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For 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. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
CCI: In God’s economy, the most foolish of all statements: “Death brings life” becomes the deepest wisdom of all.
Intro: 54 years ago today, my understanding of the world changed. Let me back up for a moment. I went to school in Northern Butler County and when I started 1st grade, the regional elementary school opened, and as a 1st grader, I boarded a bus at 6:45 and arrived at school at 8:45. Everyday for the next 7 years I traveled for 2 hours twice a day to get to school. During that ride we made friends, slept, read books and looked out the window. But once in a while there would be excitement on the bus, once in a while Howard Taylor, the bus driver, w0uld see a herd of deer in a field. He would simply say “Look, deer!” and everyone would look where he pointed. For the rest of the trip we would talk about how many there were, how big they were, and how our dads had killed deer far bigger than any of them.
However, on that morning 54 years ago, Howard called out “Look, Deer!”, we all looked and then he said, “April’s Fool on you!” For the next 6 years, he took me and everyone one else on that bus in with his joke. We wanted to believe! We really liked seeing deer, so in our excitement and our longing, we were easy targets for Howard Taylor.
You know, it has been suggested by some that Easter is the biggest April’s Fool joke of all time. The disciples had seen Jesus executed. They knew they were potential targets. They were heartbroken. More than anything, they wanted to believe that Jesus was not really dead. They wanted to wake up from the nightmare they were living. And so, when the women said, “His body is gone!” And so, it is suggested, they immediately set in place a story that he was no longer dead. And that is the story they told. It is just that none of them ever said, “April’s Fool!”
These people declare that the resurrection of Jesus is a myth of epic proportions. It seems to be foolishness. Dead is dead. The disciples had seen Jesus die. The Women who reported that he was risen had not gone to the tomb to be witnesses of a miracle, they knew he had died days before. They were going to grieve and to pay their respects to the memory of Jesus. To suggest that the dead man was no longer dead was foolish. To preach that message was a fool’s mission.
And yet, that is the message they came to believe. That is the message that was proven to them when each and every one of the disciples saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. The surprise, the shock, the fear was more than they could contain. And yet they were convinced.
Charles Colson has said that the greatest proof of the resurrection is Watergate. When I first read that, I thought, the man is nuts. But here is what he said, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Was the resurrection an April’s Fool joke? No, it is in fact one of the most well attested events in the ancient world. The testimony of the witnesses is compelling. But perhaps the most compelling is the reality that what happened on that first Easter Morning became the catalyst for a world changing movement that has brought life and hope and forgiveness and joy – despite mockery, persecution, and death. In Paul’s words, “If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.”
Our world lives by the doctrine that violence will bring about peace. However, the message of the cross and the empty tomb is a message that destroys the myth of redemptive violence.
Let me unpack that. A deeply held belief in our nation and around the world is the belief that acts of violence in the right hands can bring about life and health. It has been called redemptive violence. It is the belief that the death penalty will prevent murders. It is the belief that war will bring about peace. It is even the belief that hitting a child will teach them not to hit others. And while we would like to disavow this doctrine, our willingness to defend ourselves with violent responses demonstrates that we do believe this message.
Jesus, however, turned that belief upside down. When he was arrested in the garden, he told his followers to put their swords away, don’t fight for me. When he was accused before the rulers and the Roman authorities, he refused to defend himself. When betrayed, he did not strike out at his betrayer. Jesus’ response to the violence of the crowd and the violence of the system shone a light on the ugliness of violence. And then, only days later, the resurrection shone a light on the uselessness of violence.
Long before Gandhi marched to the sea to make salt and spun his own thread to make his clothes, Jesus stood on the side of a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and was facing execution. Long before Dr. King marched across the Edmond Pettis Bridge, Jesus walked to Calvary. Before Bishop Tutu established the truth and reconciliation commission, Jesus demonstrated the power of reconciliation by bringing together fishermen and businessmen; tax collectors and zealots; children and rabbis; soldiers and disciples. Throughout his ministry and through his death and resurrection, Jesus lived the message of peace.
And yet, even today, the message of the cross is viewed as foolishness and a stumbling block. The message that somehow, in some way, death is not the end, has been lost to the violence of self-protection. The message that death is the beginning of new life, has been lost to the overwhelming message that this life is all there is. Jesus declared, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Hear the good news! While the message of the cross may sound like foolishness to the world, this is the wisdom of God. There may not be many wise in this world, or many of noble birth, or many who are influential, the message remains the same. Jesus lay down his life and found resurrection. Let us, in faith, lay down our lives that the Peace of God may rule in us, that the Kingdom of God may be revealed and that God’s will will be done on earth, just as it is done in heaven. When we do, we too, will find new life.
As we come to the table of the Risen Lord, I want to share these words from In Remembrance of Me BY LINDSEY PARIS-LOPEZ
So now I come to you, my friends,
As we gather around this table.
And you quarrel about who among you is the greatest.
Don’t you see, it is this me-against-you attitude
That has brought me here, to the brink of my destruction?
For one evening, let us put aside the bitter bickering
And enjoy one last feast, one final fellowship.
If you want to be great, cast off the shackles of self-doubt that choke out your love for each other,
If you want glory, make it manifest in acts of service.
I come among you, I come below you, washing your feet,
To show you love you’ve never known.
You will never know how blessed and beloved you are,
Until you let the love within you pour out to others.
From the beginning of time, I have seen brother set against brother,
Nation set against nation,
Selfishness erupt in violence, converging upon victim after victim
All sprung from the same seed of desire for greatness against someone else.
If you want to be great, be for others,
Even as I am for you.
I am this broken and bleeding world.
This bread is my broken body.
This cup is my spilled blood.
As it has been done to victims from the beginning of time,
So it is done to me.
I give my broken self to you.
Take in my life.
Let me nourish you with my love
Until the spirit of compassion bursts the old wineskins of your brittle hearts…
Until you become a new creation.
Let the body of my work become the work of your body.
Embrace the outcasts,
Feed my sheep.
Unite in me, with me in you.
I give my broken self to you –
Only in coming together can the fullness of my life be manifest again.
Let this bread bind you together,
Let this wine wash away your divisions.
I am broken for a broken world
A world that needs your love
To be made whole again.
Take me into you and become my body.
Eat this bread.
Drink this wine.
Do this in re-membrance of me.