Lent 3B: Everybody Plays the Fool

Lectionary Text:  1 Corinthians 1: 18-20 (21-24) 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 God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

In this Season of Lent, as we come closer and closer to the cross, we get a better and better sense of its meaning.  You know, Paul’s really the only one that really ever dared to speak of the foolishness of the Cross, of the foolishness of God.  And he’s right, because in terms of the world, the Cross is utter foolishness.  The world says “mind your own business”; Jesus says “there is no such thing as your own business”.  The world says “buy low, sell high”; Jesus says “give it all away”.  The world says “take care of your health”; Jesus says “surrender your life to me”.  The world says “Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own”; Jesus says “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  The world says “get what you are due”; Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself”.

In his book, The Faces of Jesus, Frederick Buechner says that “if the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party…In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under delusion.” (Buechner, The Faces of Jesus, p. 61)  Think about it.  It is really pretty ludicrous.  In fact, it’s probably downright absurd.  Here in this season, we are called to enter Christ’s suffering, called to follow Christ to the Cross.  Are we nuts?  That could kill someone!

And yet, there…there up on the altar every single Sunday is that beautiful gleaming cross.  Yeah, we all have them.  We polish them, we wear them, and we hang them on our walls.  (Have you SEEN my cross collection in my office?)  In fact, I think I remember seeing one on top of a cupcake the other day. (You know, I guess you can put anything on top of a cupcake!)  But maybe sometimes we clean it (the cross, not the cupcake) up too much.  Maybe we have forgotten the stench of death emanating from it or the sight of a mangled body hanging from it.  Maybe we have forgotten the foolishness of it all.  Maybe it is just too much for us.  After all, we’re good Methodists, people of the “empty cross”.  But it’s NOT empty; it’s full of life–life born from death, life recreated from despair and hopelessness and the end of all we knew.  But this promise of life did not just pop out of a cupcake.  It did not just appear in the midst of an array of carefully-placed lilies one Easter morning.  God took something so horrific, so dirty, so unacceptable and recreated it into Hope Everlasting.  Daniel Migliore calls it God’s greatest act of Creation yet.  But in terms of what we know, what we expect, even what we deserve, it is an act of utter foolishness.  Who writes this stuff?  In terms of this world, it is fool’s gold; but in terms of God’s Kingdom coming into being, it is the Gold of Fools because it takes us and turns us into the wise.  But perhaps wisdom is not about worshipping a gleaming, pristine cross but rather looking at an instrument of death and seeing the life it holds.  I know…none of it makes sense.  If it all made sense, we wouldn’t need it at all.

And, truth be told, the Scriptures are full of accounts of the wise and powerful ones mocking and getting mocked, never really understanding this lowly carpenter’s son from a no-name town.  But notice that it is the ones who are considered fools–the outsiders, the shunned, the ones who do not measure up to society’s standards–that get it.  So, maybe you have to be a fool. Go ahead.

Everybody plays the fool, sometime,
There’s no exception to the rule, listen baby,
It may be factual, it may be cruel, I ain’t lying,
Everybody plays the fool.
How can you help it, when the music starts to play
And your ability to reason is swept away
Oh, heaven on earth is all you see, you’re out of touch with reality
And now you cry, but when you do, next time around someone cries for you.
Everybody plays the fool, sometimes,
There’s no exception to the rule, listen baby,
It may be factual, it may be cruel, I ain’t lying,
Everybody plays the fool.
(K. Williams, R. Clark, J.R. Bailey, songwriters


So, continuing with our act of giving up so that we can take on, on this thirteenth day of Lenten observance, do something blatantly foolish.  Give up needing to have a life that makes sense.  Feel the freedom of being recreated.   

Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,


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