Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sermon - 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - Epiphany 4

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Epiphany 4
January 30th, 2011
“Preaching Foolishness”

“That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!” Anyone ever said that to you, or about something you happen to believe? Is there anything more insulting or disquieting than to have someone question one of the major tenets of your faith – or to suggest that the whole thing is rubbish?

And don't think it doesn't happen. For many of the doctrines of the Christian faith are disturbing to those who don't believe them. Sure there are the live-and-let-live types. But to those who take the time to understand what Christianity actually teaches – they are often angered or offended. And they'll sometimes tell you how foolish they think you are to believe it.

But this isn't a sermon about them. This is a sermon for us. What does it do to us when someone tells us our faith is stupid? That we are fools? Does even a part of us believe it?

We are tempted, not just by such attacks. We are tempted even by our own minds, to place our reason before faith, our own ideas and thoughts before the word of God. And when we do, we usually come to the wrong conclusion.

Luther called reason the “Devil's bride” and the “Greatest enemy of the faith”. One quote attributed to Luther reads, “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God” He also said, "All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false."

So Dr. Luther agrees with St. Paul, that the message of the cross is foolishness, a scandal, utterly unreasonable.

But. To us who are being saved.... a different story. To us who
are being saved, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Still, there's this conflict within us...

Sin often seems so reasonable. Just a little cheating here won't hurt. A little lying there and no one will know. I'll get rid of this inconvenience and I'll ignore that word of God – it's just not practical. God's ways don't make sense to us. Wouldn't it be better to do it my way?

I know God said, “don't eat from that tree”. But it looks so good and I want to be wise. God said, “Honor thy Father and Mother”, but they just don't know what it's like to be a teenager. God said, “do not give up meeting together”, but I could really use a day off this weekend. God said, “pray for your enemies”, but I really hate that guy! God said, “love your neighbor”, but that person doesn't seem worth it... and on and on...

But in reality sin is entirely unreasonable. How many times do we do what's wrong even though we know better. Even though we know we'll get caught, we'll pay the consequences one way or another. Even though we know that sin brings death, and pain, and punishment. And yet we go and sin – for some inexplicable reason.

Reason, human, corrupted, sinful reason, must bow to the foolishness of God. What we think, and what we think we know, must always come after what God says is true. Even if it seems unreasonable.

And thank God for such foolishness. What kind of foolish God would do what he does? Come down from heaven, be born a human. Be mocked. Suffer. Die. Forgive sinners. Love people who hate him. Do it all for people who do everything but his will. Jesus is either the biggest fool who ever lived, or his foolishness is bigger and better than we can imagine.

Paul says God uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong. There's no one stronger in this world than Satan himself. And there's nothing weaker than dying in humility on a cross. And there it is. The foolishness of God. The cross.

So we preach Christ Crucified. It's the only way. It's the only wisdom for us foolish sinners. It's the only power for those of us weakened even to death. Jesus dies, for you and me, for all. The Lord of life dies to bring life. The All-Powerful God submits to petty and unjust human punishments, the judge of all, the king of all, submits to cowardly Pilate.

And in a fit of further foolishness, God turns things upside down again – bringing Jesus from death to life. Back from the dead. Who would ever have thought? What worldly wisdom could have predicted? But no, it's against all reason and wisdom and common sense. But it is by such foolishness that we are saved. In fact without the resurrection, our faith is in vain, as Paul says.

So the next time someone calls you a fool for believing in Jesus, you might agree. But remember that God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom. The next time sin seems reasonable to you, repent! And in your weakness turn to the only strength we have – the weakness and foolishness of Christ. We preach Christ Crucified.. for you! The power and wisdom of God are in him, for you.

In his holy name, Amen.

No comments: