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A fool. Me? Yup!

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Easter 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  8:42
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Paul goes to Corinth to convince people about the message about the cross. He convinces some, and then foolish arguments break out. Maybe if we saw ourselves as all belonging to God, we'd see unity, and the power of God come alive.


I don’t want to be foolish

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be seen as foolish. I mean we value sound judgement, sober second thought, clear action, decisiveness, … the list could go on. No one wants to be foolish do they? Normally foolishness means something bad is about to happen — at least for adults it does. If we’ve been foolish with our money — well that’s something we tend to only realize once we’ve run out of money (or realize that we don’t have enough left for what we want to do.) Foolishness has a lot of cultural baggage to it.
Just look at some of the synonyms from this quick online definition of foolish that I found. None of us would want to be characterized as foolish.
And yet Paul uses that word in today’s reading — well another form of it, but you get the idea:
1 Corinthians 1:18 NRSV
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.
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.
Well, I’ve got two choices here if I don’t want to be seen as foolish — to not believe in the message about the cross (then others won’t see me as foolish) OR … to claim that I am being saved so it is no longer foolish. I guess there could be a third choice, a combination of the two if you will, I could pretend to not believe — not talk about my faith or the message about the cross — and then others wouldn’t think I was foolish even though I secretly believed and was being saved (without them.)

Convincing people you’re not foolish

Have you ever tried to convince someone else that you’re not foolish? How well has it worked? Were you able to?
If you’re like me, I haven’t had much success in this area. When people think I’ve done something foolish — or I believe something to be true that is foolish — I have a really hard time convincing them otherwise. I rarely succeed in winning them over to my side. Honestly, if I had to admit it, the biggest reason for that is they are usually right — I can be quite foolish at times — particularly in what I believe and in what I do.
I think in some ways, we can all find part of ourselves that has been, or even continues to be foolish — at least in the eyes of someone else.

Foolishness in Corinth

Paul went to Corinth to spread the Good News of Jesus and to teach the message about the cross.
Acts 18:4 NRSV
Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks.
It turns out Paul might be a bit better than me in convincing people that he’s not foolish.
1 Corinthians 1:14–16 NRSV
I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
So, it would appear that Paul at least convinced three people that he wasn’t foolish in believing the message about the cross (Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanas).
But yet there is other foolishness that is happening in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 1:11–13 NRSV
For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
The church is arguing over who they belong to. I can almost hear the last three questions of Paul’s in an exasperated tone — the same tone that Jesus probably used with the disciples when they didn’t get it either — the same tone we use from time to time too when others just don’t seem to understand what is so simple … none of us belongs to Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas … and I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that we shouldn’t even claim to belong to Christ … for we belong to God … a wonderful mystery … a Trinity … not just one aspect of it, but the whole thing.
The message about the cross isn’t a message just about the historical figure we call Jesus — and what he was willing to do — it is the message about ALL OF GOD being active in the world from the time of Creation, until the end of the world.

Call me foolish

Over the years, I’ve become more willing to accept that I’m foolish. I don’t always like the results of being foolish but honestly it is part of who I am, and probably if we’re honest with ourselves, a part of all of us.
So here’s the thing … if we look back at that verse that we started with:
1 Corinthians 1:18 NRSV
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.
No where does it say that the message about the cross stops being foolish. It just says, that for us, and I’d hazard to say for much more than us — the message about the cross is the power of God.
I’m OK with that — with foolishly believing that there is life after death — with foolishly believing that things can begin again — with foolishly believing that what I think might be the end might just be the opening to something that no one could even ask or imagine about — for all of that is the power of God. And for that we give thanks. Amen.
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