God’s Wisdom

This week we had some technical difficulties and was not able to record the message. However, below you will find the Scriptures and the manuscript from today’s message.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? 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, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 Sermon

            Today as we continue our journey from Ash Wednesday to the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we will continue today by speaking about God’s wisdom in the cross. Now…I want us to stop a moment and stop just taking in whatever I say, and think about this for just a moment. Think about it not as a Christian, but as a human being. THE event of the salvation of humanity according to Christianity is that God comes in the form of a human being and suffers and dies as a Jew to an occupying power of Rome. That’s it. That is how God shows his power and authority. The God who we associate with power, I mean the God who created everything thing that ever was and is, shows his power by becoming weak. Seems a bit odd, and from the time of the first century to even now, it sounds like foolishness. But this is often how God’s wisdom works…it’s paradoxical. And today, we are going to talk about the paradoxes of God’s wisdom and the gospel. So let us begin first with our Gospel lesson, then speak about some practical truths of God’s wisdom, and then we will finish with the cross. The gospel of John shares with us a story of Jesus entering into the temple of Jerusalem. And as it was nearly time for Passover, many people had gathered outside the Temple, which at that time had been under renovations by King Herod. And as was typical in that time, many people traveled for many miles to come to this festival. And because of that travel, they did not bring with them their sacrifice without blemish. Rather, what many of them did is they would come to the Temple, the place where God dwelled, and outside the Temple gates was a street of vendors.

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You can see here a picture of one such street and where the vendors would’ve set up shop. Anyway, you would first come and before you could buy such a sacrifice, you would have to exchange your money. In order to purchase a sacrifice you had to have a temple coin. According the Jews, no graven image was to be made inside the house of worship. Still to this day, if you go into a synagogue, you may see beautiful stain glass windows, but you will not see any images of any person or animal or anything. So money changers were necessary because their money has on it a picture of Caesar. Well, the money changers knew they had a corner on the market because there was no other place where the people could exchange their money. So the money changers would raise the exchange rate exorbitantly. And so Jesus came into this market place as he was probably coming to make a sacrifice himself, being the good Jew that he was, and had this holy discontent that just built up within him. These people that were supposed to be servants of God was taking advantage of God’s people in the name of God. And so Jesus does what we know Jesus did and Jesus confronted the issue head on. Jesus overturned the tables, chased them out with a whip and he told the owners of the animals that were caged to get them out of here. Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business! As I am sure you could imagine, this created a huge ruckus. And so, the leaders of the church, kind of like the bishops of our church, came and asked Jesus by what authority are you doing these things? Pretty much saying, we are in charge here, and who do you think you are telling us what is right and wrong. And not only are we in charge here, but if what you say is true, then show us through a miraculous sign that you are the Son of God and God has given you this authority. And this is where we get into God’s paradoxical wisdom in the gospel today. Jesus answers them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”  And I would imagine laughing at Jesus they replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it in three days?” Now I want to pause here because I want to show you something.

