Pastor Walther / 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 / We Preach Christ Crucified / Mar 4, 2018 / Lent 3
To the world around us, the message and purpose of this church is stupid. We are teaching people antiquated ideas that don’t relate to today’s society: like a man and woman getting married, without that couple having sex before marriage! We are considered loony even by other churches, because we believe that the Bible is actually God’s word and that this whole book of salvation is something that God does for us, not us for him. We are considered crazy because we believe in creation, rather than putting our faith in nameless and faulty scientists.
As Christians, we are in a very interesting time. Christianity has become an idea that is looked down upon because it is viewed as old fashioned, or unscientific, or not loving (or really, the word they are going for is “accepting”). Now, even the younger generation of Christians are beginning to see the hypocrisy of churches, so they would rather not be connected to church. Can you blame them when you have churches who are willing to give up their beliefs so that they can stay relevant? When the overall philosophy of today is to be true to yourself, it’s easy to see that these churches aren’t being true to themselves, but they are fakes, they have no spine, just so that they can stay hip and cool. Preaching the Bible isn’t cool anymore. So, I guess I’m not very cool!
The message of Jesus being crucified on a cross was especially offensive to the reasoning of the Greeks. Having no Bible, they were left to their own thoughts and their own reasonings. The Greeks wanted “wisdom,” a rational explanation of the universe and humans, something eerily similar to the wisdom of our day, which is science. You can imagine the Greeks, much like a modern American, Socratically questioning Paul: You’re saying that this guy Jesus, who died a criminal’s death in weakness and shame is the Savior? That God crucified his own innocent Son instead of those who are guilty? Now on top of it all, Greeks have to go to a Jew named Jesus for salvation? You’re saying my mistakes in life are so serious that I need a radical solution with God? You are saying that my good deeds and motives are irrelevant to God?
In a completely different way, Paul described how the cross of Christ was offensive to the Jews. In their eyes, the Messiah needed to be powerful and glorious, not weak and disgraced. Jews read in their Law that the Messiah was to remain forever, not die. They also knew from the Law that the Messiah enjoys God’s favor in the highest degree, but anyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. The Jews demanded signs for a coming Messiah. They expected the Messiah to deliver the nation of Israel from the Roman empire. They wanted a Deliverance like another Exodus, with God breaking into history to perform miracles and punish Israel’s enemies. A suffering Savior? Never! Israel would settle for nothing less than a conquering king.
Today people look for Christ and the church to end wars, to eliminate poverty, to banish suffering, to assure civil rights. They forget that Jesus never made any such promises. As a matter of fact, he promised that such problems would plague the world until the end of time. Yet, people expect the church to solve these problems. When the world doesn’t see the church solving these problems, they immediately criticize Christianity. We often doubt God too because we have this notion of how we think God should act and how he should answer our prayers. People are looking for Christ to be what he isn’t.
God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human wisdom or by human strength or by human accomplishment. God chose to use things that people despise. God chose to use weakness. The Cross means that we have to surrender our own way of thinking, and submit to a divine wisdom that operates completely different from human reasoning!
When you sit down and think about the message of the cross, the message of the Bible, and how it goes against every reasoning, goes against every other religion, when you see the opposition from the Jews, from the Greeks, from our society, and every other power that might try to stop it, when you see this religion that seems so despicable in origin and in message, when you see all of “that," you can’t help but see that Christianity could not have succeeded if it wasn’t divine, if it hadn’t been from God. The fact that Christianity is here today is proof in itself that the message of Christ crucified is true and from God
We preach the message of Christ crucified, the message that Christ came because of our sin and our disobedience against God. Christ came to appease God’s wrath and punishment in our place. God, in his justice and his love, sent Jesus for us. We aren’t preaching judgment on people, but we are preaching Christ crucified. Christ won for us a freedom from being a slave to sin and a slave to following sinful peer pressure. Because God showed love to us, we want to live for him and follow his commands, which many times looks different from the way the people around us may live.
