Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Foolishness of God’s Wisdom

Sermon for Lent 3B, preached on Sunday, March 7, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

 The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor 1:18, 25).  
    We live in a confusing time.  Life doesn’t make much sense anymore.  Things that we thought we knew for certain are said to be uncertain.  Things that are obvious based on undeniable facts are now called into question.  The knowledge and wisdom and reason of our world, they’re no longer informed simply by the facts.  Now our ever changing feelings inform our wisdom.  It doesn’t matter what’s true; what matters is what we want to be true.  And we’re told that if we just follow the wisdom of the day that we’ll be on the right path...but where does that path lead?  
    Our lives are very much directed by our reason.  And that’s not to say that that’s completely a bad thing.  Everything we know in the medical fields; all the life changing discoveries that have ever been made, all the engineering feats that we’ve accomplished; all the technologies that we use every single day, they all come from using reason.  And that’s good.  That’s why God gave us reason.
    Our reason and ability to think critically is a good gift from God.  We acknowledge this when we confess the Creed, when we say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”  Dr. Luther taught us what this means.  It means that God has made us and all creatures; that He’s given us our bodies and souls, eyes, ears, and all our members, He’s given us our reason and all our senses.  God gave us reason to use in our lives.  He gave it to Adam and Eve in the Garden so they could be faithful stewards, accomplishing the tasks of tending the garden and caring for all the animals.  And this is why He gives it to you, so that you can faithfully use it, doing what God has called you to do in all of our different vocations, in service to one another.  But our reason, our wisdom, it has its limits.  
    We can’t know everything, and it’s foolish to think that we can.  We’re not all knowing.  That’s an attribute that belongs to God alone.  Even before the fall into sin, in the perfection of the Garden, Adam and Eve still didn’t know everything.  They especially didn’t know evil.  But that changed when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  
When our first parents listened to Satan and his lies, when they ate from that tree, they gained the knowledge of evil, and that wasn’t good.  It wasn’t good for them to know evil because now they feared the Lord, now they didn’t see the goodness of creation around them, now they stopped trusting one another, now they knew death.  And because of that, ever since then, our knowledge, our reason, our wisdom, it’s tainted with evil.  
    There was a time in our history, about 100 years or so ago, when we as humanity thought that we could fix all our problems and create a sort of utopia through our knowledge and reason.  We were certain that we could find medicines to heal all diseases, that we could create technologies to make life easier and safer, that we could overcome any and every problem that we encountered.  We expected all good from our reason; but what we got instead was World Wars and weapons of mass destruction that could kill 100,000’s of people at a time.  So now, in response to that failed modern wisdom, we’ve moved on to post-modern wisdom that’s directed by our feelings.  But what has that gotten us: continued racism, social unrest, distrust of almost everybody, a culture that’s sole goal is to cancel people when they do our say something we don’t like, and wide spread abortion that kills 100,000’s of children every year.  I’d say not much has changed.  
    Our wisdom, our reason, our knowledge, it’s tainted with evil.  We’re sinners, and that sin affects not only our deeds and words, but also our thoughts.  Just think about the thoughts that have gone through your head this week.  What terrible things did you think about but didn’t do?  What hurtful thoughts have you pondered but never said out loud?  Our sinful fallen reason, it doesn’t know the good that we think we know.  Our sinful reason only knows wickedness and evil.  The path of this wisdom doesn’t lead to life, but to death.  …  The only wisdom that leads to life is God’s.  It’s knowing Christ.  And this knowing isn’t done by reason, but by faith.
     We know our Lord by faith, through the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen for us.  We know our Lord by faith, our Savior who took our sins upon Himself, who sacrificed His innocent life on the cross to redeem us from sin and death.  We know our Lord by faith, proclaimed in the pages of Scripture, revealed in God’s unchanging Word.  This is the wisdom of God, sending His Son to die and rise, and in that death is your free gift of salvation.  This is the only wisdom that leads life...but it’s a wisdom that is ridiculed and considered foolish today, just as it was in the first century.  
    Not much has changed.  The people of Jesus’ day considered the Gospel to be ridiculous.  After Jesus cleansed the temple of the merchants and money changers, the Jews asked Him for a sign to prove that He had authority to this.  Jesus responded by saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19).  These were nonsensical words.  They didn’t make sense.  The Jews thought Jesus was talking about the great stone temple they were standing in, a building that took 46 years to build.  How was He going to rebuild it in 3 days?  But Christ wasn’t talking about that building.  He was talking about His own body.  He was talking about His resurrection.  And it wasn’t until after the resurrection that the disciples understood and believed this.  
    Christ’s death and resurrection, it’s everything for us.  Our salvation rests on it.  Our life is founded on it, our whole life.  By faith, we understand everything in light of the cross and empty tomb.
The faith we have, the Gospel wisdom of the Lord, it’s not just a church thing.  We don’t just live by God’s wisdom inside this building and then the world’s wisdom when we walk out those doors.  No, we live by faith at all times.  We live by the wisdom of the cross in all that we say and do and think.  
    Jesus' death and resurrection has redeemed us completely: soul, body, and mind.  He’s redeemed our wisdom.  And we use this faithful wisdom to do what the Lord has called us to do, to fulfill the tasks of our vocations, just as He gave Adam and Eve in the Garden.  The wisdom of cross directs our thoughts and actions as we live as husband and wives, parents and children, students and teachers, employers and employees, leaders and citizens, hearers of God’s Word and pastors.  The wisdom of the cross leads us in fulfilling the Table of Duties.  This is good.  This is why God has given us our reason.  
    So use this faithful reason.  Look at all things in light of Christ’s cross and resurrection, because there is your life.  Reason is a good gift from God.  But the wisdom and reason of this world doesn’t lead to the life that so many promise.  True life is lived by God’s grace and by faith.  True life comes from the Gospel wisdom that the world considers foolish.  True life comes from the wisdom of God, the wisdom of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen for you.  In Jesus’ name...Amen.  

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