Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (“foolish wisdom”)
Paul’s words from First Corinthians that we just heard remind us that following Jesus is an unconventional choice. Some even see it as a foolish or absurd one.
Conventional wisdom supports values like patriotism and obedience. It is about fitting in to get along. And for centuries, Christian churches have preached conventional wisdom even when it has been in the service of empire.
So given the evils of empire, I find it refreshing to be reminded by Paul that following a Messiah who is nailed to a cross is unconventional, foolish, or even absurd when viewed from the vantage point of conventional wisdom.
This winter in offering guidance on sacred indigenous teachings, Elder Evelyn Day is unearthing for us wisdom that was buried by the French and British empires when they conquered and settled North America beginning in the 17th Century. Much to its shame, the Christian church marched in lockstep with these empires. It played this role despite the unconventional wisdom of Christ that Paul highlights today.
Like Canada’s Indigenous people, Jesus grew up in a community occupied by a foreign empire. The religious leaders of his community tried to accommodate themselves to its evils. But Jesus and his friends refused to go along.
Instead of fitting in, the Jesus movement rocked the boat. Instead of kowtowing to ancient traditions, it lived an ethics based on inclusion, forgiveness, and love. Instead of striving for influence or power, the Jesus movement spoke truth to power even when this meant defeat and death. And instead of accepting death as the end, it saw in death new beginnings.
Unconventional people like Paul found hope – absurd though it might seem – in the death of their Messiah. By taking up their own cross and following Christ on the Way, they found greater freedom and love than they had ever known.
Paul became a fool for love, and he calls others to join his merry band.
This winter, I am learning a lot from our Sunday series on Indigenous Teachings, although I also realize there is no end to what one might learn.
One of the things that stayed with me when I first encountered Indigenous spirituality ten years ago in school was the power of the circle. Gathering to worship in a circle creates equality and encourages listening and healing.
Last Monday evening, I was reminded of that power when I attended the first of three evenings here at the church called “On the Brink of Everything.” After listening to introductions from our two facilitators – Clair Woodbury and Joyce Madsen – and watching a video, Clare and Joyce had the 16 of us break into two circles of eight where we spent 45 minutes sharing stories of our own spiritiual journeys.
Clair and Joyce laid out a unconventional purpose for these three evenings – the second of which occurs tomorrow and the third on February 25. They said “On the Brink of Everything” was not designed to yield any results, and they made no attempt to capture our discussions. Instead, they said the purpose of the series was simply to listen and share in community. That may seem like a foolish way to spend a Monday evening. But I loved it.
Our Sunday morning gatherings can be looked at from the point of view of both conventional and unconventional wisdom. We may believe that Sunday worship is useful for building community, for refreshing our spirits for the work of outreach and justice, and for motivating us to support the church’s many activities and committees. And I agree with all of these ideas.
But viewed from the point of view of the cross, our gatherings have no purpose other than to share pain, joy, and our love of God and neighbour. Personally, I like worship best when it flouts the conventional wisdom of empire and marketplace. I love it when we sing, pray, and share in ways that might seem absurd, but which flow from our deepest feelings and from our search for hope, peace, joy, and love.
Coming to church this morning may not have been the wisest choice given that the windchill was -40. But I pray that it fits well with our gracious reality as holy fools who sometimes find ourselves doing seemingly absurd things for love.
May it be so. Amen.