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This is a picture of me standing by the Southern Wall of what is left standing of the outer wall of the Temple grounds in Jerusalem. These stones that made up this wall are MASSIVE. The hearers of Jesus’ message was only thinking in human wisdom. They were not thinking through the lens of God. And what Jesus says is that if you destroy the Temple….not the building, but the Temple. The Temple is the place where God dwells. And God dwelled in Jesus the Christ. Jesus the Anointed One. And Jesus said if you destroy the temple, his body, in three days he would raise it up. It was with God’s wisdom did what seems to be impossible made possible. Now with that story in mind, and understanding that God’s wisdom is often paradoxical I want to talk about three particular spiritual disciplines that unless you come to with the right spirit will seem impossible. If we come to these disciplines with God’s wisdom and not our own earthly wisdom, great reward is at hand. As we are in the season of Lent, the first spiritual discipline that I want to talk about is fasting. Fasting is about not being enslaved to anything, not even our earthly desires. It’s interesting for a people so focused on freedom as we are here in the United States, that we continually place ourselves in bondage to so many things. From addictions to keeping up with the latest trends. We find ourselves so often in bondage with materialism that we have forgotten what true liberty looks like. And I believe fasting is an ancient practice that encourages us to grow in true freedom, true liberty. A freedom from sin and these things that distract us from God. In our worldly wisdom we believe that is we fast all we will get is an empty tummy and a caffeine headache. But what we really do get, IF we enter into a time of fasting with God’s spirit as our guide and lead is just the opposite of an empty stomach, but a life that seems to be overflowing with energy and fulfillment. We would think that by fasting that all we could think about is when are we going to get food next, but in reality if you allow yourself to truly enter the fast, the clarity in your prayer life is unlike any other. Your perspective of the world and God is much more crisp and your priorities in life are brought into order. And fasting is no new practice, but rather one that has been with us Christians from the beginning. St. Augustine of the 5th century once said, “Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Give it two wings: fasting and almsgiving.” Which brings me to our second spiritual discipline. Tithing. In our worldly wisdom we think or believe that if I give 10% to God and God’s mission, then I will be thus poor and unhappy. But what the scriptures have said, and I too have found to be true in my own personal life is that when I give 10% to God for God’s mission, I am happier than ever before. You see, because it is not just about money and paying bills. If you ever for one second you believe that we are putting money in this collection plate to just “pay the bills” then you are wasting your money. But if you give your offering of your tithe to God and pray, seriously pray, for God’s wisdom to guide our finance committee, then I seriously believe that you will find joy because you will see God’s work at hand. You will be truly rich…maybe not monetarily, maybe not through good health. We do not pay God to keep us healthy. But I do believe that spiritually the act of giving helps us to align our spirits in alignment with God’s. And paradoxically earthly wisdom says you will be poor, but God’s wisdom says you will be rich. And finally, the third spiritual discipline I want to speak about is Sabbath. We live in a time where time has consumed and controlled us. The worldly wisdom says that Sabbath would result only in time lost. When in God’s wisdom do we actually come to know that Sabbath is time gained. In the scriptures there are 157 direct references to Sabbath. In the Old Testament reading for today is the 10 commandments. And the 4th commandment of God’s people is to keep the Sabbath day Holy. Does anyone dare answer how important this was to God to know what the punishment for not observing the Sabbath was? (Death) Now I tell you this not to scare you into Sabbath, but for you to realize just how important in a time consuming world we live in how much God desires for us to be full of life and fulfilled. And God understands that when we take a Sabbath it is not time lost, but truly in God’s wisdom who created us it truly is time gained. And so, I want to give you a few tips for taking a Sabbath. Start Small. Perhaps you may want to start right here with Lent. And begin by taking a Sabbath of four hours. And in those 4 hours turn it all off. Unplug from the internet, the phone, the facebook, the tv. Unplug from it all. Mother Teresa wrote, “We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Take a prayer walk or go walk a labyrinth. But schedule your Sabbath. If it is a Sunday afternoon, great, if not, maybe it be Friday morning. And then each week add one hour to those 4 hours. Make Sabbath time part of your daily routine. Begin and end the day not with thinking about what you have to do that day or what you have to do tomorrow, but by being still and silent in God’s presence. And don’t forget to nap on your Sabbath. It reminds us we’re human and it helps the body recalibrate. Trust me, I know it sounds absurd or illogical, but if you are feeling like you don’t have time to complete all that you have to do, take time for a Sabbath. If you don’t trust me, then trust God. You know Sabbath, Tithing, and Fasting are all great spiritual disciplines that truly show the paradoxical nature of God’s wisdom, but I want to share with you a personal experience of mine. I was addicted for many years. I felt and thought that I could not do without this thing I was addicted to. As it came time for me to give up this addiction I became apprehensive, I panicked, I pushed it off. I thought in my worldly wisdom I could not go without it. I would become bored without it. I thought I needed a television provider. About 2.5 years ago, Jackie and I cancelled our Direct TV. And everything I just said was true about how I was feeling two years ago. I thought I would be disconnected from the world and that truly I would be sitting at home bored out of my mind. Do you want to know what Jackie and I found….that addiction controlled us. since letting it go we have never been more entertained in life. We have time to go outside and enjoy it. We go on hikes, we go fishing, we spend time with our son. That addiction was the consumer nature that consumed us. And God does not want us to be consumed. God desires for us to be fulfilled. If you are being consumed by something, an addiction, an unwillingness to let go of worldly wisdom, God is asking you to lay it down and place your trust not in that thing or substance you are addicted to, but to place your trust in God. And paradoxically God will use even you and your weakness for his glory.  “If you feel as though the problems you have are above you, remember they are still beneath God’s feet” Because that is what the cross does for us. The cross breaks down those barriers that we had from God. And God’s greatest characteristic is shown the best not by power, but in a display of weakness, as Jesus says, “to give up your life for the ones you love is admirable, but to do so for your enemies is the greatest form of love one has to give.” And Jesus showed great authority and power in the paradoxical nature of the cross, that through his weakness he loved even the vilest and greatest offender of God. And God is not the only paradoxical nature in Christianity, but so are the people, God’s church. God’s church is not made up of powerful and wise and aristocratic people, but we are made up of the weak, the foolish, and the poor. And by God’s wisest of ways, God uses the least of us for the greatest power. And God has done this time and time again throughout scripture. God called Moses, who was a horrible speaker to speak for God. God used Paul who was a murderer of Christians to be the most well known evangelist in all of time. God used Paul to speak in front of many, even though Paul was seen as “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” God called David, a shepherd boy to show great authority over the greatest of warriors And God still calls the weak to show strength.. God called me, who was in speech therapy for 6 years, who only my parents could understand as a child, who had to use hooked on phonix as a child to preach and proclaim God’s good news. The cross, is a sign to us, that God chose to be weak to show us God’s love, and that we too who are weak, when guided by God’s wisdom can do great and wonderful things.   *Note The Commentary Series “Feasting on the Word” was a primary source for the research and writing of this message.

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