Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The Word: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers,1 xdid not come proclaiming to you ythe testimony2 of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except zJesus Christ and him crucified. And aI was with you bin weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of cthe Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men3 but din the power of God. [1]

            Those of you who follow the daily lectionary might be astute enough to notice that the passage Rebecca just read was not among the lectionary choices this morning. If you’re really paying attention, you’ll notice that it’s from about two weeks ago when I was originally scheduled to preach in chapel. Much to my chagrin, I had to admit that week that I was too sick to make it to campus and you all probably didn’t want me touching the communion bread anyway.
            I was really annoyed that I had prepared a whole service and started to write a sermon and then it just sat there, a nice little liturgy and half a sermon collecting dust on the shelves in my computer’s memory. I’m a planner, you see. In fact, when finishing this reflection for today’s service, I joked with Rebecca that I was just going to wing it this morning. Her response was to laugh and say, “Let’s be real. Neither of us wing things.”
Now, I can’t speak for Rebecca, but I know that for myself, I don’t wing things because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Especially standing up here in front of my classmates, my professors, my colleagues. The last thing I want is to misquote something or sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about.
So of course it seems like every time I preach in the chapel here, the passage is about how superior God is to the knowledge of people. As I work on finishing up my second seminary degree, I doubt there is anyone in my life who would accuse me of having a distaste for facts and knowledge and education. Yet here I am preaching once again on a passage that says how ridiculous all of our book learnin’ looks in the face of God’s ways. Perhaps this is God’s way of reminding me not to get too full of myself. Perhaps it’s just God demonstrating a brilliantly ironic sense of humor. I’m willing to bet it’s a little bit of both.
            We’re a few weeks into the new academic year – my favorite time of year on the seminary campus. Those of us who’ve been around for a few or more years are shaking back out into our regular routine. The new students are still looking a bit shell-shocked, but are starting to settle in. This year we greet the new calendar with a new president, which is exciting and full of mystery. There’s something regal and proud about academia. There is something that feels quite respectable about all this. It seems especially so because this isn’t just academia – this is the most high and holy of all academic callings – seminary.
            Many of us are or will be preachers. We’re in the business of “proclaiming the testimony of God.” Even those who are going to be teachers or administrators or social workers or whatever else God has planned out for you are here at seminary, are here because “proclaiming the testimony of God” is some part of your calling.
It is such a lofty and respectable calling to be at seminary that it’s easy to get lost in the midst of our plans and classes and learning and reading and writing and translating and filling our heads full of knowledge. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t here because knowledge is the goal. Knowledge is a tool. It’s a powerful tool – a tool we need to have- but it’s just a tool. Without Jesus, without relying on God’s power and provision, on the movement of the Holy Spirit, all this stuff we learn here is just a pile of facts and ideas. Unless our faith rests in God’s power before our own wisdom, we’re toast, my friends. We’re just blowing out hot air.
             It sure sounds pretty to talk about trusting in God’s power and not our own cleverness, but it’s not for the faint of heart. This is dangerous work. There is no small amount of fear and trembling involved – especially with midterms approaching. We will sound ridiculous to those who rely on the world’s list of facts, and sometimes we may even sound ridiculous to ourselves.
            In Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 6.3, he sums this up nicely: Human wisdom denied the cross, but faith proclaimed the power of God. Wisdom not only failed to reveal the things which people sought after, but also it encouraged them to boast of their own achievements. But faith not only gave them the truth, it also encouraged them to glorify God. 9[2]
            My friends, this is the business we are in. We are in the business of proclaiming the testimony of God. Not so that we might prove our own knowledge or facts, not so that we might boast the largest church attendance numbers, not so that we might be best prepared to take on theological debate, not even for the grade. We are in the business of proclaiming the testimony of God so that God might be glorified.

1 Or brothers and sisters
x ver. 4, 13; [2 Cor. 1:12]; See ch. 1:17
y See Rom. 16:25
2 Some manuscripts mystery (or secret)
z Gal. 6:14
a Acts 18:1, 6, 12
b 2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5, 9; 13:4, 9; Gal. 4:13
c ch. 4:20; Rom. 15:13, 19; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Pet. 1:16
3 The Greek word anthropoi can refer to both men and women
d 2 Cor. 4:7; 6:7; [Zech. 4:6; 2 Cor. 10:4; 12:9]
[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 2:1–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
9 9 NPNF 1 12:30.
[2] Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 20). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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