Sermon for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Fools for Christ

Have you done something that made you feel stupid?

Let me tell you about this instance. There were snickers and smiles all around the restaurant as a distinguished looking gentleman made his way from the men’s toilet back to his table where an equally distinguished looking woman was waiting for him.

Why was everyone whispering and snickering? You see the man had tucked the end of the toilet paper into his pants and a long white trail was following behind him as he crossed the restaurant floor. A waiter whispered as he passed the distinguished looking man, "Excuse me sir, look behind you" and walked on. The man looked and the laughter grew louder. The man’s face grew redder as he tried to gather in the train of toilet paper and still maintain his distinguished composure. For some reason he didn’t see the funny side.

At some time we embarrass ourselves with some kind of silliness. But would you like everyone to know that you regularly make a fool of yourself and like making a fool of yourself?
Well, keep on believing in Jesus Christ and behaving as a Christian. Many will consider you a fool
- a fool for believing all that stuff about Jesus
- a fool for your faithfulness to Jesus and his church
- a fool for trusting in God's love and mercy when everyone else is saying, ‘I don’t understand – if God is love why is he letting these bad things happen to you’.

Remember Corrie Ten Boon – her sister, brothers and father were involved in helping Jews escape persecution by the Nazis in The Netherlands. It was considered crazy to get mixed up in a thing like this and defy the Nazi laws about sheltering such people. Even other people, including the pastor, from their church warned them how stupid it was and reminded the Ten Boon’s that the Bible says they should obey the government.

But the family remained firm in their conviction that this is what Christ wanted them to do. They decided that if anyone (regardless of race or religion) knocked on their door looking for help they were not going to turn them away. Corrie’s father said, ‘To lose our lives for them - that would be the greatest honour that could come to our family.’

When they were found out and taken to prison camps, I’m sure there were those who said, ‘See I told you that you were crazy to get involved. You have been captured – was this foolishness worth it’.

Corrie Ten Boon was the only one of her family to survive the war and she became a powerful witness to anyone who would listen of the power of God's love and the strength that he gives when the world goes crazy. Corrie expressed her confidence in God during those days when things could not get any worse, saying, ‘No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.’

Jesus was considered crazy – touching lepers, sharing a meal with the biggest crooks in town – tax collectors – allowing himself to be captured, tried and killed for something he didn’t do.

Our text from St Paul tells us that to many people all Christians are fools. Perhaps they might not say it straight out to your face but they cannot fathom why Jesus, going to church, and volunteering time and money to further what the church does is so important to some people. Christians are regarded as fools, as crazy, as mixed up, behind the times, still in ancient times, as stupid - no one believes that sort of stuff these days.

Take the whole matter of sin. I'm talking about every human being. We know all too well from personal experience that sin is very much a part of every day. Even though we are Christians that doesn’t mean sin still doesn’t take every opportunity to take control of our lives. Sin urges us to forget about God's ways and follow what is easier
- if someone wrongs us we get back;
- if someone says unfair and unkind things about us we have every right to do the same to them;

- there are things that we want badly then we have the right to take whatever it is by whatever means we can – too bad how this might impact on others;
- if we are offended it’s easier to walk away than to try to make amends. The apostle Paul said it plainly, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...’.

We don't even have to look at the lives of others to see the impact that sin has. It is right here in our hearts! ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. All means everybody, no exceptions, that includes even us in the church. Even though we claim a place in God's Kingdom and enjoy the presence and forgiveness of Jesus in our lives, sin is still a powerful force that challenges us every day as we make choices, consciously or unconsciously, to follow God's ways or the ways of the world.

There is a tendency in our world today to play down sin and its effects. There are those who believe that they are basically good people. Oh yes, they might have an occasional slip up, but nothing to worry about. They are good, they live a good clean life, and they ‘believe’, so God will have no choice but to let them into heaven.

Sin affects our relationship with God.
God wants nothing to do with sin.
Sin has corrupted the beautiful man and woman, boy and girl he has created. Nothing corrupt can enter into heaven. If God allowed sinners into heaven then it wouldn’t be a perfect place anymore.
Sin has brought death into our world – this was never a part of God's plan for his creation.
Sin – whether we regard a particular sin as small or big – is sin and it affects our relationships with others and our world.

Now just imagine you were one of those people in a country where there is a desperate shortage of food. You won't see another day unless you have some food. Along comes a United Nations truck with food supplies and those on board offer you food. This is life. ‘Take this and you will saved’, they say. But you say it's a trick. You won't be fooled by this. Never in your life have you seen food come in big trucks. And never have you had someone give you free food. This is a trick! And the truck drives away and you are left to face certain death.

You say only a fool would do that kind of thing, but that is what is happening all the time when it comes to saving people from the desperate situation they are in because of their sin. And there are no two ways about it, the situation is serious, but unfortunately many don't realise how serious it is. Sin is passed off as having little consequence, and God's remedy for sin, the cross, is regarded as nonsense. As Paul said, ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing’.

God realises that we can't do anything to stop ourselves from being sinners. We will always be sinners till the day we die. And so God has had to do something for us. God loved the world so much he was prepared to pay an enormous price to see to it that his creation did not end up on the eternal scrap heap of hell and damnation. He loved the world so much he sent his Son, Jesus Christ into the world to take on himself all the guilt and sin of all people. Listen to the way Paul says it: Everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free’ (Romans 3:23,24).

Did you hear what Paul said? In this matter of being saved we are totally dependent on God. It is only God who can save us. And he saves us freely by his grace. This is a gift from God. A gift from God to you. The cost is all God's - it cost him his Son’s life. God has done in Christ what we could never do for ourselves. God is offering all this and wants us to grasp this as a gift in faith.

And that, my friends, is the foolish message of Christ and his cross. I say foolish because to many it appears to be foolish. This whole idea of sin and judgement, and Jesus dying on a cross in our place, seems too ridiculous for words.
How can the death of a Jew hundreds of years ago save me today?
How can a dead man rise from the dead? This is all foolishness!!
Besides, you don't get anything for nothing. It's all too easy - that talk of grace. Anything worthwhile is costly, it can't be free. Or as the saying goes, ‘You get what you pay for’.

Without a doubt, the message of the cross is foolishness. But it is the kind of craziness that saves.

But this is not the end of this kind of foolishness. Paul challenges us to be ‘fools for Christ’. Through the foolishness of the cross Jesus has saved us and claimed us as his children. He has given us the Holy Spirit and all this changes us. We are not the same anymore. Just as Jesus changed Paul from thinking all Christians were crazy to being a crazy Christian himself to the point where he was even prepared to put his own life at risk for Christ. After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road he was never the same again. People could see that he was different and thought that he had lost the plot. No, he hadn’t lost the plot; he was just being what God had called him to be – a clear witness to the power of Christ at work in him.

We have been made holy, righteous, and perfect through the blood of Jesus. Now, today, next week, next year, he calls us to be holy and righteous in our dealings with others. He wants our God-given saintliness to rule over every kind of sinful desire and action. Forgiveness implies that our lives have changed to be more like Christ.

Sure we will fail to do this; forgiveness is an ongoing daily thing. Daily we are forgiven and daily we are called to be his chosen people to make a difference in our world even though the rest of the world might regard us as crazy.

Are you a fool for Christ? Thank God if you are!

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
28th October 2007

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