Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Foolishness & Power

1Corinthians 1:10-18 This is the second installment of the sermon series on 1 Corinthians from January 23rd. The overarching idea for this series on the first four chapters of this magnificent letter is that there is always a disparity in real life between the ideal and the actual.
On one had are the things we know we should be thinking, saying, feeling, and doing, and on the other are the things we actually do, say, think, and feel. The message of the Gospel is that the thing which fills this disparity gap is power and grace of Jesus Christ- if we try to fill it ourselves we will tear ourselves and those around us apart.

Often the way we fill the gap between the ideal and actual is with good intentions. How often have you heard the saying, "It's the thought that counts"? Now, there is nothing wrong with good intentions, but they will only get you so far, and assuring yourself with the maxim, "It's the thought that counts" really works with the odd Christmas present. In ongoing, regular life such a mentality becomes toxic.

For example, in Jurassic Park III (yes they made a third one), there is an incident when Dr. Grant's assistant Billy steals some veloca raptor eggs and consequently they are hunted by the angry dinosaurs who want their eggs back. When Grant (played by Sam Neill) discovers the theft as the cause of this hounding, he confronts Billy, who justifies his actions by claiming he thought Dr. Grant would like the specimens and that he had good intentions when he did it. To which Dr. Grant replies with the immortal words, "Some of the worst things imagninable have been done with good intentions."

And so it is for us. Good intentions will not and can not fill the gap between what is ideal and actual.

Now, with this in mind, we're going to take a look at the Corinthian church: the church with "Issues." In particular, the first Issue that Paul addresses is divisions in the church. -pause...put on shocked face-

Yes, there was once a church that didn't get along with itself. What was causing the rifts was essentially a form of self righteousness. One group thought they were pretty special because so-and-so baptized them, verses the other group who were proud to name such-and-such as their 'favorite apostle.'

People will always find ways to commend themselves over and against each other, and try to do so with God. This is what Paul calls foolishness. It makes sense to the ones doing it, but their 'wisdom' is in fact foolish, because there is really nothing that we can do to commend ourselves to God.

What Paul does care about, is their trust in the cross of Jesus Christ. Is is Jesus alone who has the power to commend us to God the Father, and we are in him by virtue of our trust in the power of his shed blood to cleanse us of all self-righteousness (i.e. sin). Thus Paul says, "I desired to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified.

On the cross God did something very foolish. Foolish in the eyes of silly little humans like us. He died for the unworthy. When God came to the earth he didn't show up to open a self-help shop, he didn't come to raise an army of bedraggled volunteers to 'eat the rich' (Aerosmith), he died. That's not what we want our cosmic blessing pinata to do. We want God to fix stuff for us. We want God to be cosmic IT support. We want him to have Sith lightning and dazzle us. This is human 'wisdom'. But Jesus died. That's not what we expect. But Paul sets us straight and says our view is foolish, but God is his wisdom, demonstrates his love for the ungodly.

God poured out his grace not to help and validate the righteous, but for those who were dead in sin. As the hymn so beautifully puts it, "Here is love vast as the ocean, loving kindness as a flood; when the Prince of Life our ransom, shed for us his precious blood. Grace and love like mighty rivers, poured incessiant from above; and heaven's grace and perfect justice, kissed a guilty world in love."

No comments: