Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Epiphany 5a - 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” is one of the most radical statements in the scriptures. The Romans didn’t crucify without cause and the Corinthian church in the heart of Romanized Greece was well aware of that. To follow Christ crucified was to identify one’s life with a condemned criminal, resurrection notwithstanding. We cannot possibly understand what that meant even in the current climate where being church is no longer cool, even in the ever slimming Bible belt. I’m not saying I want to return to a time when faith meant putting one’s life in harm’s way, though there are plenty of places on our planet where people are persecuted and even killed for confessing Jesus is Lord. I am saying that Paul preached something the American church with its tax exempt status has forgotten or failed to fully embrace. We prefer plausible words of wisdom, narrowly defining faith in terms of what is orthodox or not. Even demonstrations of the Spirit’s power are used to define and divide. Paul’s appeal asks the Corinthian church to bet its life on Jesus, for all practical purposes a peasant crucified as a criminal in a third world country. There is no way you or I would believe such nonsense today. And yet here we are because Paul in weakness, fear and trembling somehow convinced the Corinthians the unlikely and unthinkable was true. We find ourselves in a time not that different asking people in the IPod, my touch, twitter, Google, 24/7 connected world to believe that this Jesus, killed by the Romans in the first century, was God and that claiming Jesus as Lord makes a difference in the here and now. In the past the threat of eternal punishment to coerce belief was good enough but nowadays people are not so easily frightened and believing to avoid punishment or gain reward was never about loving Jesus or haven’t you read the scripture, “perfect love casts out all fear.” No, what convinced the Corinthians was a foolish message that somehow made sense. God in Jesus coming near to us was crucified by the Romans in the first century in a third world country so that we might be drawn into “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived…” Imagine that… and believe.

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