4th Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
I Corinthians 1:18-31
January 29, 2016
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle, which was read a few minutes ago.
If I were to make a list of things that people believe in that are silly or don’t make defy logic, I’d have quite the list. You may disagree with me, but it’s my list, so I would include: unicorns, the Loch Ness monster, alien abductions, evolution, and the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl. That last one is probably nonsense, but let me dream. I would also put on the list Atheism, Islam, Hinduism, and Mormonism. These religions are foolish to believe in, because honestly, they don’t make any sense. Now while it may shock you to hear this, I’d say that Christianity should be on the list as well because it too doesn’t make sense.
It’s no secret that the number of people professing to be Christians in North America and Europe has dropped significantly in the last few decades. Just thirty years ago 80% of people claimed to be Christian, but most recently that number is only about 71%. There’s a variety of reasons for this decline, and one of them is that human knowledge as become so advanced that there’s no need for God. Scientific developments have enabled us to see everything from the smallest atoms to galaxies that are fifteen billion light years away. Medical researchers can unwind a strand of DNA and come up with a plan of attack for disease. Because humans have accomplished so much on their own, Christianity is seen as illogical. If people can do all this, why does he or she need to believe in some invisible space god? We’re smart enough to see we don’t need Him.
And yet, you know what all this knowledge has in common? If you stack up all the medical, scientific, and philosophical knowledge in the world it doesn’t help where it really matters. You can be the smartest person in the world, you can be Albert Einstein, but when you die, you go to hell. All the wisdom in the world cannot save anyone. As the Lord says, “The wise men shall be put to shame…behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?” It should sadden us that so many people who think they are wise aren’t wise in the ways of God.
Astronomers and astrophysicists, philosophers and gurus, the greatest minds the world has ever known have all failed to know God through their own wisdom and intellect. God is there to be seen, but they refuse to look at Him. Just look at the baby in the womb who started as a tiny speck, see the billions of stars, planets, and galaxies, contemplate the intricate design of the human body and know that there is a God. As Paul says in Romans, “God’s invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” He’s there; the evidence is all around us.
But to the wise, the idea of a Creator just doesn’t make sense, so it’s rejected. A God who created all things? That’s silly superstition! What really happened is that there was this Big Bang which allowed the sun and the earth to be set in just the right positions to allow life to form. A God who formed man out of the dust and a woman out of a rib? That’s crazy! What really happened is that some dead things came to life and over millions of years became dinosaurs, monkeys, and finally people.
The saddest thing in all of this is that when people reject God the Creator, they’re rejecting God the Savior, and this has been going on since the beginning of Christianity. Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” The idea of a crucified Savior and an executed God has made zero sense to generations. A true God would never let Himself be killed; a God who can be killed can’t do anything. In some graffiti found, dated not long after the death of Jesus, Jesus was depicted as a donkey on a cross, that’s how little many have thought of the Savior.
Then again, the idea that people need saving also seems silly and nonsensical; “Who needs forgiveness? Who’s to say that what I’m doing is wrong? We’re all headed for the same place when we die, so what does it matter?” Any of this sound familiar? God has given everyone a conscience which tells them that what they’re doing is right or wrong. However, too many people have silenced the voice of their conscience so that they don’t see that they’re sinful and need saving. And when they don’t know they’re sinful, when they don’t know they need to be saved, what they do know is all a waste. They may have all sorts of knowledge but it won’t tell them that they’re loved by God. It won’t show them that there is life in that ridiculous looking cross.
For a majority of people in this world, the cross doesn’t make any sense, and that includes Christians as well. If you think about it, does it make sense? God comes to earth, takes on human flesh, and then through His crucifixion gives us the forgiveness of sins. If we devised our own god or our own way of living forever, we wouldn’t pick what God did. But what does Paul say? “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” So God in His infinite wisdom devises the perfect plan to save us. Again Paul says, “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.” This is how we are saved and it doesn’t matter if doesn’t make sense to us or not. We don’t live by what we think, we live by faith. What this means is that you trust the Word of God, and when He says you’re forgiven through His death on that cross, you’re forgiven. End of story.
Too often though it isn’t the end of the story because Christians still question Christ Jesus and His cross. Have you ever said, “It doesn’t make sense that God would love me.” Or “It doesn’t make sense that God would forgive someone as bad as me.” Or “It doesn’t make sense that God would forgive anyone who asks. What about Hitler or that rotten neighbor of mine?” To which Paul replies, “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” God is pleased to work in ways that don’t make sense to us, but if it makes sense to Him, isn’t that what matters? His wisdom is way beyond ours and the smartest person to ever live is as dumb as a box of rocks when compared to God. He thinks in ways that we’ll never comprehend this side of Heaven, and that’s okay, because through His wisdom all your sins, every single one of them stands forgiven. So yes, you’re loved. So yes, you’re forgiven. So yes, anyone who turns to God is forgiven, regardless of their past.
So what do you do? Nothing. Simply believe that what God says is true; that the foolish word of the cross is His saving power. God’s wisdom brings power and salvation and that makes sense to Him. So when things don’t make sense, look to the cross. You can look at the pretty gold crosses you see everywhere, for they remind you of the rough wooden cross upon which our crucified Lord hangs for you. Look at Him and see that everything you need is there. As Paul says, “Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” In other words, you are forgiven because God has made you holy and rescued you from the Devil. And how do you know this? By looking at His crucified body that bears your sins and at His blood filling the cup of the Lord’s Supper for your forgiveness. For what you see is the wisdom of God at work for you.
People believe in a lot of things that don’t make sense to others, and yet, they don’t change their beliefs. Some will always believe in leprechauns, evolution, or Bigfoot regardless of what others say. Take this same attitude with Jesus and His cross. It doesn’t make sense to the worldly wise and they’ll do whatever they can to change your mind. They’ll call you dumb, superstitious, backwards, or any number of things, but that’s okay. What doesn’t make sense to them, makes sense to God and that’s what matters. So look to the cross and know that the foolishness of God is wiser than us and the thing that seems so foolish makes us wise to salvation.
Now may the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen