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Category Archives: Epistles

A Dwelling Place for God

(a sermon for May 17, 2020, the 6th Sunday of Easter, based on Ephesians 2:11-22)

Unless I miss my guess, I suspect that most of us can recall a time in our lives when, for whatever reason, we felt “left out.”

I remember one time in particular: I was about 13 or 14 at time, it’s summertime and I’m at the lake, and one day I’m just sitting down on our dock all alone and feeling incredibly lonely while all my friends were out there on “the pond” having fun together.  Now, as I think back on it now I don’t think I could tell you the reason why; all the kids on our side of the lake had always hung together as one group.  I don’t know: maybe it was that by this time of our lives some of the guys and girls were starting to find more than a passing interest in one another and I didn’t quite fit into that equation; could be that some of the locals, who knew each other from school, tended to stay separate from us “summer people;” or maybe it was just a typical case of teenagers being fickle and flighty over matters of popularity!  All I know is that sitting down on the dock that day, I felt… awful!

I remember literally feeling hurt to think that I was, in essence, now standing on the outside looking in and feeling somehow excluded from all the fun that all my friends were all having: diving off Barker Rocks, having cookouts down at Sand Cove, waterskiing behind somebody’s motorboat or for that matter, just cruising up and down the shoreline, laughing and hanging out!  I so wanted to be a part of that, I so wanted to be accepted and included and a part of things; but since I was far too shy and awkward at that point to do anything about that myself, basically I just sort of sat there on the dock all through that horrible afternoon feeling lonely and isolated, alienated and utterly excluded, all the while miserably watching from afar everybody else having a good time.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but at that very moment not only was I experiencing something of the ways of the world as it truly exists, I was also learning a very important lesson in Christian theology!

Now, I don’t think I have to convince any of us that you and I live in a world where people and groups are routinely and systematically “left out,” isolated and alienated from one another, and for any number of reasons:  racism, economics, age, classism, geography, issues of gender inequality and identity, red state/blue state; it goes on and on, each and all of it a catalyst for how any semblance of unity and community can be torn asunder, creating an “us versus them” mentality.  Sadly, note even the church is immune to such behavior: many is the time over the years when as a pastor I’ve seen firsthand how bad habits, misbegotten traditions and a wide array of deeply held prejudices serves only to create deep divisions within the church, leaving folks with the feeling that they’re unwelcome, unworthy and on the outside looking in.

And that, wherever or however it occurs, is not only a travesty, it’s also heresy.  Because ours is the God who in Jesus Christ “has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us,” so that, in the words of our text for this morning, those “who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,”  with whatever dividing wall between us and God having been torn down, so that we are no longer “strangers and aliens, but… citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”   What that means, friends, is that not only are we brought close to God through Christ, but also that the barriers that divide us are torn down as well, and we are joined together and built spiritually into one household that is no less than “a dwelling place for God,” with “Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”

Bottom line is that no one, for any reason, should ever feel left out of the fellowship that exists in this community of faith, this Body of Christ of which you and I are each a part; for the love that is sown here actively seeks to gather in all those who stand on life’s shoreline longing to be included.  It is, as our hymn for this morning has so aptly proclaimed, our church’s “charter of salvation,
one Lord, one faith, one birth,”
and each and every one of us, friends, are invited to be a part of that divine charter.  The good news, today and always, is that it is our Lord’s intent that no one should ever be left standing off to the sidelines, feeling lonely and isolated, alienated and utterly excluded from the sacred community of God’s people.

Of course, all that said, it should also be noted (and this will come as no surprise to you either!) that in these days of pandemic, the feeling of being “lonely and isolated, alienated and utterly excluded” has taken on a whole new meaning, even as it pertains to the church. 

What’s been interesting to me lately about all of this is that now, after two long months of having this unprecedented experience of having been unable to hold “in-person” services because of the threat of Covid-19, across the denominational spectrum we’re all trying to figure out what happens next.  Do we seek to cautiously reopen, do we take a “wait and see” attitude, or do we just decide right now, as some congregations have already done, that for the sake of health and safety we need to shut down for a year or more?  None of these are easy choices to make; and speaking as a pastor, believe me when I tell you that these are maybe the most difficult decisions for any of our churches will ever have to make.

