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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 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. (NRSV)

“God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” So wrote the Apostle Paul to the early church in Corinth. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote something similar in April 1963 in his letter to clergy as he was imprisoned in Birmingham: “I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. . . . They have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” Similarly, a Good Friday bulletin cover that featured a crown of thorns said, “There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.”

It takes eyes of faith to see the cross as revealing God’s triumphant power and wisdom rather than a means of defeat. Humanity’s ways are not God’s ways. Without faith, it appears only that, in the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, he was beaten by religious and political authorities, a vulnerable victim of violence whose life and cause ended far too soon. But with faith, we see Jesus choosing to give his all, including his very life, remaining true to what he believed was God’s call, and in love for all humanity. Through his life and his death, and then his resurrection, Christ unleashed the triumph of God’s supreme, eternal, “has-the-last-word,” life-giving grace. What initially looks to humanity like sheer folly, wrong and weak, is ultimately wise, right and strong in God’s eyes.

Glorious God, keep me from conforming to the ways of the world. Strengthen me to choose the road of sacrifice instead of the spectacular, the path of meekness instead of arrogant power, the way of the cross instead of the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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