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Surrendering to God's Wisdom

Surrendering to God's Wisdom

Old Mystic, March 15, 2009
1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Summary

By His Grace and Love God grants us the opportunity to come into his wisdom and receive, understand, and proclaim the saving power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Sermon

I would like to believe that not everyone in this audience was raised watching the TV series “Father knows Best.” After all, it originally aired between 1954 and 1960! At the same time I would guess that most of us are familiar with the story and must have watched a re-run of this warm family sitcom that depicts life in the 50’s. Jim Anderson, a General Insurance agent portrayed by Robert Young, lives a quiet family life in a middle class Midwestern suburb with his wife, Margaret, and his children Betty, Bud, and Kathy. Those who remember the series can probably relate to the warmth, the simplicity, and the charm of this comedy, which conveyed a sense of the presumed happy life of the times. Father always had an answer for the domestic problems that would emerge in a household like his, understood to be the typical American home. It was sentimental and it assumed a cultural sense of what is right deeply rooted in the American ethos of the 1950’s.

Some have called the comedy rosy and paternalistic, since it relied on a hierarchical understanding of family life, and tended to have an unrealistic view of it. After all, life is not easy and many of the issues we deal with are more complex and pressing than siblings’ disputes about house chores, or missing a high school football game for being out too late the night before. Yet, in its context, understanding that Jim Anderson was a son of his time, his wisdom was good. Father knew best because he had that ability to discern what was right for his family; he had common sense. His gift of human wisdom helped him to be a guide to those who listened to him. What about wisdom in this age? Or in any age? Is there any human wisdom that would lead us to understand the cross of Jesus Christ?

Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, wants to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he makes his case by calling his proclamation, “Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It does not begin with the understanding or the mastering the body of human knowledge about the faith; the acquisition of a mass of information about the “right” Christian beliefs. It requires faith and surrendering to God’s Wisdom—which may be unfathomable—that means, as I put it, coming in submission to an encounter with the Living God. And this very often happens when we are confronted with the harsh reality of the Cross. The stumbling block of the Son of God crucified; the foolishness of Savior that cannot save himself by just walking away. Can we understand it by means of our human wisdom? Does it make any sense? I want to affirm that surrendering to God’s Wisdom, we can understand a few things about human wisdom.

HUMAN WISDOM IS FEAR OF GOD

The book of Proverbs, known as a book of human wisdom, asserts that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And fear here should not be understood as terror or being irrationally afraid of something unknown; it has to do with that sense of humbling ourselves in recognition of our humanity as we stand at the very presence of the Living God. I like the Message’s rendition of this verse (Proverbs 1:7) that says, “Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.”

Fear of God is implicit in Paul’s teaching to the church in Corinth. He says, “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?” The world cannot know God through the wisdom and knowledge of this present system of human affairs! What is science if not just a mechanistic description of a common perception of reality, which may very well serve technology in helping human life on this planet, but does not answer ultimate questions? God in His wisdom chose the message of Christ crucified to reveal his saving love and the hope of the kingdom. For that reason we must humble ourselves before Christ, with a sense of humiliation—healthy fear. Surrendering to the Living Christ, to God, is the beginning of wisdom and entering into a relationship where we’ll taste—just taste—the unfathomable Wisdom of God.

HUMAN WISDOM IS KNOWING THAT WE DON’T KNOW

This May sound relativistic, particularly in a world—including Christianity, that strives for the human knowledge of clean, cut, comprehensible universal truth. We love to make claims about our knowledge of universal truth but, how much can we grasp of them with our limited human understanding? We can perhaps assert that there are universal values. But we can only have a limited comprehension of the depth of their meaning. Paul himself talking about human knowledge when teaching about love said, “For now we see in a mirror dimly; but then we will see face to face.” Human wisdom means acknowledging that we know that we know nothing.

For that reason Paul challenges the wisdom of the Jews and the Greeks. The wisdom of God, the wisdom of the cross, of the crucified Christ, was a stumbling block for the Jews. They wanted a liberator from the oppression of the Romans; a king for eternity—the reappearance of David; they wanted a victorious Messiah, not a pale, suffering, weak, Galilean carpenter who claimed to be a Rabi. And for the Romans? The cross was simply foolishness. Who could believe in a king who did not have an army but just a bunch of fishermen and outcasts from a lost province of their vast empire? But for those who surrender by faith to the message of the cross, it is the power of God. It doesn’t seem to be wisdom; but if we humble ourselves and we admit that we know nothing, we begin to walk in the wisdom of God.

HUMAN WISDOM IS KNOWING HOW TO APPLY THE LITTLE WE KNOW

If the cross sounds foolish, or if it is a stumbling block, we must perhaps ponder what a great love God has for humanity to offer His son to death and death on a cross. Are we beginning to grasp the importance of Love? Love is central to God’s Being and therefore to his wisdom. From our human perspective, loving, in many cases, will seem to be very foolish. And it will often put us in a moral dilemma. Can anyone love a rapist, or a child abuser? Really, I couldn’t possibly see any wisdom in loving such people if love means trusting them; believing them. Only God has wisdom to love all human beings! In fact, God took upon himself all the sin of the world, of all the sinners of the world because he loved the world and wouldn’t withhold any effort to redeem all the people of the world. Is there any other way but surrendering to this incomprehensible wisdom?

We may not know how to love, and be merciful, and how to help those around us in every case. Again, there are many situations in which applying those Christian virtues may be a little difficult. Not everyone “qualifies for the benefits” according to our human book. But if we do love those that we can love, and help those who we can help, and serve those who are within our reach, are we not somehow beginning to apply a little wisdom? Saint Augustine said, “love and do what you like;” quite a risky statement since doing what we like may not always be the right thing. But in the wisdom of love, if in any way that love comprehends the deepest Love of God, then we will have more understanding; more wisdom to do the right thing.

It is about surrendering. It is about faith. God wants us to look at the cross because it is a profound expression of His love as crude, and as horrendous as it may seem. “God did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us…” From our human wisdom’s angle it sounds foolish. That is why the whole message of the gospel and of belief is about, faith, about believing God; it is about coming into His loving arms; it is to experience an encounter with the Living God and surrendering to his Wisdom; to Him.

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