Text: 1 Cor. 1:18-31
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly 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, 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.
An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean [of the university] that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.
"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."
The dean [now with all wisdom] looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money."
Betsy Devine and Joel E. Cohen, Absolute Zero Gravity, Simon & Schuster.
That is the wisdom of the world!
And … here is what the business community says:
Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly.
Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School.
Paul asks: 20 Where is the one who is wise?
We understand the wisdom of the word. “I should have taken the money”, sounds all too good for we who live in a materialistic society. What can’t be fixed, of the needs and wants we have, with just a little more cash? The rising costs of the bills sure wouldn’t be much of a problem. Declining attendance here at church wouldn’t matter much. Even those things at home of concern might not seem like such a big deal; and the budget here at Peace - just wouldn’t matter all that much.
But that is not wisdom for God.
Remember, Christ’s birth was not what was expected. What was expected was a King and Messiah of power … power as the world knows.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Paul is saying in a sense that by the world’s standards - wisdom, wealth, power and noble birth - that is where they believe salvation is.
The Corinthian church was having its share of problems. They had divisions in the church with some following Paul, some Peter and others following Apollos, and even going so far as to be concerned with who baptized who. For us in the Lutheran faith, it is God who baptizes through the one officiating and it is the water connected to the word according to Christ command and promise by the power of the Holy Spirit that brings faith to life.
Paul asks: 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? And concludes the epistle reading from last week saying: 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
God’s power is found not in wealth, worldly power or noble birth, but in the word of the cross and the preaching of Christ Crucified – which is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles.
It is interesting that with this letter and many of Paul’s letters he uses,
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus (Charis) grace to you in a sense means: May the Lord give you an abundance of his undeserved gifts and (shalom) or peace saying God is our friend and may that bring you rest, satisfaction and joy.
1 and II Corinthians Commentary R.C.H. Lenski pg 27-38
The world and its gifts can bring us at times comfort and blessing but only our true grace and peace come from God. It comes to us by God in his wisdom and through things that appear foolish in the eyes of the world.
A familiar story is told about 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.”
The foolish are made wise in Christ!
What looks wise – power, wisdom, riches, and eloquent speech are not required for God’s power. It is in a sense joyful to preach and proclaim Christ crucified because it is not the wisdom of the speaker but the power of God through his word - the word made flesh – that brings the results of faith, life and peace.
You only have to look to the events of last weekend - the inauguration and subsequent protest marches – along with the postings on social media to see the world in all its foolishness on both sides of the debate. If there is video … you can hear the foolishness too - Manmade problems and manmade solutions will fix everything we are told. Granted, God works and sustains us by his guiding hand through what appears to be chaos at times and we are given what we deserve and what we don’t deserve as this life unfolds.
What is the cross? It is death. It is ugly. It is a penalty. It is vile. It is weakness. It is failure. It is the end. There is no more. At least that is how the world sees it.
As a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ we might ask also: What is the cross? The answers are strikingly different. It is life. It is beautiful. It is forgiveness. It is redemption. It is eternal. It is finished! It is for you.
Same cross, different perspective. How different the view is through the eyes of faith. The cross is foolishness through the eyes of the world and forgiveness through the eyes of faith.
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.
Death is a reality in this life. Through the grieving tears of we who are left behind, our loved ones depart. Life is changed for eternity. Eternal bliss or eternal damnation awaits all who depart this life. Status, work, wealth, prestige, knowledge, age or accomplishments matter not. What does matter is the folly of God’s wisdom to call.
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Eph. 1:4-5;13-14
God has accomplished your security in the foolishness of the cross and through his means of word and sacrament he will fulfill his purpose in electing you to eternal life in him and keeping you in the one true faith now … and forever more!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.