January 28, 2018: Epiphany 4

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  today we ask You to re-order our brains.  Re-write the coding of sin which we all have thereby turning us away from the evils of life on planet earth.  And in its place give us the fruits of the Spirit in the form of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—all born of Your saving Gospel. Amen


TEXT:  I Cor. 1: 26-31

Dearly Beloved By Christ:  

St. Paul wrote his epistle to a congregation of worldly-wise people.  Maybe they were a shade less proud about it all than the Athenians, but not by much.  And he excoriates that attitude.  So, to better grasp what he’s talking about here, let’s turn to today’s Gospel lesson in Matthew 5, known as the Beatitudes.  And let’s go even further and consider the worldly take on those statements of Christ.

First, since they are called: The Beatitudes because Christ uses the word: “Blessed” at the beginning of each one, and since the world doesn’t recognize blessing substituting “Luck” instead, here’s a modern Godless view of how they would read:

“Lucky are the arrogant because theirs is this kingdom of wealth and power.  Lucky are those who never have compassion on another, for they can live only for themselves.  Lucky are the boastful, for they will inherit  delusions of grandeur.  Lucky are those who hunger and thirst for more money and more power, for they will always think they are getting ahead.  Lucky are the uncaring, for they never have to concern themselves with another’s pain.  Lucky are the dirty in heart, for they can ignore the future because they don’t believe there is any.  Lucky are the warmakers, for they will be called: rich.  Lucky are those who blissfully go through each day without thought of any others, for theirs are the accolades of social media.  Lucky are you when people lie about you, fawn over your sins, and congratulate you on your selfishness.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in hell—which you don’t believe exists.  This is how you get ahead in life!”—That’s what modern society says…..


Now that we have a snapshot of what worldly wisdom truly is, let’s listen to our text: “Brothers think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

People boast about many things.  Some think their intelligence is the be-all-and-end-all of their lives.  I’ve known people like that.  So have you.  But being married to them would be akin to wedding your computer.  They have no feelings and no heart beyond their selfish needs.  Others like to boast of all the people they know-especially famous ones.  Little do they realize that the more they boast the more they show their own insecurities and psychological flaws.  And how about those who boast about their heritage?  What about the “name droppers”?  Aren’t they just so much fun to be around?…..

Paul employs a Hebraism here when he uses that phrase: “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”  Many of these Corinthians were Jewish by birth and by religion.  To them the cross was totally shameful in that it symbolized Roman power and Roman tyranny over their dreams of an earthly Messianic kingdom where they would be numero uno.  To them all gentiles were nothings.  They were things that were not.  They didn’t count.  And yet, according to Paul God used such people to nullify these false delusions of grandeur.  O how these words stung literally everyone in that prideful congregation!


Let me give you an insight born from 34 years in the ministry.  I’ve met a lot of Lutherans who dutifully went to church most Sundays and who prided themselves that they had been there, done that, heard that, and that their family heritage was the reason they would go to heaven someday.  They came on Sunday out of duty and obligation, but they had none of the Spirit’s fire in their bellies.  In short, they were a bit bored with God.  Likewise, I’ve known many new Christians who were recently converted.  They drank up God’s Word.  They asked probing questions about it.  They cherished their personal relationship with God.  They prayed to Him each day, throughout the day, and eagerly waited with confidence for an answer.  They volunteered around church.  They wanted to be active.  They never said: “Not now.”  They realized that God was life itself.  To them all that God stuff was exciting and energizing because they knew firsthand what life was like without Him leading the way.  Such an internal craving for real truth and real answers to life’s questions is something to emulate by all!  This is Paul’s rationale behind that Hebraism.  So, never look down your nose at other Christians thinking: “I know all that.”  You don’t.  Head knowledge is far different from heart knowledge.  Even the demons have head knowledge.  But only saints have it in their hearts.


“It is because of him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

When I was a small boy, I first heard the story of my family tree on my father’s side.  As you get older, your roots, where you came from, becomes more important to help explain things in your life.  So, for the past few years I’ve researched even more.  And although intriguing, it makes for a very sad tale of death, depression, adultery, and countless hurts. You see, my relatives ruled most of northern England about 700 years ago.  Then came war, rebellion, the taking of lands, and trying to wipe out that entire family. Eventually one person escaped and kept the story alive and it has filtered down to me, the last heir of that English noble house.  What I’ve learned from this is that human nobility is a farce.  Nobility has no nobleness.  I’ve never talked up this publicly up till now, but  today I tell you this tale.  Why?  Because I refuse to boast in this human heritage because it isn’t worth boasting about!  Instead, by God’s grace, I boast in Christ!  I’m more blest than any of my ancient forebears—even the ones in the history books–because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, suffered and died to save my soul!  He arose from my grave.  He has given me a gift far beyond human power or wealth.  He has given me the key to heaven’s door through faith. He has bestowed on me a compassionate heart.  I find it fascinating that the last of this line, me, isn’t a Duke but a Lutheran Pastor!  In this sense, God has ended what many would call: human wisdom with its attendant pain, ended it with me and replaced it with His grace and love.  And so it is for each of you.  As Christians we’re all a product of His grace worth far more than any amount of power or money.  So, today I tell each of you: embrace His gift of never-ending love and forgiveness, and learn anew what it means to truly be free!  Amen