Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Church Is Full of Fools!

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18 For the message about 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,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

                Coming in March there is a new movie coming out – Noah.  Russell Crowe is playing the lead role.  Jennifer Connelly is in it.  Anthony Hopkins is in it – he is cast as Methusalah, Noah’s grandfather.  It has a budget of $130 million and will be complete with lots of special effects.

                I have no idea whether this is going to be a great movie – or a flop, but I do know the story is a fascinating story.  Now the Bible spends just a very brief section on the story of Noah – so to make a major motion picture, there will have to be some creative license.

                But it is an interesting story – and when you read it, you wonder about all the things that are not said in the Bible.

                For one thing, what did the neighbors think?

                I’ve lived in neighborhoods where the Homeowners Association would send you nasty letters if you left your trashcan out overnight.  And here’s Noah building this huge Ark that is 300 cubits long.  I mean, my trashcan is only about 3 cubits high.

                Bill Cosby had a routine early in his career as a comedian in which he imagined what it would have been like to be Noah.  Part of this routine involved Noah’s neighbor walking by one day and he sees the ark.  He yells out to Noah, “Hey, Noah – what is this thing?”

                Noah yells back – it’s an ark.

                The neighbor yells back, “An ark?  You want to move it?  It’s blocking my drive way.  I can’t get my camel out of my garage.”

                At one point in the routine, Bill Cosby continues in the roll of Noah and begins to complain to God, “Lord do you know how hard it is for a man my age – I’m 600 years old.  I have to haul all this wood around.  I’m going out getting two of everything – one male mosquito, one female – do we really need those things anyway.  And then you let me bring in those two elephants and you never told me that the female was pregnant. You give me no manual for how to deliver a baby elephant and all the neighbors are laughing at me because there I am under the elephant trying to catch the baby.  The neighbors are making fun of me all the time – “ha, ha ha, there’s crazy old Noah.”

                Bill Cosby’s routine on Noah is a classic comedy skit – but he nails it when it comes to the neighbors making fun of us and laughing at Christians.

                Paul is right there with Bill Cosby. 

                Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians:  For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”

                The world around us is laughing at our foolishness, for to them, we are fools.

                We see it on the playground when everyone seems to be bullying and picking on one of the children – and one child stands up against the bullying because she is a Christian and she tries to show love and compassion.  The other children might respond well – but they might also laugh and ridicule. 

                We see it when the teenager tries to be sexually pure.  The body is sending messages to the brain – “oh yeah, we gotta get some satisfaction!”  And all the other kids are saying, “Yeah, no big deal, just be sure to practice safe sex.  You’d be a fool not to.”

                To stand up against those pressures – well, the world sees that as foolish.

                We see it in adults who feel out of sync with culture.  Culture says blessed are those who are greedy, for they shall inherit the earth – but faith says, that the earth will be inherited by those who are meek.  Faith says, blessed are those who show mercy, but the world says that those who show no mercy get ahead. 

                The world looks at us and says – “fools.”

                Henry Ward Beecher, the famous New England minister, entered his pulpit one Sunday morning. On the pulpit was a letter in an unmarked envelope.  He opened it and found a single sheet of paper.  On it was one word – “Fool.”

It was meant as an insult.  It was meant to hurt the pastor. 

But the pastor was not dismayed – he held up the paper and said, “I’ve known a lot of men to write letters and forget to sign their name, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a man forget to write the letter but remember to sign his name.”

Who is the fool?  Who is the one who is wise?

                As Paul said, For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”

                To love our neighbor is fine, but Christ calls us to love our enemy --- foolishness in the eyes of the world.

                To care about the poor?  To practice generosity and to be our brother’s keeper?  To look after others and not just to look after ourselves?  To think of others more highly than we regard ourselves?  Pure foolishness in the eyes of the world.

                To believe that God sent his Son to die on a cross – to be executed between two common criminals?  Foolishness in the eyes of the world.

                To gather together in a church and eat some pieces of bread and to drink from cups the wine or the grape juice?  To call that a Sacrament?  Foolishness in the eyes of the world.

                When we live as Christ commands us to live, some will admire us.  Some will respect us.  But many will laugh at us.  Comedians with videos on youtube will insult us.  And they will call us foolish, but God will call us wise.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

To live a life in which you show love to your neighbors, and even to your enemies – that may seem foolish to the world, but that is a good worthwhile life.

To live a life that helps the poor oppressed may seem foolish to some, but to God, that is a life well lived.

The world can ridicule those of us who believe we are saved by Christ, but come judgment day, knowing Christ as Savior will have proved to have been wise indeed.

I was in a classroom once in Seminary and we were asked what we wanted written on our tombstones.  I offered that I’d like mine to say, “here lies Maynard Pittendreigh, he died of extremely old age.” 

The professor smiled and said, “I’ll do you one better.  It is said that among some of the Monks of the Orthodox Church it is common to place upon their tombstone the phrase: “Here lies a Fool for Christ.”

What greater tribute could there be?

Copyright 2014
W. Maynard Pittendreigh
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