Summary: A look at 1 Corinthians 1.18-31 from the lectionary for Holy Tuesday worship, and the challenge of being a 'fool' for Christ
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen,
In the letters that Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, he always found a way to challenge them, to make them think about their faith and how they walked the path being set out before them.
Through the scripture that we have just listened to from 1 Corinthians Paul is beginning to teach them about the two ways in which things are looked at, the first being the worldly way, and the second the way of the kingdom.
This scripture splits neatly into two different parts.
The first looks at how Christ is a problem for both Greeks and Jews, and how they find the actions of Christ to be in contradiction, the Jews expected the Messiah to be someone of Power and Majesty. Someone who was going to take his place in Jewish culture as their King, just as we saw on Palm Sunday, but instead they found that Christ came to be a servant to all, and that he would associate himself with anyone, including with those that they would regard as the ‘dregs’ of society.
The Greeks on the other hand were unable to comprehend that God would come and take human form and dwell among us. The Greeks were well known for their wise men, and in the series of events that led to Christ’s crucifixion they couldn’t see any wisdom in what was happening, all they could see was foolishness. One of them even went as far as to say that to involve God in human affairs was an insult!
But if we look at what Paul is saying, then this reaction is to be expected.
He says ‘For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.’
The Greeks and the Jews were very clearly looking at what was happening from a worldly perspective, without giving any thought to the eternal plan that had been set in motion.
The second part of the reading looks at the glory of shame.
On first glance this looks like a massive put down, not many were wise, strong and so on. Paul really knew how to motivate people!
But then it changes, and suddenly his words aren’t about belittling us, but they are about the way God affirms us, and that he chose us. Paul is showing us the way ahead; he is encouraging us to seek heaven, and to turn away from the benefits of the world.
But let’s just look at that for a minute. I want to ask you a question.
Are we what Paul is suggesting, are we fools?
Well let’s look at the evidence.
Christ died on a cross; he suffered all the pain and anguish of the world to give us hope. He was beaten, stripped and humiliated for all to see.
So that means our faith is based on a man who was ready and prepared to be humiliated, rejected and scorned, even when those around him wanted him to put an end to all of this and bring a mighty army to show us the way that a mighty, conquering King would act.
The disciples sought a worldly solution to what was happening, and expected Christ to capitulate, to act in a way which was more comfortable for people to see.
But Christ wasn’t just fully human, he was also fully divine which meant that he didn’t seek riches, or glory, or any of the things that we sometimes strive for in our everyday lives. Yes it could be argued that he was a well-known man, but was he well known in a way that the world would find acceptable? I think we can all agree the answer to that one is no.
He chose these things to show us that there is something more than this mortal coil. He did it to give us hope, and to show us by example how we should live.
Each Lent we spend time focussing on an aspect of our Christian life, service, discipleship, the beatitudes, and this year looking deeper at the significance of Holy Week.
Whilst each year has its own unique qualities particular to the theme, what we do see is that running through all our studies is the way in which having faith is a way of life, which if we are being honest, through the world’s eyes may seem foolish, and some might say stupid!
So if we strive to follow these principles, does that make us all weak and feeble? I suppose the answer to that question lies in another – where do we place our hearts? Are our principle values the ones of the world or of the kingdom?
Paul also speaks of the weak being strong and the strong being weak. But surely this is a contradiction? How can someone weak be stronger than someone with lots of strength?