Most Christians, at least those who are practicing United Methodists, when asked about the mystery of faith, can answer, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” But, can we name the paradox of faith?
Sunday, we will have spent three weeks in the introduction to the letter of Paul we know as I Corinthians. In the letter, Paul identifies divisions that have developed in the communion, specifically as folks fall into line with various personalities within the community. Paul will address these divisions a bit more thoroughly as the letter unfolds, but he moves quickly toward the paradox of faith. A paradox, of course, if the need to hold two, seemingly incompatible thoughts in tension simultaneously.
The focus of this paradox and the crux of Paul’s understanding of the gospel is, quite simply, the cross of Christ. On the one hand, it’s pure foolishness. God doesn’t allow himself (yes, I’m using a male gender specifically as Jesus was male) to be executed by the most heinous method imaginable in the Roman empire. To the last breath, persons witnessing the cross wondered when Jesus was going to rouse himself and be freed of torture. On the other hand, it’s a scandal. The cross is offensive and repulsive, decidedly not the sign of God’s power people expected.
The paradox deepens for Paul as he compares and contrasts two understandings of wisdom. The human understanding as illustrated above is not God’s view of wisdom. Instead, God uses the cross to confound the wisdom of the world. It’s only when our understanding of the work of Christ on the cross breaks down that we are ready to see it for what it is: God choosing the weak to break the power of the strong. God using foolishness to shame and silence the wise. Yep, it seems a bit nuts, but it’s God’s power at work.
We’re just a couple of weeks from beginning our Lenten journey toward Jerusalem and the cross. The paradox of faith is as real this year as in years past. Our task will be to simply be present at the cross, understanding its power to save those of us who are perishing. From it, those of us who boast will boast in the Lord (1.31).
As we move into February, the days will get longer, the average temperature will get warmer, and the possibility of new life will again come to mind. Yep, it’s Spring as well as Easter. We also will kick off our hospitality/welcome emphasis as we study and puzzle through how we can be a more outwardly focused congregation. Toward that end, the Hospitality Team will kick off its work on Saturday, February 11 at 10:00 a.m. in the Cook Room. Is God calling you, through the mystery of faith to live into the paradox of faith?
See you Sunday,