We preach this message of Christ crucified because we want people to know the truth, even when all the other religions and philosophies of this world would say the opposite. We preach Christ crucified, even when other churches give up the message of Christ crucified to preach a message of “motivation” on how to have a successful life, or at least good enough life for heaven. If you have to earn your salvation by being good, then what was the point of Christ being crucified? Why call yourself Christian? When religions or churches start telling you that you have to do this or do that to be a true Christian, or when they start telling you that you have to be a good person in order to go to heaven, when they even claim that you have to be the one to accept Jesus in your life, then it’s not Christ crucified. Then it becomes something you do for God, rather than what God has done for you. Then Paul is a liar. Then I’m a liar for quoting Paul. Then God’s a liar if it’s anything other than the gift of God through Christ.
So then we may question, how do we stay relevant to the younger generations? We may wonder how do we compete with churches that seem to be booming? For a moment, Paul may have wondered the same thing. How could he compete with what the Jews and Greeks were expecting? The Jews wanted huge signs to prove that it was God’s message. Yeah Paul can’t compete. Long eloquent, articulate, philosophic speech? Well, Paul could maybe compete in that area, but most Christians couldn’t! I don’t think the disciples trained to be good speakers while they were fishing. They probably would have been thrown into the water for talking too much. Paul knew that we as Christians have something that is always relevant, it’s Christ crucified, the message of the law and the gospel in Jesus.
In a world that is searching for meaning in life by looking at science, only to be told that we are here by chance, we preach Christ crucified where God gives value to us because he created us and redeemed us. In a world focused on anti-bully programs, but never addresses the heart of the issue, we preach Christ-crucified and take that message to those who are bullied and to those who are bullies. In a world focused on politics about guns, we preach Christ crucified. We share the message of peace and comfort and love to people who never felt any sense of value or love, who don’t know how to express their lack of value other than with violence. In a world focused on ignoring the bad news and moving forward, we preach Christ crucified, where we share that same message of peace and comfort and love with those who are left mourning the loss of their loved ones. Our tactics have and should never change from what God wants: preaching Christ crucified.
The world around us is looking for something meaningful to grab on to that will that validate their lives, but where will they find it if we don’t preach Christ crucified to them? Where will they find peace, if they are a victim or the criminal, if they don’t know that there is a God who loves them and wants to be close to them?
Is there someone in your life that you can share the message of Christ crucified with? Maybe it’s your child who is in college right now who is hearing nothing but the complete opposite of Christ crucified, that they are nothing more than an accident because of evolution and that right and wrong is relative. Could you send them a text, sharing this Bible passage? Maybe it’s your co-worker who is depressed about all the bad news going on right now. Could you maybe preach Christ crucified by catching them at the water cooler and mentioning that you went to church this past Sunday and experienced Christian love as people talked to visitors and to each other as if they were family? Could you maybe preach Christ crucified to your next door neighbor who is the crankiest and worst neighbor ever? But instead of retaliating and shutting yourself off in some passive aggressive manner, how about going out of your way to demonstrate your love little by little to understand why they are so cranky? Maybe you would find out that they had gone through some traumatic abuse in their life. How would we ever know if we never reach out, demonstrating Christ crucified? You begin to see that Christ crucified isn’t just something we preach, but it’s what we live.
Who would possibly want to get to know to someone who is cranky? Who would possibly want to talk about Christian love to someone who is skeptical of Christian love? Who would possibly want to share the value that we have in God’s eyes with someone who clearly believes that God doesn’t exist? Who would want to live a Christian life? Paul reminds us that Christ crucified doesn’t make sense because faith and intelligence aren’t the same thing. Paul knew that first hand. He was a Jew and he was also brilliant. Yet, by the grace of God he became a Christian, the very thing he despised, the very thing he killed people over. That’s because the message of Christ is two things: it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is the power of God that can change hardened hearts to believe that there is a God and that God loves us in ways that we can’t understand. In the congregation of Corinth, there were both Jews and Greeks who discovered that the gospel they once had rejected was in reality the power and wisdom of God. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that miracle.
We thank God that he doesn’t work the way we want him to. Otherwise, we would have no message of hope to give to those who feel no value. Otherwise we would have no message of peace to give to people who are experiencing violence in their homes or in their neighborhood. Otherwise we would have no message of love to share with our cranky next door neighbor who endured abuse.
We preach Christ crucified; not our thoughts, not our opinions, but that Christ was crucified because of our sin and God didn’t want us stuck in this depressing cycle forever. What an amazing message! A message that our brains will never understand. A message that we get to live and a message that we get to share. Amen.