Faithlife
Faithlife

Power and Wisdom

Autumn 2017  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Our patronal festival should give us an idea about the identity of the congregation. Today's reading reminds us that we have a calling. Our calling is to a deeper relationship with God. Our calling is also to deepen the relationships that others have with God. As we enter into this time of year in the church, may we renew our call, and deepen our relationships, with God and with each other.

Notes & Transcripts

Holy Cross Day

Today we celebrate Holy Cross Day — our patronal festival. I haven’t found anything in the time that I’ve been here that describes why we were named Holy Cross. Given the myriad of other possible names for a congregation, it would be interesting to find out why that name was chosen, and not some other.
The best we can do (without the other information) is to look at the traditional readings for Holy Cross Day for some inspiration. One of those readings we read today — .
1 Corinthians is a gold mine for how to live together in community — why? — Because the church in Corinth was struggling. Actually it was more than struggling — they were fighting with each other. Divisions had formed, and people were claiming allegiances to different leaders within the congregation.
Paul finally gets word of this and writes his letter in response. In it he reminds the church how it is to behave, and on what it is to focus. It is that focus that comes into our reading today — and can help us find a way forward as a community of faith.

Foolishness and Salvation

Our reading today starts out with some powerful words about how God’s world works.
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.

Foolishness

Not only is the cross a painful way to die, and is a public execution one way to show people who is ultimately in control, there are additional meanings for the people of the time that we might forget.

The Romans used the cross as a humiliating form of execution reserved for the worst criminals—insurrectionists.

When we think about crimes today — insurrection isn’t the worst crime that often comes to mind — at least it doesn’t for me — unless the insurrection comes with some act that includes mass murder.

Jews regarded the cross as a shameful punishment and even a curse from God (see Deut 21:23).

We don’t often think about curses from God — our image of God is one that God blesses us and wants the best for us — not one where God curses us.
Certainly we wouldn’t think that our Messiah, our Saviour is one of the worst criminals, and had been cursed by God — think about that for a moment — are we really a band of lawless rebels following a leader who was bent on toppling the powers of the day?
You can see how foolish the message of Christ being crucified becomes if all that is taken into account is a human understanding of how the world works.

Salvation

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.
As I read over today’s passage, one thing jumped out at me. It actually challenged my understanding of the passage — because in my head I have it differently. It actually comes from the tense of the verb used in the second part of the verse.
We often talk about how God has saved the world — saved us from sin and death — saved us from death and the devil. Well, at least if we do talk about it, we talk about God’s part of it as being an already accomplished action.
That isn’t the case though in this reading. It is clear that people are being saved — present tense — happening now — not 2,000 years ago, and not even decades ago for the people in Corinth.
Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Co 1:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Paul believed that people were made right with God when they entered into a relationship with Jesus, he also viewed God’s work of making people more like Him as an ongoing process.

That is why it is so important for us, today, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, as members of Holy Cross, to come to worship regularly — being saved is an ongoing process — we may talk about it being accomplished in our baptism — but really it is something that we can only grow into over time — something that actually takes a lifetime for us to accomplish.

The Power of God

We kind of addressed the second half of our original topic first — we dealt with Wisdom by seeing how the people of the day would have found foolishness in proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah because of what they believed about how the world worked.
However, to truly understand the Wisdom of God’s actions, we need to more fully understand God’s power.

Jesus’ death on the cross reveals God’s power to save people from sin and death, and thus His power to redeem seemingly irredeemable situations (like the problems at Corinth).

Irredeemable Situations

That term resonates with me — often in the area of human relationships. There are not many people in this world who I can’t get along with — but there are a few where the relationship just seems irredeemable. You know the kind — where people are fighting all the time — where people have strong opinions on direction for their lives — where they follow different leaders and dramatically declare that they are right — that was the church in Corinth — and that is the church today with our different denominations — and that is the world today with our different political parties and leaders and nations.
I look at the mess of things we’ve made in the world, and wonder how we can ever resolve the conflicts: the US — both internally and with so many other nations; our own nation and the mess we created with First Nations sisters and brothers; and what seems to be a growing divide at time between those who would label themselves as “liberal” and those who would label themselves as “conservative”.
How the heck are we ever going to bring all this back together again?
1 Corinthians 1:26 NRSV
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

an invitation or an official summons by God to enter into a personal relationship with Him. A call is not based on human wisdom or status but on the grace of God

κλῆσις
Here we come back to furthering our relationship with God. Relationships are not “one and done”, relationships are hard work that take time, that have highs and lows over lifetimes, and that require people to be together.
In our case, we need to come to church to be with God’s people — to be God’s people — and to develop and deepen our relationship with God.

Holy Cross Day

Today, as the summer unofficially comes to a close, we might be able to see a purpose for our name — the purpose is to call people into a closer relationship with God — one that doesn’t rely on human reason or logic — because that seems to have messed up the world quite well at times. Instead our purpose relies on God’s ability to redeem the irredeemable — to take what is foolish, and turn it into wisdom — to take what seems to be powerless and turn it into a declaration of true power. Coming to church helps us do that — as God’s people — to live life differently — to think about the world differently — and to deepen our relationship with God and all of God’s people.
And for that we give thanks.
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