Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jesus turned everything upside down. . .

The radical nature of the incarnation and the topsy turvy shape of our Lord's ministry - even to the willing suffering and death of the cross - are often addressed in theory while at the same time trying to claim this upside down Gospel as normal.  Let me explain. 

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, 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, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1. 20b-31).
Just off Christmas and the many sermons and carols that speak of the lowliness of Christ's birth, we forget how radical it is that God would become His people's Savior, the Creator would become flesh and blood and enter the domain of the creature, the righteous would die for the vile, and the innocent would wear the sins of the guilty.  We preachers sometimes preach and teach as if this were the new normal and are constantly shaving off the rough edges of its radical, upside down shape.

We think in worldly terms and want to dominate the landscape of the nation and the globe with the Gospel but then we end up mirroring back to the world the zeitgeist instead of confronting them with the radical inversion of the God made flesh.  We borrow from Wal-Mart and advertising scions the tools of the trade to sell the Gospel like a product and win consumers and admirers instead of calling people to repentance, to faith, and to discipleship. 

If the Gospel were not so radical and strange, we would not need daily repentance and contrition to recall us from our wandering eyes and hearts still struggling against the curvatus in se that calls us to the shadows and darkness.  If the Gospel were not so radical and strange, good works would be absolutely normal and natural and no one would have to admonish or encourage Christians for their lack of them (but then half of the New Testament would also be gone).

Epiphany is the season of revelation -- constant revelation that discloses the inversion of grace in a world of sin, death, and evil.  Magi who take on a long journey only to find a child at its ends, a hidden miracle of water become wine, disciples called from the normal of fishing to the radical up side down vocation of fishing for men, food miraculously multiplied, people miraculously healed, the dead raised -- and all the while the outcast, rejected, publican, and known sinner is the often unwitting recipient of grace so surprising.

The world is made upside down.  Christ is incarnate, revealed in word and works, headed to the cross.  There is nothing normal or ordinary about this.  It is so radical that it scrapes against our old nature every day of our lives until we surrender this flesh to death and awaken in His arms and glory!

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