Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sermon March 10-11, 2012

Title: Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

Text: 1 Cor.:22-25 (ESV) 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

Dear friends, 

There is a scene in the movie “Annie Hall” where Wood Allen’s character is standing in line at a movie theatre and the man behind him is talking to a lady about the influence of TV and media on society. He’s speaking about Marshall McLuhan – an English professor who wrote an important book on the subject called, “On the Media.” 

Woody Allen continues to look and speak to the camera when he says: “What can you do when you get stuck on a movie line with a guy like this behind you?” 

He turns and speaks to the man directly: “You don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan's work”— to which the man replies: “Really? I happen to teach a class at Columbia called TV, Media and Culture, so I think that my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity.” 

Woody then does a really funny and insightful thing. He says, “I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here. Come over here for a second?” He brings the man out of the movie line where Mr. McLuhan is standing and says to him: “Tell him.” So Marshall McLuhan looks at the man and says: 

“I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” 

The scene ends with Woody Allen looking straight at the camera and us and saying:

“Boy, if life were only like this.” 

Sometimes man’s wisdom can cause him to trust in his own reason and understanding, leaving little room for anything but an idol made out of his own self-serving image so: 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

Churches at times have problems and it’s nothing new. When you build something with broken pieces caused by sin they at times fail. The Corinthian church had plenty of problems. 

Paul heard about it through Chloe’s people. Many had determined to follow Paul; some were following Apollos some Cephas and some had chose to follow Christ. So Paul asks: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? 

God confounds the wise so that we like children rest in Christ! 

There were some who, through their own wisdom, reason and efforts thought that they could find their way and make peace with God. They would be confounded or confused in their efforts. God keeps Himself hidden. He conceals himself from them. No amount of human effort, by the wise and learned of their day, can find Him and that is why God is so confounding to them. To confound is an interesting verb. It causes one to become confused or perplexed, to fail to distinguish and to mix up, to make something bad … worse, to frustrate or even to damn. 

The scribes and the Pharisees of Israel saw themselves as the caretakers of the wisdom and understanding of God’s Law. The Law showed them all God demanded and what He required. “This we can do, they thought.” The Gospel remained hidden from them because it is only found in the finished work of the God/man Jesus Christ and to whom He chooses to reveal Himself to. 

Those who were seeking the Father on their terms didn’t find him. The Father and Son know each other intimately. To know the Father they must know the Son and the Father can only be accessed through the Son by His revealing. 

19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, 
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 

Wisdom had entered the church at Corinth and it enters the church here at Peace as well. 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? 

We too can find ourselves looking for God apart from His revelation. We too need to be compelled to cast all our cares on Him. But we too can fall short as we, through our own reason and understanding, seek to make peace with God and know the father on our terms. 

You must accept the Son just as a little child does. Through the waters of Baptism the fullness of the Father is known through His revelation in Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord. Belief is not attained through reason or effort but only through faith by God’s gracious will. Many today still fight against this. 

Many unfortunately though hope to direct God through their own wisdom in choosing what part of His word applies to them today. Many question the working of God - even in the baptizing of an infant because it doesn’t fit their understanding of freedom won (a decision that they make) as opposed to freedom given (a gift received). 

Many still want their vote to count and to find God on their terms! Those who do through their own wisdom might hear God say something similar to what Mr. McLuhan said: 

“I heard, what you were saying. You, know nothing of my work. Why you ever thought you could reach me through your own reason and efforts is totally amazing!” 

I spoke to an inactive member of our church recently as I was making calls one evening. When I asked why they had stopped coming to church the reply was, “Well, I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” 

I then asked if they were attending another church and the reply was, “I did for awhile until they started teaching some wacky stuff!” 

Sometimes the best gift the Lord gives us is the word properly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered so we can also discern truth from error. In Love, we all have all had that benefit of Pastor Merrell’s faithful service here for over 30 years rightly dividing truth from error and through the working of the Holy Spirit giving faith to those who will believe. 

Christ crucified, Wisdom or folly … what do you say? Is it God’s means of grace or just wacky stuff? 

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, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 

And then Paul concludes: 

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 

Paul then tells them: If there is to be boasting … 

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 

Ben Franklin had this to say about foolishness: 

“The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned, but its still nonsense.” 

The cross is foolishness to those without the Spirit. Highly educated or little education, it doesn't matter. Apart from God's Spirit working and calling us by the Gospel we have no way of sharing in God's saving power by Faith. 

God, in love, goes to the cross for us. 
God, in love, gives us faith to believe. 
God, in love, sustains us in that faith through His word and sacraments. 

There is a wonderful illustration I’d like to share with you: 

It’s a story of a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, “Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.” To which the girl replied, “Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday school, that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.” 

Christ crucified Wisdom or folly …? 

God has given you faith. He has called you by the gospel to believe. Those that believe He gives eternal life and you are covered by Christ’s righteousness. As was said earlier …

“Boy, if life were only like this.” As Jesus Christ has said … “It is finished!” 

By the power of the Holy Spirit in you God will see you to eternity now and forever. 


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