But even more difficult is the reality that in these days of “staying at home” our congregations have become, well, scattered.  As I’ve said to you before, I’m very gratified at your understanding and support of these online services; but I’ll admit it, what we do here can never be quite as satisfying or as meaningful as our physically coming together at church on a Sunday morning.  And yes, I know, as the old saying goes, that “four walls and a steeple do not a church make,” but I do have to confess that there are times these days that I worry that in many ways without the building we end up feeling much like I did on that fateful day so long ago… as though we’re standing on the outside looking in, feeling as though we somehow don’t belong.

Well, if you’ve been worried about that, or if about now you’re kind of feeling on the outside looking in, then let me say to you that it seems to me that this good news that Paul brought to the Ephesians belongs to us as well.

To put this in its proper context, there was actually a fair amount of division amongst the early Christians in Ephesus. Obtensibly, it had to do with the Jewish ritual of circumcision and how the letter of the law was to be followed, but what it really was all about was “the insiders” versus “the outsiders;” about who amongst them were the truest, longest and most important members of the church, and who among them who… weren’t.  And as far as Paul was concerned, this was unacceptable; it was a sin of division that not only compromised the church’s witness and its very existence, but which also grieved the Lord. Paul makes clear here that the church, as God intends it to be and as Jesus himself has gathered it, is meant to be ONE: as Paul says elsewhere in this epistle, “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”

In other words, it’s not about the stone foundations and white clapboards of a church building, it’s not about the program, it’s not even about the joy of our singing and praying and sitting together on a set of admittedly uncomfortable pews for an hour or so on a Sunday morning… it’s about who we are and how we are as a people of faith; a people who “once were far off,” but who now are near to God and, in the process, drawn ever nearer to each other; a people who through Jesus Christ “share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.”  As The Message translates this part of Paul’s epistle, “It’s plain enough.  You’re no longer wandering exiles.  This kingdom of faith is now your home country.  You’re no longer strangers or outsiders.  You belong here, with as much to the name Christian as anyone.”  And here’s the capper:  “And he’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what he is building… he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together… a temple in which God is quite at home.”

You see, that’s the thing that we really do need to keep reminding ourselves of right about now: that church is not something we go to; it’s something that we are, that strong and indefatigable identity that we bring to a hurting and divided world, an identity given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Jesus is the one who invites us, Jesus is the one who makes us who we are, and it is Jesus who gives us what we need to survive and thrive. To quote Kevin Baker, “Jesus is the singular, God/human wrecking crew that demolishes division and gifts us with unity, peace and reconciliation.”  And here’s the thing… even now – especially now (!) – Jesus will not ever leave us on the sidelines, apart from that unity and feeling lonely and isolated, alienated and utterly excluded.  Never… because you and I, all of us together, beloved… have been made into his dwelling place, and that will never, ever change.

I should tell you that in my particular story about feeling left out, and the biggest reason I still remember it so clearly, it was actually an experience short lived.   Maybe it’d been an oversight; perhaps one of them had seen me sitting there alone and figured I ought to be included.  But before long, here were all of my friends, inviting me to come along with them; and ten minutes later, we’re swimming and cruising and water-skiing and it’s like nothing had ever happened.  Just as quickly as I hopped into that boat, all those feelings of hurt over being left out vanished, replaced with this incredibly joyful feeling of… belonging.  And it felt good: good to be invited, good to be welcomed in, good to be inside that circle of friendship rather than on the outside looking in.

And beloved, that’s what our God wants for each one of us, most especially in these days when it has become so easy to feel scattered and disconnected from one another. 

I know that in the face of a still uncertain future it’s hard for us to think of ourselves as existing apart from our building, our traditions, our routine and our usual sense of purpose… but we need to understand that when our Lord talks of our being gathered together as the church, he’s talking about a house not made by human hands, but only by his loving hands; a house made up of people whose hearts and lives have been changed forever by the strong and saving v. Mgrace of Jesus Christ; and a house where community and fellowship and mission are not mere buzzwords, but the very way we live.  

We are the church… you and me together, from wherever we happen to be… we are the “holy temple the Lord… built together into a dwelling place for God.”

May it be said of us, beloved, that God was and is alive and well at this church… and in us.

