones cry out, he chooses you and chooses me. He saves us and then sends us with a saving message – a message that is foolish to some but that he will use to save those whom he has called. It’s a privilege to be among those who know and can share that message: We preach Christ crucified.
The world might call it foolishness. They might even call you a fool too. But that’s OK. Let them talk. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. Thanks to God we can be content knowing that God has made us Firmly Founded in a Foolish Faith! Amen.
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