This foolish message of ours (1 Corinthians 1: 10-18)

There are stories of call –

stories that help us put purpose to our lives –

that are some of the most enduring stories in Scripture.

They assure us that God sees greatness in us –

no matter how we see ourselves.

they suggest that God is perfectly willing

to make mountains of faith

out of the molehills of our self-doubt.

In this morning’s gospel (Matthew 4: 12-23),

we get an account of Jesus gathering his first disciples,

and there is an urgency that is contagious:

Jesus comes – Jesus calls –

and those he calls drop everything to follow.

In this moment, it seems that Andrew, Simon, James and John,

saw a chance to make their mark in the world –

to join Jesus on a mission whose end they could not have imagined.

They gladly followed a man

who was talking boldly about the reign of God –

who was healing and teaching

and stirring up the social conscience of their fellow citizens –

here  was an opportunity that was clearly irresistible.

That same feeling comes over us when we first meet Jesus:

whether it’s gentle Jesus, meek and mild,

or Jesus mixing with the wrong kind of people,

our curiosity is “strangely stirred” – and we follow,

because we are eager to be part of the kind of change that Jesus preaches;  love your neighbour and all that stuff…

but our enthusiasm doesn’t always last – does it.

Within the first generation of those who heard and followed –

for those people to whom Paul writes – the shine was wearing off –

conflict and chaos was threatening to displace the initial excitement

that was theirs when they received Paul and the gospel.

Jesus teaching is lost in the shuffle of differing opinion –

“I’m with Paul on this…I’ll follow Apollos…”

and what’s worse, according to Paul,

is that God’s purpose in Christ seems to have been lost.

The power of the gospel is being diminished by human foolishness.

Lets be clear here – for Paul, the gospel has little to do

with Jesus teaching moments –

healing and preaching are all very good,

but Paul met Christ in glory – fresh from his victory over death.

For Paul, the gospel begins and ends with the Cross.

Everything Jesus did is, for Paul, measured by the cross –

and in that light, nothing can ever be the same.

The stories of God’s historical preference for the underdog

have no power beyond the fact of Jesus death and resurrection – none.

So the petty concerns of the church – who is right – who is in charge –

are getting in the way of the real issue.

We belong, not to any one camp, or denomination (if you will) –

we are claimed, formed and united

by the power of God as demonstrated at the cross.

This is a power that does lift up the underdog –

power that triumphs over an oppressive overlord – death –

but it is a power that has nothing to do with our opinion,

our interpretation,

or even our understanding of it.

As much as we’d like our Journey with Jesus

to begin on a pristine beach, full of optimistic idealism

(Come – I’ll show you how to change the world!),

if we are to recognize any power at all in God to change us

(and through us, the world)

then we must start, says Paul, at the cross.

We are afraid of that power – afraid of the message about the cross –

because it remains a foolish notion today.

What kind of god would choose to suffer?

How could God abandon Jesus for OUR sake?

The questions are familiar,

and they drive us away from the truth about God’s power.

Not that it is limitless (though it is)

but that this power does not operate according to our understanding.

To recognize power in God – power in the cross of Christ –

is to recognize our own weakness

and our inability to understand everything.

It is this act of giving up that leads to salvation

our act – our admission that in what Paul describes as a foolish message

we have discovered the wisdom and power of God;

wisdom and power that defy our explanations

and triumph over our petty differences.

This power of God remains our greatest hope – our only salvation.

Our own efforts to tame the world

our attempts to spread the substance

of Jesus message of peace, unity and equality

love your neighbour and all that –

have been valiant but futile.

The institutional church seems ready to crumble around us –

budgets are slashed, mission is “re-imagined”

and congregations are forced to make difficult and desperate decisions –

yet God’s call still rings in our ears,

promising that the excitement can be rekindled,

if only we would remember that we have a source of unfailing power.

It comes not from our fresh enthusiasm to “do better” or try harder”

it does not come from any eager interpretation of the events of the day.

Our power to follow – to respond to Jesus earnest invitation

to “fish for people”

and our power to change the world

into the kind of place that Jesus’ teachings help us imagine –

comes from that foolish cross;

Where God displayed real power;

where the way of things was overturned forever;

where our weakness is turned into victory through Christ

who calls us still, to share his story of hope.  Amen.

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