And may our thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN.

.© 2020 Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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Unabashedly Joyful

(a sermon for April 26, 2020, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, based on Philippians 4:4-7)

In pondering our text for this morning, and in my continuing quest these days to unearth some inspirational music from what might be referred to as “the grooveyard of forgotten favorites,” here’s one song that’s been running through my head all week:

“Here’s a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note
>Don’t worry – be happy!
For when you worry your face will frown,
And that will bring everybody down,
So don’t worry – be happy!
(Don’t worry, be happy now)”

— “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin

Now, speaking pastorally, if there’s going to be one song on our lips after this morning’s service it probably ought to be “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” but I do have to confess that “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” might just fill the bill at a time like this!  Because I dare say what we all need a whole lot of right now is joy; and given that for most of us joy is intermingled with feelings of happiness, one of the best ways to bring that forth is to sing it out!  Because to quote another forgotten favorite, “if you’re happy and you know it… then your face (and your voice!) will surely show it,” and so not only does that serve to inspire joy in those around you, it also becomes an affirmation of our faith and an act of praise.  And isn’t that, after all, what Paul is getting at in our text for this morning: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.” 

Of course, in all fairness, I suspect that when Paul speaks of rejoicing, he’s talking about something much deeper than to simply not worry and be happy!  What Paul is talking about here in his epistle to the Philippians is about real and unrestrained rejoicing: the kind of joy that lifts us up from the place where we are; the kind of joy that sets the standard for everything else in life, the kind of joy that comes in having ones heart and mind wholly guarded in Christ Jesus.  What we’re talking about here is the kind of joy that exists at the very core of our Christian faith and what ought to serve as the hallmark of our lives as followers and disciples of our Risen Savior.   It is joy unabashed and it is joy unrelenting; and therein lies not only its power and its great importance for our lives… but also its challenge.

And I suspect you know why!  I mean, especially right now: how do you speak of unrestrained joy in an age of pandemic?  How do you tell someone to rejoice who has had to suffer through the effects of the Covid-19 Virus, or worse, who has lost someone to that disease?  What are we supposed to say to all those people whose lives and livelihoods have been totally upended over these past few weeks, with no real resolution in sight? How do you think they’re going to respond to Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the Lord always?  Quite frankly, I suspect they’d be apt to think it shallow at best and condescending at worst: your life is falling apart?  “Again, I say rejoice!”

 In that context, an unrestrained and unrelenting joy doesn’t seem all that realistic or reassuring, does it?  And yet, in this age as in every age that has come before, that’s exactly what you and I are being called to bring forth in faith! 

So… what are we to do about this? How do we reconcile this call to be “unabashedly joyful” with all the real-world difficulties and struggles that we face?  Can we really “rejoice always,” or not?  Was Paul simply naïve and blind to what was really going on, or when he tells the Philippians and us to “rejoice,” does he have something else on his mind?

Perhaps part of the answer lies with Paul himself.  After all, here was a man whose entire ministry in Christ was marked by worldly persecution and ridicule; who was himself driven out of several towns and cities (often under the cover of darkness), and through the course of his life was also shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and exposed to death, danger, hunger, thirst, fatigue and cold, all for the sake of the Gospel!  At the time of this letter to the church at Philippi, it’s late in his life; Paul’s in prison again, this time under guard of the Imperial capital of Rome, and expecting at any moment that judgment will be rendered and he’ll be executed.  And as if that weren’t bad enough, it turns out that the Philippian church is full of problems: they are few in number; they’re filled with fear and doubt about the future, persecuted by everyone in the city; and what’s more, there’s in-fighting going on at just about every level of the church.

It was enough to make any of us throw our hands in the air and give up trying.  And yet, here’s Paul – who remember, is getting old and feeble and at a point where a bit of discouragement would be understandable – nonetheless saying, boldly and without hesitation, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say it:  Rejoice!”  In fact, Paul says this over and over again – sixteen times in only four chapters of this epistle (!) – and he can do it because this isn’t rejoicing merely for the sake of feeling happy, but because of the one in whom he rejoices.  Rejoice in the Lord, Paul says.  Rejoice in the Lord always!

