03 March 2024

In a world of seriousness and a Church of purity, the Lectionary calls us to a strange way of being this week – foolishness. The cross, which is God’s wisdom and God’s strength, is placed alongside the law in the readings this week, and as we examine these two themes side by side, we discover that they are actually both calling us to the same thing – as surprising as that may sound.

Come to worship as a fool this week, and allow God’s foolish wisdom and God’s weak strength to transform you!

Exodus 20:1-17: God gives the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, instructing them how they should live as God’s people.

Psalm 19: A psalm that celebrates how creation reveals God’s glory and wisdom and how God’s commands and teachings are more valuable than anything, making those who follow them wise. Then a call for God to forgive hidden sins follows the song of praise.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25: God’s wisdom is far wiser than human wisdom, although it appears like foolishness and weakness to human beings. God’s wisdom and strength is Christ crucified which offends those who seek human strength and wisdom, but saves those who are willing to believe and embrace it.

John 2:13-22: Jesus drives out the animal sellers and the money changers from the temple. Then when the religious leaders ask for a sign to prove he has the authority to do this, he tells them that if they destroy the temple, he will rebuild it in three days – to which they respond with incredulity. The disciples, however, after he is raised, realise that he was referring to his body.

Two seemingly unrelated themes come together this week. The first is God’s gift of the law, and the value of God’s law which brings wisdom. The Exodus passage is the account of the people of Israel receiving the law and the list of the ten commandments (or Ten Words, as they are sometimes known), and Psalm 19 celebrates God’s instruction which is revealed both in nature and in the Law. The second theme is the foolishness of God’s wisdom which is shown through the cross, which Jesus cryptically points to, in the Gospel reading, as the proof of his authority to cleanse the Temple. Finally, today’s well known Epistle reading demonstrates how the cross, which appears to be weakness and foolishness, is actually God’s saving strength and wisdom. There is a tension here. The law can appear to be a call to both strength and wisdom, and the foolishness that the apostle speaks about is not immediately apparent. However, when the basis of the law is recognised – love for God (the first four commandments) and love for neighbour (the last six commandments) – the foolishness becomes clear. For a people who had just been delivered from slavery, these commandments represented the opposite of the life and systems of power and wealth that they had known in Egypt. They were offered as a liberating guide for the life of a free people. In the same way, the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus is a “foolish” act, undermining the corrupt systems of power and wealth that had crept into the religious and national life of God’s people. His act was a liberating, prophetic act revealing how a liberated people, a people of God’s Reign, should live. When questioned about his authority, Jesus pointed not to power or wealth, but to the giving of his life for the sake of love. The question that is posed then, this week, is whether we will embrace the foolishness of God’s law of love and live it out as Christ did in selfless sacrifice and service, or not.

Global Application:
The marks of human “wisdom” are seen across our world. When we feel threatened, we simply accumulate more and bigger weapons than our enemies. When we fear scarcity, we simply take what we want, hoard and protect it, and, if necessary, destroy those who compete with us for resources, or who have what we want. When we feel insecure or out of control, we simply court those in power, and manipulate our way into positions of power and control, and then “play the system” in our favour. And, in our wake lie the broken remains of lives, institutions and even our planet, that are the victims of our “strength” and “wisdom”. But, sooner or later, some weak and foolish prophet reveals the truth of our lives and values, and they come tumbling down around us. It is always the jesters who can speak truth to power, and when the truth of our so-called “achievements” are revealed, the world inevitably changes significantly. When the weak and foolish live in their “counter-cultural” way, the result is always greater freedom, life and peace for all. If there is anything we need in our world now it is foolish leaders who will have the courage to defy the accepted wisdom of our world that gives power to the few and widens the gulf between rich and poor. And we need communities of foolish people who will take the Gospel of Christ seriously and seek to live it out in the weakness and foolishness of love, inclusion, generosity, justice and peace.

Local Application:
Our scarcity mentality seems wise, and “winning” in a world based upon such wisdom requires us to be strong. But, in our relationships, our refusal to be vulnerable and weak leaves us alone and disconnected from each other. In our communities, our refusal to share resources leaves us afraid and suspicious of one another. In our societies, our refusal to challenge the “accepted wisdom” of our organisations, structures, and systems leaves us with a few who enjoy wealth and power, and many who struggle to survive. Even in our churches, the tendency to adopt the same power dynamics and wealth-driven strategies of the society around us has weakened our witness, and made it impossible for us to influence the world to embrace Gospel ways of being. Yet, there are those who seek to follow Christ, and who willingly take the risk of foolishness and weakness for the sake of others. It is these fools who reveal the poverty of our systems and wisdoms, and who call us back to the simple laws of love for God and neighbour. It is these fools who show us a different way – a Jesus way – of living, of treating one another, and of building community. The challenge this week is for us to decide whether we will be one of those fools, or, like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, collaborate with the system. This applies to the “small” context of our homes and families to the “larger” contexts of church and community – in all of which situations we can seek power and control, or treat our spouses, children and neighbours with the foolishness of love and collaboration.

Overturning Tables
Law And Love
Another Way
Weak And Poor God

Hymn Suggestions:
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Rock Of Ages Cleft For Me
Trust And Obey
Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation
Forth In Thy Name, O Lord
King Of Fools (Link to YouTube video)
Undignified (Link to YouTube video)
God’s Own Fool (Link to YouTube video)

A Liturgy for the Eucharist

Video Suggestions:
Exodus 20