Sunday Sermon - 7th March 2021

Sermon for Sunday March 7th 2021: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31, “A lot of people think I’m stupid…” (Please read Psalm 19; Job 12)
In our land Christian faith (the church) has become a byword for bigotry and intolerance.  And stupidity…
Some people think I’m stupid! When I was called by God and decided not to be afraid and to follow him, I had little idea I would become quite such an embarrassment to my friends and family. I was no longer of “sound mind”.  People would (literally) cross the street to avoid me. I found religion…
There is nothing new about men and women of God being laughing stocks. Job too was mocked by his “friends”. His suffering (for them) was a sign that he had displeased God through some fault of his own and that he lacked wisdom. We find in the end that the joke was on them; and that it would have been wise for Job’s friends to have kept quiet – though they spoke eloquently they didn’t know what they were talking about; they had no idea what God was up to behind the scenes…
How smart we are these days! How self-reliant. Through our ‘smart’ devices we have access to instant information. Though the truth is we only know what we know because God allows us; because, “wisdom and power belong to him, counsel and understanding are his…” (Job 12:13) – We have outgrown God, his word, his ways, his wisdom. Look at the last year: nail-bars take preference over churches!!
Isn’t wisdom found among the aged? Doesn’t long life bring understanding? “(Not necessarily!)

Most people no longer see themselves as God’s handiwork or look around them and see everywhere the wisdom and the power of God.  I suppose, then, that most people would consider us to be sad or stupid to gather on a Sunday to worship the One who has revealed Himself, supremely, in Jesus Christ. 
After all, we believe foolish things and fairytales. Some people – a lot of people think I’m stupid. Why? Because I have staked my life on the answer to one question: could a Jewish man from Nazareth executed on a Roman gibbet (on a cross) – and dying there 2k years ago – possibly transform your life?  Because I answered, by the grace of God, “Yes, he could: yes, he did!
None of this I can prove. I can only proclaim it. All I can do is to preach, not just with words but with my life - Christ crucified…Would anyone accept as Lord and saviour a man who had not sufficient wit to save himself from so horrible an end or look to such a person as a wise man? You wouldn’t choose any of that for your plan to save the world!
18 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.
Humanly speaking, the cross makes no sense. Foolishness! Stupid!
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. But God chose the foolishness of the Cross.
“Wise men” could be found on every street corner and in the church at Corinth…Even in the church Paul had planted, the way of human wisdom and the way of human power started to edge out the way of humble faith in Christ and in his cross… nothing new there, then!
The Greeks were (so) intoxicated with fine words; and to them the Christian preacher with his blunt message seemed a crude and uncultured figure, to be laughed at and ridiculed rather than listened to and respected.”A crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms – a stumbling block (offense) to Israel – (a stumbling block to my Muslim friend…)
I can’t earn my passage to godliness (heaven); the message of the cross is, I cannot be saved or forgiven by any work of my own…
A God who suffers was a contradiction in terms – foolishness to the Greek wisdom-seekers – the word of the cross, for them: I can’t find God in mystical rituals or by the power of my mind;
I can’t learn my passage to spiritual fulfillment in any other way than by looking at the “foolish” cross of Jesus…
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world, through its wisdom, did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe…
No one knows the thoughts of God except by the Spirit of God.” (2:11)
God has revealed the wisdom of the cross by his Spirit; the person without the Spirit does not (cannot) accept the things that come from the Spirit of God – because they are foolishness to him (2:14).
In his wisdom God saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom – he used our ‘foolish’ message to save all who believe – We don’t find God. He reveals Himself…usually when we obey Him. Human wisdom (unaided, alone) cannot find God; it is by the Spirit we can say, “Jesus is Lord!” Our problem is we think we’re the wise ones…
When will we let go of such illusions?! We will achieve nothing until we come humbly to the Cross…and keep coming back there, time and again.
God has to reveal that truth to those He chooses – and only then does Christ become “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (24)
Most societies (even the so-called classless ones) promote the glamorous, the gifted and the wealthy and the politically powerful and the self-reliant. God takes the opposite view:
GOD CHOOSES THE FOOLISH THINGS! God chose to build the church from few who are wise in the world’s eyes – disabled – disadvantaged – the despised…stupid!
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3)
26 Brothers and sisters, 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. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
Paul asks the Corinthians to take a good look at themselves: Remember where you came from, what you were; don’t get above your station…
Paul says in effect, “God didn’t adopt you because you were brilliant, wealthy or powerful; if some brilliant, wealthy or powerful people are chosen it is in spite of those things – not because of them…
Jesus broke into a paroxysm of prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.
God chooses losers – they are more likely to give him the credit – and this is what makes the Christian wise rather than stupid. They are more likely to give him the glory than to receive it for themselves! “Blessed are the poor in Spirit!

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.

The tragic thing is that the vast majority of people – even and especially the most brilliant minds of our generation - have no idea what they are missing; most of them are groping in the darkness and staggering through life like drunkards.  For all that we have these are such unhappy times!

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world – in the Cross? Some people may think you’re stupid.  But there’s wisdom, love and power there, in the cross… the power to melt the hardest heart… to awaken the slumbering conscience…to forgive crimes that no-one else would or could…to make things right with God and man; to reach down to the bottom of the barrel and save you, bad apple…to change you from the inside out – no matter what others might think – to give you hope and a future, no matter how bad your past or your present…
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor imagination has been able to conceive that which the Lord has in store for those who love him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
I’m happy to be stupid! What about you?

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