It turns out that there are two basic types of joy: external joy, the kind that comes and goes with whatever is happening in our lives, and which is wonderful, but is finite and can be easily be displaced or destroyed at a moment of conflict or struggle; and internal joy, the kind of joy that comes from within.  When Paul talks about joy, he means the internal joy that the Lord himself places within us. The great theologian Karl Barth said it well when he wrote that the joy of which Paul speaks is “a defiant ‘nonetheless,’” which draws strength from the gospel story and “from laying one’s deepest concerns before God with thanksgiving.”  This is a deep joy that takes root even in darkness; joy that has its source in God’s great presence and God’s hope for whatever the future may hold.

To put it even more simply, it’s not so much rejoicing because of all the things that have happened to us in life; in fact, very often we rejoice in spite of all that has happened to us, and that’s because we look first to Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, and in us, and to us.  Our joy is to be “in the Lord,” and because of this, you and I can rejoice in all circumstances, even those that are difficult and painful and involve suffering; not because of what it is we’re going through, mind you, but because of the grace of the Lord; the hope, strength, love and understanding we’re given to see it through, no matter what!

A few years ago, Lisa and I were invited with some others to the home of a Jewish rabbi, to share in a Shabbat meal, that is, a Sabbath meal; that night we did everything kosher, the food and the liturgy, and it was wonderful.  Having studied some Hebrew in seminary, it was nice to hear the biblical prayers spoken in their original language; all the traditions that go along with eating in a Jewish household are rich and meaningful, and the music – yes, we all had to sing in Hebrew, folks (!) – was fun and very, very joyful!  And how do I know this?  Because most of the songs we learned to sing that night had a chorus that the Rabbi promised that even we Gentiles could sing: “Di, di, duh, duh, di, di!”   I could do that!

Actually, one of the songs we sang that night I’ve never forgotten; it’s called “Dayenu,” and it’s a song for Passover.  I would not presume to sing that one here today, but suffice to say that the lyrics are a long enumeration of all of God’s blessings to his chosen people, but with a twist: with every verse, we sang about what would have been had God not given one of those blessings!  “Had he brought us out of Egypt, and not fed us in the desert, but brought us out of Egypt, well, then, Dayenu,” which in Hebrew means, “for that alone we would have been grateful.”  It’s a fun song to sing, and what it reminds us is that no matter the challenges we face in the present moment, we still have this relationship with a God who is present and powerful and moving in and through our lives in ways that we can’t even begin to measure or fully understand. 

When we have that, friends; even when we can only perceive it as though it were the size of a mustard seed; well, that’s when we learn to “not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [our] requests be known to God,” truly knowing that peace which passes our human understanding… and rejoice.

I know… six weeks and counting in this time of quarantine and it’s all too tempting to let ourselves become sad and angry and embittered over what life and this world has “done” to us.  But it is faith in the wisdom, care and perfect mercy of God that strengthens us to transcend these difficulties of life so that we might know life’s real joy, which comes to us in Christ.  I’ve quoted a lot of songs today, but maybe the one we really ought to take to heart is the one about that “joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts to stay.”  Because when others see such unabashed joy in us, they – and our world – cannot help but be the better for it.

Thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 
 

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Blessed Foolishness

(a sermon for February 2, 2020, the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, based on 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

I strongly suspect that within each one of us there exists a desire to be thought of as… wise. That is to say, as one who is considered by others to be intelligent and knowledgeable about things; as someone who’s mature and discerning and filled with all manner of insight.

And on the face of it, there’s certainly nothing wrong that that (!); after all, as it says in the book of Proverbs, it is “the LORD [who] gives wisdom, [and it is] from his mouth [that comes] knowledge and understanding.” (6:2) So to want to be thought of as wise would seem to be a laudable pursuit in life. However, that said, it should be added that one must take care in this endeavor; for wisdom, like beauty, is very often in the eye of the beholder.

I remember once toward the end of my first year of seminary, I happened to be in attendance at a student and faculty reception; a “meet and greet” with the graduation speaker that year.  And as is more or less required in an event like that, together with a couple other of my classmates, I was making my way toward my Old Testament and Hebrew professor – Dr. Stephen Szikszai – to say hello and to meet our seminary’s guest.  Now, to be honest, I was never particularly comfortable in a setting such as that, so my hope was to get in and out of there as quickly and smoothly as possible.  But Dr. Szikszai, God rest his soul, would have none of that; he greeted me from halfway across the room with the same rich and booming Hungarian voice that students at Bangor had long both respected and feared: “Ah!  Here ist vun of my Hebrew scholars now – Meester Lowry!”

