For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [NRSV]
One of the foundational keys of being United Methodist is faith in God’s Word, spoken and revealed through ordinary people. The people, lessons, foundations witness those who are willing to listen and share God’s Word.
We listen to scripture as God’s word through lenses and filters.
- Scripture is heard and experienced through the context of all those who have read, studied and listened in years past. We call this the voice of tradition or theology.
- Scripture is heard and reflected through the grey matter of reason. God has created each of us with a mind, powers of rational and logical thought. We call this voice of reason.
- Scripture is heard and conveyed through the presence of the God’s Spirit in our own spirit understanding as a spiritual being. We call this voice of experience.
The heart of Methodist living in the scriptures includes all three of these filters.
- For those who state that they read scripture literally, they are making assumptions that are based on using only a filter of tradition OR experience.
- For those who state that scripture is read only in contrast to science and mental reflection, they are only using one filter of reason.
- For those who state the interpretation is weighted by the church’s historical voice or even the church’s majority voice, they use only one filter of tradition.
- For those who state they reading as non-denominational, non-traditional, rather personally inspired alone, they ONLY draw on the voice of experience.
Each of these independent ways are good, but incomplete without all of them together. This complete view of scripture is at the heart of being Methodist. Keep this in heart, mind and spirit as we look, listen and share this mornings reading:
The message of the cross is foolish to those who:
- remember the cross only as a history lesson
- try to explain away the extreme of sacrifice or
- or are turned off by the gruesomeness of crucifixion
Remember it is through all these that the cross becomes a sign of power, love and victory.
Paul is talking to the folks at the churches in Corinth, but as part of the church now, Paul continues the power of tradition for us.
As a practical matter: Sharing our faith is something that we are called, commanded and empowered to do.
But not every attempt to do so is fruitful.
- We could talk about Jesus everywhere we go and most folks will just call us that crazy person that talks about Jesus all the time.
- We could think about Jesus and work out a great thoughts for our own understanding and no one would ever hear a thing, for all the work we have done.
- And We could wait for the moment that it felt right and connect only in an emotional way that is empty of spiritual power.
Consider doing all three, together.
For to only follow one method is foolish..
Take for example our financial stewardship and giving..
- If you talk to some people about tithing as a duty and a faithfulness of following scripture, some will listen and following the challenge.
- For others, you show them a few pictures of children that are hurting and lack and show how a few cents each day will transform their suffering.
- Some are moved by guilt, shame or fear to give because you can’t out give God.
- Still others need to see the balance sheets and of the organization, the estimates of the market place and find ways of saving through giving.
But the whole power of stewardship is some of each of these, but it is rooted in a radical and extravagant love that is willing to do whatever it takes to build a loving relationship with us.. and once we find that kind of relationship, stewardship is our automatic response and expression of love.
John Hayes, my OT professor loved his multiple choice questions. Most ever test had 100-150 multiple choice questions and all of the had a 5th choice: E) all of the above or none of the above. What if:
- Signs are important.
- debate is important
- wisdom is important
- discernment is important
- politics are important
- geography and culture differences are important
- Understanding and sharing the cross of Jesus Christ call for E) All of the above.
The Cross of Christ is God’s eternal gift.
- some folks are not ready to see its power
- some have forgotten the power it held
- some have decided it’s not theirs to carry.
Paul is saying, most simply: it is foolish to live with vanilla when Hershey’s dark chocolate fudge brownie and pistachio-mango-strawberry-swirl give you a better balance of what ice cream can be. Knowing, Living and Sharing the Christ of the Cross takes our whole life.. not just Sunday..
Homework: It sounds foolish, but eat three radically different flavors of ice cream (unless you’re diet or health are endangered, then try three different flavors of what is in your eating plan) Three scoops or three spoonfuls. Or three different fruits, two of which you don’t usually eat. As you taste three different bites ask: What if fruits only tasked like raspberries and never like water melon? What if I only at Brussels sprouts and never tried fried green tomatoes?
What if I were foolish enough to try all three? What if we are foolish enough to think there is on our time, our understanding and our perspective?