Genesis 3:1-12, I Corinthians 1:20-28
September 29, 2013
Last week at the 9:00 service, we sort of danced around one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. And that is the first chapter of I Corinthians. Listen again to these words. “Consider your call, my brethren, not many of you were wise by worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”
That is great! That is Pauls writing at its best! That’s a wonderfully worded statement, and it has an amazing message! Because it gives us an important understanding of how God works, and what his kingdom is like! And if you recall, that’s one of the things Jesus talked about the most. Many of his teachings, and many of his parables, started out with the words, “The kingdom of God is like…”
So this passage shows, as did the teachings of Jesus, that God’s kingdom is different than the worldly kingdom around us. In this passage, Paul shatters all worldly understanding of what is wise, and strong, and noble. German sociologist Max Weber used similar words to describe that which the world considers to be important. He used the words “wealth, power, and prestige.” Those are pretty close to Pau’ls words, “wisdom, strength, and nobility,” aren’t they?
Well, God’s kingdom turns all of those things on their ear! What Paul tells us is that what is important in our world is not what’s important to God! And I hope we see that! I hope we know that! “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”
So, with those words “hanging in the air” around us, I’d like to ask you today to do what Paul asked the Corinthians to do all those years ago. I ask you to “consider your call!” Which of those things are you? Are you the foolish? Are you the weak? Are you the low and despised? When we compare ourselves to others in this world we can feel like we are those things can’t we? Sometimes even when we compare ourselves to people in God’s kingdom we can feel like that, too. Some people seem to be more spiritual, better teachers, or better leaders. And in comparison we can feel foolish, weak, low, and despised.
Well, the good news Paul is telling us – as Jesus tried to tell the people before him – is that those kinds of worldly comparisons are unimportant in God’s kingdom. The overwhelming theme in the kingdom of God is that everybody is important. Status – especially worldly status – doesnt matter! In God’s kingdom there are no such things that separate people! Remember the words just prior to this, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The kingdom of God turns on its ear the kingdom of this world. And that’s because it’s not about us. It’s about God!
The problem is that we are inundated, we are besieged, we are overwhelmed with the understandings and the philosophies of this world every single day! We can hardly escape the message the world is telling us day in and day about what is wise, what is strong, and what is honorable. It’s hard for the principles of Gods kingdom to have any weight or influence in our lives. If you look honestly at your life in this world I think you’ll agree with that.
So, at the very least, I think we need to strive every day to see what’s important to God in those ways. And if we do, I think we’ll be surprised. The kind of people our world honors and respects and venerates are not the same kind of people God sees as important. To, what I think was a shocked crowd, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you! For whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Jesus turned all thoughts of what is important and powerful in this world upside down. And of course he lived it. The last part of that sentence is “for even the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
One of the most powerful images in all of scripture, and perhaps in all history, is that of Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate. There he was, in the seat of roman power, beaten, in chains, looking every bit the weak, powerless, condemned man. And yet, the feeling in that story is that Jesus was the real power in that scene. When he says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” we know that’s true, don’t we? And when he says, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight,” we get the feeling that they would win!
What is important and powerful in our world is not what’s important in God’s kingdom. So if you are not wise, powerful, or highly born, don’t think you are not important in God’s kingdom. You may in fact, according to Jesus, be one of the more important people! Social status fades away when you come through those doors! Take a moment and picture the early church, with people from varying walks of life, worshipping and sharing life together as one.
So the message of Paul is, don’t think of yourself as small or insignificant or unimportant. For there are no such things in God’s kingdom. And don’t think God can’t use you to accomplish great things in his kingdom. Don’t think God can’t use you “to shame the wise, to shame the strong, or to bring to nothing things that are!”
I will always remember a picture I once saw in a magazine. It was a one frame cartoon that showed a guy standing there with a thought bubble over his head. And the thought bubble said, “What can I do, Im only one person?” But the power of the image was that, standing behind him, was a huge crowd of people, every one of which had a thought bubble over their heads that also said, “What can I do, Im only one person?”
That was a powerful image to me! And I hope you get the point! The power in the church is that its not one or two extraordinary people that make things happen. It’s a whole group of ordinary people who work together – who are called together – that make things happen. And that is extraordinary!
Friends, that’s part of how God works. Time and again, he takes ordinary people and makes them extraordinary. Or should I say, he does extraordinary things through them. Just think of old Moses, standing there before the burning bush. That’s an image that has forever become a symbol, for both Jews and Christians, a symbol of God’s call in people’s lives. We have that symbol here on our paraments! There he was, a shepherd, a fugitive, a man who likely had some sort of speech impediment, but can we think of anyone else in the whole of the Old Testament who God used in a more powerful way?!
The last thing I want to say about this is that God calls all of us! Paul said, “Consider your call, brethren.” And in that pre-inclusive language society, that meant “the brethren and the sisteren.” This wasn’t a statement about people who are called in more specific ways. We talked about that kind of call a couple of weeks ago when we ordained and installed our officers. And yes, God makes some specific calls to people. And yes, he doesn’t do that by using worldly standards, as we said before.
This call, though, is the call that God gives to all of us. We are all called to be the Church! We are all called to be part of that organization, that movement, which over the centuries has had the greatest influence on the history of this planet ever – and nothing else even comes close! And we are the Church regardless of our worldly status! We are not “only one person.” We are the body of Christ!
So consider your call, my friends. It is an important call! It is an amazing call! Think about it every day! Seek every day to grow in the knowledge of your importance in Gods kingdom.
Eternal God, we thank you for your call on our lives. And we ask that you would help us to see how important it is to be called in your kingdom. Help us to rejoice each day that we are together the body of Christ here on earth. Help us to live and grow and prosper in that kingdom. These things we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen!