1 Corinthians 1:18-31, John 2:13-22
The Bible is full of fools and foolishness. God’s story, old or new is full of fools and foolishness. Even the wisdom we discover there in seems to be at odds with the wisdom and learning we encounter in educational, institutional or everyday life. Paul points straight to the cross, Jesus points straight to the tearing down of the temple through the cross, Moses at 80+, Abraham and Sarah at almost 100 years of age, David as King and the list goes on.
Not only was the wisdom in the Bible at odds with the prevailing sense of the world, it simply marches to a different rhythm to the world we live in.
Yet, the wisdom and knowledge the world we live in has grown up with is not certain and true.Take, for example, the creation of our universe which has been said by scientists to have begun with a big bang – the big bang theory. There are at least three other theories standing against the big bang theory. The latest from a group of scientists at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, suggests that the universe was simply there all the time and had no need for a big bang theory explain it.
Ideas such as the world isn’t flat, or it isn’t carried on the back of a large tortoise or the sun revolves around earth were all foolishness at one time or another. Over our lifetime we have seen the wisdom of the day overturned time and again, and what would have looked as foolishness, become the new wisdom. Who could have imagined we could instantly connect to someone on the other side of the world with out going through a telephone exchange, having someone dial the number, waiting for the operator on the other side of the world then finally connecting and have to listen through the crackle and noise inherent in the cables under the sea?
The suggestion that God could be found present in the world in the person of Jesus from Nazareth was foolishness to those for whom God was distant, beyond the clouds and only to be found in the Torah or through interventionist acts from beyond, was foolishness. Even for the majority of Christians God was seen as part of a three tiered cosmos, outside our world, someone who chose who to rescue and not to rescue and was, arbitrary to some degree, in who was in and who was out of his kingdom.
Today we know that God doesn’t live beyond the clouds. We have been there and God, as a person cannot be found. We know, from experience, that God cannot be manipulated into rescuing, saving or healing us. We have come to understand what Jesus and Paul said was true and not foolishness. We are made in the image of God, God is within us and we are within God, and we are on a journey to discover ourselves as we discover who God is to us. Jesus oft said ‘Today the kingdom of God has come near’ reveals the truth that God is nearer to us than ourselves and our mission is to be still and know that I Am is God.
This was the message of the mystics of all ages and is the core message of John’s Gospel. John was Jewish and his language to describe Jesus and his purpose comes directly from Jewish mysticism. It is the language of unity, being and one-ing. Right at the beginning of his Gospel he lays a hymn of praise and recognition to such an understanding of Jesus. He is not talking about a physical being, a real person or a God who has become a man, but to a being who has always existed and is indelibly apart of the one who simply says I Am. And if we are made one with Christ then we are also made one with the ground of all being, I Am. John uses those two words over and over again to describe Jesus. He is not subtle.
In the temple John directly connects Jesus, I Am, with the temple and all that goes on there. The temple cult sat at the centre of Jewish religious, social and political life. It was the place where the Holy of Holies contained God, and to some sense, where God could be seen as holding them. Jesus, John’s I Am, comes and confronts this worldly wisdom and says this is simply man made. “Here you have created a place where you strive to contain and manipulate God according to the written law and practice. I will destroy the validity of such wisdom and replace it with what may seem like foolishness, a death that says relationships; emerging, growing and defining relationships, with creation and with each other become the places where you encounter God. The possibility of such a relationship is available to all, and especially those that make it real in their lives.
Paul reminds us: ‘For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.’ We could say that God’s love is greater than man’s law. The ongoing story of the two members of the Bali 9 and their struggle with Indonesian law challenges us all. The law is a straightener. It should be designed to bring people back to the centre of themselves and society. The parameters and the judgement of the law should be flexible and able to respond to the steps people make to come do so. To pursue the ends of law simply to make a point is pigheaded brutality and needs to be avoided.
Over and over again, in my engagement with young people in schools, I and those I worked with, faced such a challenge. Yes, this behaviour is inappropriate simply deserves severe censure or expulsion. Yet, what is the outcome we seek? That this child may return to the centre of his or her community and not be expelled from it. Therefore do we follow the letter of the law or do we find ways to allow this person to find redemption? The latter, often seen as foolishness by those for whom punishment is the only reward, was chosen more often and not. And it works.
Saw a message from a young man recently whose history is dotted with great failures. He is now a member of the Army Cadets and was recently promoted to a corporal. It is one of those wow moments. If his misdemeanours had been handled by the letter of the law, this may not have been possible. Relationships and compassion pave the way to redemption.
Sin is not a legal problem, it is a relationship problem; the relationship with self with others and with the I AM, and can only be solved by the foolishness of love, love in the shape of the cross and the taking up of that cross by us in a way that it allow others to journey back to the centre.
May we do this in a way that values individuals and their life experience, be they the young who need direction and correction, or us who are slightly older who need to know that, contrary to the wisdom of the day, are in fact the embodiment of the wisdom experience God has brought our way, if we have processed those experience through the foolishness of the crucified and reimagined Christ.