Even all these years later, I cannot begin to describe to you how that hit me: he called me Hebrew Scholar!  Michael Lowry: seminarian, pastor, and… Hebrew Scholar!  I’ve got to tell you, that sounded pretty good!  I remember to this day what an immediate ego boost that was.  I mean, I’d had no idea that Dr. Szikszai thought of me that way; I was a pretty good student, I guess, but a Hebrew scholar?  Hey, this was great!  Of course, the thing about a comment like that is that you don’t want to be all puffed up about it – you at least want to appear humble – so I just said, “Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that…” In retrospect, I guess my feeble attempt at humility didn’t really come through, because to this Dr. Szikszai replied, “Dun’t get carried away, Meester Lowry.  Being a scholar does not make you smart!”

Alas, it as a glory short-lived, but oh, so sweet!

Now, I’m not sure if Dr. Szikszai intended for that to be a “teachable moment,” but nonetheless in that rather humbling experience there was a profound lesson to be learned; and not simply that generally speaking, “we’re not as smart as we might think we are!” It’s also that true wisdom is a relative thing, and in many ways might actually have to do with more than one’s course load and academic standing!  The seeds of wisdom might well be nurtured through the proper accumulation of knowledge, perception, intuition and decisiveness; but its harvest comes in knowing how it’s to be used and when!  As one of my seminary classmates said to me at the time, presumably to offer me some small amount of comfort in the face of that minor humiliation, “Don’t worry… it’s not that you’re smart that counts; it’s how you’re smart!”

Oh, well; lesson learned!  What’s interesting about all of this, though, is that the world in which we live actually has some very clear definitions as to what constitutes intelligence and wisdom, and so often it’s equated with other matters of life and living: things like guts, and courage. and the survival of the fittest; the ability to come out on top in a “dog eat dog” world, where might makes right and nice guys finish last. In the words of Scott Hoezee, of Calvin Seminary in Michigan, “This is the way the world works, true enough.  And if you are scrappy and brave and are willing to claw your way to the top of the ladder – no matter how many little people you have to step over along the way – you can and you will achieve success as defined by the wisdom of the age and the savvy of the most intelligent among us.  This is very simply how to get things done” in this world and in this life.

In this world, perhaps; but in what is the good news of our text for this morning, it’s is most decidedly not the case with God… for ours in the God who has “made foolish the wisdom of the world.”

You know, one of the things that has always moved me about this particular epistle, Paul’s first to the Church in the ancient Greek city of Corinth, is that it is in fact addressed to a people who were at once diverse and deeply divided as a Christian community.  The truth is that these Corinthians spent as much time bickering with one another as they did on matters of spirituality, and the irony was that what they bickered over the most was over who was the most spiritual!  Never mind that they were each and all “called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” who Paul refers to as “both their Lord and ours;” it’s that they have these factions within the Church of Corinth had these very different ideas about what that all meant.  And since they were given to a whole lot of one-upmanship and a great deal of pretention, a whole lot of this pretty much came down to who, as regards life and faith, could be counted wise – that is to say, the wisest – amongst them!

So into this debate comes Paul, reminding the Corinthians and us that the true meaning and understanding of our Christian faith will never be discerned through human thought and wisdom precisely because “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom;” and that divine foolishness “destroy[s] the wisdom of the wise” and thwarts the discernment of the discerning; to quote Scott Hoezee once again, proclaiming these “mysteries of God that all coalesce around the cross of Jesus Christ,” this message that  “is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved… is the power of God.”  

The ways of worldly wisdom have to do with logic and correctness and power; but that’s not how it is with God nor is it the way of salvation.  No, writes Hoezee, “here God upends it all.  We are not saved by power but by weakness.  We are not saved by worldly wisdom but by apparent folly.”  It’s the whole world – and everything we ever thought we understood about it – being turned upside down and inside out; and it all happening because of the cross, “the ignominious, shameful, accursed death of God’s own Son that the shining effulgence of all this counter-wisdom burst forth… the darkest moment in human history that led to the light… the death that led to life.”  The cross shows us the wisdom of God like nothing else ever could; but along with that, there’s something else: in the process we learn to live with the kind of wisdom that comes in a life of faith.

