Monday, July 25, 2011

Fifth Sunday After Trinity
1 Corinthians 1:18- 25
Bror Erickson

[18] For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

[20] 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? [21] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor. 1:18-25 (ESV)

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Christ the power of God.
We preach Christ Crucified. that is, we preach the gospel, Christ Crucified. It’s a funny thing, but it seems Christ Crucified is a despised message today, even in the church. I mean I find it particularly troubling that there is little room left for it in those institutions that call themselves church. If you need this illustrated for you, think about this, when was the last time you saw a crucifix in the church? I’ve never minded a bare cross. I normally don’t mind them at all. I grew up seeing both crucifixes and crosses in the many churches I called home. Though in retrospect I think there were more crosses than crucifixes. If you are confused, a crucifix is a cross with a body hanging on it, the body of Christ. It’s a specially poignant reminder of the gospel, because “we preach Christ Crucified.”
But today you can get anything you like crucified. I do wonder what the evangelical world has against doves, as they seem intent on crucifying all of them they can find. To be fair I‘ve seen it in a Lutheran Church or two, also. I always wonder what an archeologist would make of that a thousand years from now. And I’m not sure Precious Moments should be in the cross and crucifix business at all. But the minute you put a body on the cross illustrating just what it is that Jesus did there for the sins of the world, then you have people coming out of the wood works to tell you how offended they are by it.
I mean, it dumbfounds me that the one crucifix we have here, a gift to this congregation from Paul Roberts, can be at times such a source of consternation. It’s so small, I marvel that people even notice it, but they do. And they let me know about it! My reaction is to want to get a bigger one, and put it one the cross above the altar. One of the biggest criticisms and tell alls about Mormon‘s is their aversion to crosses. An aversion to a crucifix is really the same thing. It is an aversion to the gospel, to Christ crucified. Yes it is great to be reminded that Christ rose from the dead, and the empty cross is as good a symbol of that as anything. But it is rather peculiar that Paul equates Christ crucified with the power to save, rather than “He is Risen.” Of course both those have to happen for their to be gospel. But Paul does well to remind us that Christ crucified is not going to be popular with anyone.
Christ Crucified. There is a lot in those two words. It was a stumbling block to the Jews, who sought signs. One is reminded how often Jesus refused to do signs for the Pharisees. He did signs a plenty for the faithful, but not for those who demanded them as if Jesus was to be their personal magic show. Christ Crucified was indeed a stumbling block to them. It was the opposite of what they expected. It is the opposite of what many people want in a Christ, in a messiah.
They expected the Messiah, the Christ to come and save them from the world, not succumb to it. And that is what Christ crucified looks like, succumbing to the world. So often we, want something different, something other worldly, an experience or miracle, something extraordinary that gets us out of here. Some political remedy. This is the way of the Jews who sought signs, rather than Christ crucified.
There is something almost mundane about Christ Crucified. It says life isn’t going to be different for us. From an objective standpoint, its going to look the same. It makes our hope look foolish to the world. It means that we will suffer the same disappointments, the same set backs, the same struggles as everyone else in the world, maybe even more. I mean it isn’t as if Christ on the Cross holds out the promise of a rose garden. And I’ve been there a time or two wishing it did, praying for a break as the bills pile up, a marriage runs up on the rocks, attendance dwindles at church, and or, I just plain let someone down because I have my head stuck, and someone else leaves the congregation for reasons unexplained, while others visit only once, and your out of town when a close friend dies, but the breaks don’t seem to come, or when they do you don’t realize them. Have you been there, wishing it was different, as if believing in Jesus Christ would just eliminate all your problems, slashing your bills, giving you an unexpected promotion.
Christ Crucified makes one wonder, when your life is no different then anyone else’s, why do you think your after life should be? Foolishness to the Greek. But then Christ’s life was really no different in this world. After all, He was Crucified, he died a horrible death, and yet he was still Christ, and he still rose from the dead. And he promises to us a share in his life. Christ Crucified, It wouldn’t make any sense to preach it if he hadn’t risen from the dead. But he did rise from the dead, and that means that he did something on the cross. He did what he said he was going to do on the cross. He interprets the event. Someone, one of those Greek types seeking wisdom, told me just the other day, a God-man dying on the cross for my transgressions doesn’t make sense unless you are brought up to believe that. Nice try, I suppose, he was trying to dodge the existential ramifications of Christ‘s death and resurrection. But when that man rises from the dead, then that man gets to interpret the event and what happened there, he knows better than anyone. He says He died to forgive you your sins, and to drive that point home, he tells you to “eat his body, given for you,” and to Drink the cup of the New Testament, “in my blood, which is for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Because it was on the cross that the son of God was sacrificed, and it was on the cross that your death took place, and it was on the cross that your sins were forgiven, and it was there that the son of man was lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life, just as he has.


Scottydog said...

Great job!

If you want to see this one in action, do what we just did at our church. We had a relative of a deceased member donate (free of charge) a life size corpus for the cross over our altar. You would have thought we decided to change our name to the church of Satan for the stink some people put up! Some folks left the church (after letting me know what an incompetent boob I was for letting this happen).

The cross/crucifix transition should occur this week. I think part of the problem, at least in America, is that we tend to have no real appreciation for how offensive our sin is to God. Thus the concept of God as our servant to take care of our temporal needs tends to replace the teaching of the cross ala the teachings of Joel Osteen, et. al.

Sorry. I'm rambling on your blog.

Bror Erickson said...

Oh, I can imagine the stink it would make.