February 2, 2020: 4th Sunday after Epiphany

Let us pray: Dear Savior,  Your wisdom and Your Love and Your Truth are contrary to what goes by those names in this sinful world.  We know what it means when You tell us: “To live is Christ and to die is gain” in the inspired words of St. Paul.  We know what You mean when You tell us: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it.”  The world doesn’t understand such apparent contradictions, but You do and by grace we do too.  So today give us such Godly wisdom no matter what Satan throws our way.  Amen


TEXT:  I Cor. 1: 18-25

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          A few years ago a man named Peter attended our church.  One Sunday he sought me out and told me that he enjoyed my sermons where I touched on the various paradoxes of Scripture.  You all know about paradoxes.  They are truths that seemingly are at odds to human reason, but aren’t.  They are truths of God beyond our ability to be rectified by the finite human brain.  For example, how can the infinite God be contained in finite human flesh?  Or, we’re saved from death by God’s death on the cross.  Or, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”  Our brain and our experience says: “This just isn’t true.”  Yet, Scripture says: “With God all things are possible.”  Or as Isaiah writes about life from God’s perspective: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord.”   This is why faith is so important when it comes to our salvation.  Faith bridges the gap that human reason cannot cross.  It links us with God because it is “a gift from God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”


          The Greek people prided themselves in their brain power and ability to figure out and understand whatever issues came their way.  If they had anything called “faith” it was grounded in their ability to reason things out and understand them.  In this they were actually their own gods.  To them there was no higher wisdom than what they inherently possessed in their own brains!  And if anything seemed contrary to their reasoning ability and experience, it must be rejected because as little gods it just didn’t make sense.  So Christianity was debated and rejected by them.

          Paul begins by saying: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  The cross is about degradation and ignominious death.  All people are by nature “dead men walking.”  We all know life is about: when we die, not if we die.  You cannot escape death.  So to preach about a God Who died to save you from death seems foolish.  And to put your life into His hands seems stupid!  Moreover to place supreme confidence in death to bestow on you life, well, it seems contradictory.  But Christianity teaches the real life comes from death.  It’s a paradox.

          Paul goes on to quote Isaiah who quotes God this way: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”  Yes, anytime you think you know it all and can figure out the great issues of life on your own, God will frustrate you just like He did those “smart” people way back during the Tower of Babel.  He’s God Almighty and we’re poor miserable sinners—not all-knowing little gods.


          In the next section Paul chips away at and demolishes the pride inherent in these Greeks.  The wisdom of this world is that: might makes right.  It is that: weakness never denotes strength.  It is that to become great you ally yourself with others who have wealth, privilege, and human greatness.  But in Christianity we embrace the humble, the weak, the struggling, the needy—all because that’s whom our God came to help and save.  And in the process we take on and are given Christ’s strength.  So, as I said earlier: “Whoever wants to save his life will be willing to lose it for Me and for the Gospel.”  Yes, God turns conventional wisdom on its head because we have an unconventional God!  A God filled with love and forgiveness for the unlovable and the seemingly unforgiveable. 

          None of this seems “normal” to the human brain.  Which tells us that our God is far from normal.  He’s without any rival.  He’s beyond our ability to fathom.  “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block (scandal) to Jews and foolishness of Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

          Ask the wisest unbeliever: “Why were you born?”  Ask them: “What’s the meaning to life?”  Ask them: “Does anything you do make a cosmic difference?”  They will hem and haw and try to sound learned, if, if, they bother to answer at all.  So much for human “wisdom.”  But ask the Christian those questions and they will respond: “I was born to give glory to God.”  “The meaning to life is: growing closer to Him and praising Him for His truth, His blessings, and His forgiving love.”  And yes, “I can make a cosmic difference by sharing His wisdom of eternal forgiveness leading to eternal life in and through and because of the love He has given to me, to me, in Jesus Christ.”  The Christian knows through faith that God’s ways and thoughts are beyond the confines of sin-tainted, pride-filled, human understanding. By His gift of grace, now you do, too.  And so glory over being called a “fool for Christ.”  And be wise in the Lord.   Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox, Feb. 2, 2020

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