Speaking of my seminary days, I’m reminded here of a class in which one of my fellow seminarians was asked to present a paper about his own personal journey of faith – in other words, to tell the story of how he came to a belief in Christ and a sense of being called to the Christian ministry — but as soon became very evident, this man’s paper was an attempt to prove God’s existence through a series of interconnected mathematical proofs!   Now, you need to understand that this particular classmate had come to seminary after having already had a career as a mathematician and college professor.  I can also tell you that his hypothesis about God was clearly brilliant; and we knew this because he went on for over 15 minutes, and not a one of us understood a single word he said! But here’s what I remember: when he was finally done, the professor (who was very kind indeed) asked the student, “And what conclusion did you reach from this?”  And, after a long and painfully uncomfortable silence, all this student could do was shrug his shoulders, grin a sheepish grin and say, “I don’t know!” 

You see, try as we might, our human wisdom, however extensive or accumulated, can neither define nor direct our knowledge and understanding of God; neither can it ultimately serve to formulate the priorities and doctrines of a life grounded in faith!  In fact, it’s just the opposite:  true faith means living out of that place between our human wisdom and God’s blessed foolishness, this foolishness which “is wiser than human wisdom;”this overarching awareness that our strength and our hope, our joy and our peace, all that which is good and blessed about our lives, and indeed life itself comes to us “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

It’s this blessed foolishness that as Paul says (himself quoting from the eloquent words of the prophet in Isaiah 29:14) “destroy[s] the wisdom of the wise” and thwarts “the discernment of the discerning.”  And it is what makes us who we are as believers and, might I add, as the church of Jesus Christ… and if you don’t believe that, “consider your own call, brothers and sisters.”

Actually, there’s a little bit of, shall we say, a comeuppance in Paul’s words that were not entirely unlike that which I received from Dr. Szikszai! Remember, these Corinthian Christians prided themselves on the depth and superiority of their own wisdom as regards matters of spirituality and faith; and yet, Paul is very quick here to poke a hole in their inflated egos: “Consider your own call,” he says.  “…not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the strong.”  Or, if I can use the version that’s set for in The Message, “Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose those ‘nobodies’ to  expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies?’”  God chose what is low and despised in the world so that “none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God.”  (Don’t you love that?  I can hear the Corinthians now: “Well, thanks a lot, Paul… I guess…”)  But that’s the nature of God’s blessed foolishness: that it’s those who in the view of society are foolish, weak and low who come to know the true wisdom of God; and through whom God’s reign is established!

In Christ, you see, true wisdom is always going to be imbued with a sense of humility and lowliness that will set you apart from the rest of the world every time.   It will indeed, at times, lead you to be reviled, and persecuted and looked upon by the world as weak and foolish; and if you’ve ever had occasion where you’ve stood firm and opposed to others on some issue because of faith, then you may well know what I’m talking about.  And yet, if you look around at any real change that happens in this world, the kind of loving action that transforms human life and moves society a bit closer to the kingdom of God, that’s where you’re going to find someone who was willing to foolishly divest themselves of the kind of kind of power and prestige borne of human wisdom.  That’s the place where, as in the utter foolishness borne of the cross, you will see great wisdom, true sacrifice, and a world being saved.  Jacques Ellul actually says this very well when he writes that “in the world everyone wants to be a wolf, and no one is called to pay the part of the sheep.  Yet the world cannot live without this living witness of sacrifice.”  It is the mandate of true wisdom, writes Ellul, that “Christians must offer the daily sacrifice of their lives, which is united with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

And as I said before, it is such sacrifice – the stuff of holy and divine blessed foolishness – that makes us who we are as Christians, you and me; and not only that, it’s what calls us forth as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May it truly be said of each one of us, beloved, that today and every day, in everything we did, we willingly and joyfully embraced that foolishness, all for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom and through whom comes all of our wisdom.

Thanks be to God. 

AMEN and AMEN!

© 2020 Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
 

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