Is God A Fool

Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25.  Why is God’s foolishness so much more powerful than our wisdom and might?  Check out Jody and the choir following the sermon.

When God calls someone a fool in the Bible it’s the harshest rebuke God can give. Think of the man who built bigger barns. Yet according to Paul God is showing his power in the foolishness of the cross, which is the means by which God reveals his true strength and glory.

After all who but a fool would tell us to pray for our enemies, to worry about the poor when we have worries enough of our own, to start becoming fully human by giving ourselves away to whoever needs us, well you’ve just met God and the foolishness of his son’s cross.

Jesus represents so many things to so many different types of people. For Pilate the the cross represented political expediency, for the high priest – Caiaphas it meant a stable and well established religious tradition that wasn’t broken so why should a radical rabbi change all of that? And the people who heard and followed Jesus saw in him a revolutionary, someone who would finally make right all that had been wrong. But on the cross, God took our tribal mentality, our nationalism, our piety, our righteousness and stripped them naked, made them foolish.

As Paul puts it, on the cross God was busy making nothing of those who strut about seeming to be some big deal. And it is quite a sight to see someone who seemed to be something suddenly reduced to nothing. Have you ever seen that happen? Do you remember Jimmy Baker, the host of the PTL Club, an evangelical Christian television program.

He and Tammy Faye Bakker were big deals on the Christian Broadcasting network during the late seventies and eighties. I used to watch his program. He built a theme park and condos for Christ and had a show that was patterned after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Well in time he fell from grace having had an affair with his secretary Jessica Hahn and then he was convicted and imprisoned for fraud. Given an insanely harsh prison sentence. 45 years in prison. Took a Presidential pardon to get him out of prison.

He went through a divorce and his ministry was left in ruins. It was very sad. I enjoyed his show and even though I wasn’t into all the stuff he was selling I thought he was fun to watch and was saddened when he feel from grace.

Yet when those who seem to be something are reduced to nothing it becomes possible that their lives might be reconstituted into something new, something fresh, something outside of themselves and their devising that restores them. This is what happened to Jimmy Baker, Charles Colson who founded a national prison ministry & Jeb Magruder who became a Presbyterian pastor. Those who once sustained their lives by their own making, by their accumulation of success, power and prestige, in their foolishness become as nothing, but only so that God could rebuild them into something greater than themselves, namely into a Christ like life.

The cross of Christ pries open, stirs up and demolishes our wisdom and power. And the reason that God does this or allows this to happen to us is to show us a different reality. And to believe in this Paul tells us would be blashmeous to any Bible believing Jew, and utter nonsense to any gentile. That’s pretty much all of us! So why does God do this?

Maybe because there is a sort of foolishness that is required for anything new, creative and different. In essence the very movement of life itself and without this foolishness, we as a human race wouldn’t have moved anywhere in life without the foolishness of those who dream of things not yet seen.

I think of Edison, Einstein, Muhammaid Ali, Dr. King, Bill Gates, and you might have other examples of visionaries who saw things the rest of humanity did not see. People who were thought to be foolish at the time they were breaking new ground. It is reported that Edison was asked if it bothered him that he failed for so long in his attempts to invite the light bulb? His reply was: I only have to get it right once!

I have a friend who was the C.E.O. and owner of a fairly large company who told me that he had a fool in charge of his marketing division. I asked him why? My friend said, “Because out over every 10 dumb ideas there is one that is absolutely brilliant. And you need people in your company who aren’t afraid to fail, because they will be the ones who succeed.

Folly is what the human race actually depends on. Who is more foolish than those who fall in love? With all the trouble between men and women, wouldn’t any prudent person be wary of love today. I guess that’s why they say “fools fall in love.”

And how long is this great circus of foolishness to last? Paul said, why it’s to go on forever, until every last one us becomes mature in the way of Christ. To quote him: “We must measure our stature against the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 13).

Worldly wisdom is what we have been living by since the Stone Age. It is best exemplified by such homey untterances as “You’ve got your own life to lead.” Buisness is business.” “Charity begins at home.” “Don’t get involved.” God helps those who help themselves.”

And it is in contrast to all this that God’s wisdom appears to us as foolishness, when it is the very act of salvation for us and all of creation itself. And to us who continue to believe that by our wisdom, our political ideology, our self importance will impress God. God says, “You are perishing.”

Why? Because, “The life we save is the life we lose.” In other words, the life we clutch, hoard, guard and play safe with is the end of a life worth living and helps no one, including ourselves. Only a life that is given away for the sake of love is a life worth living or one that will continue on after this one.

And to make this point God gave us his son who gave his life away, died a national disgrace and embarrassment. In terms of human wisdom, he was a perfect fool! And if you think you can follow him without making a fool of yourself, you are not laboring under the cross, but a delusion.

In the final analysis there are two kinds of fools in the world; darned fools like the guy who built bigger barns and what Paul calls “fools for the sake of Christ and his gospel.” In Christ the foolishness of this world and its dehumanzing ways of being are brought to light. And it is for us who claim to being saved by this foolishness to bear witness to it. (1 Corinthians 4:10) Amen

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