Peace Presbyterian Church
1 Corinthians 2:1-13 After Epiphany
Elizabeth M. Deibert February 4, 2017
180 days of school for 13 years at seven hours each day each day adds up more than 16,000 hours of learning. In that same time, let’s assume you attended church and Sunday school every week and we’ll throw in a few youth group hours and it comes to 1600. So for every ten hours of learning school, there’s one hour of spiritual growth – if you never miss anything. Take your church attendance to today’s averages for church families, and you get one hour of spiritual growth for every forty hours of other learning. I’m not making a case for home-schooling or for prayer in school. But I am asking some questions about how we spend our time. I am pointing out that spiritual growth requires some time and intentionality at home and at church. I am noting that if spiritual wisdom is seen to be missing in the public sphere, it could be because lots of people are choosing to spend time in places and activities that do not teach love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control.
There’s conflict among the Corinthians. There are multiple leaders and factions. Who do you follow for the real truth? Paul, Apollos, or Peter? CNN, Fox, or MSNBC? And Paul says in chapter one, be united and have the same mind and purpose – that the cross not be emptied of its power. They wanted to divide into Gentiles and Jews, and Paul reminds that we are proclaiming a message that is a stumbling block to one and foolishness to the other. A suffering Christ – the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Hear the wisdom of God through Paul in chapter 2.
1 Corinthians 2:1-13
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
Nothing fancy. No lofty words. No impressive numbers. No great websites or or emails or tweets or snapchats that have go viral. Just this: Jesus Christ and him crucified. No mega church with multiple campuses. No TV-worthy preacher or band. Just a mysterious message about God turning suffering and death on its head, upside down. So that God’s power, not our power might be seen.
We are here to speak of God’s secret and hidden wisdom, the mysteries of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, things that people cannot even comprehend, apart from the Spirit in them guiding them. We are receivers of God’s Spirit, and only in receiving the Spirit do we recognize the gifts of the Spirit. Only by being spiritual do we feel the Spirit, which is why there is no judgment here for those who do not have eyes to see what we see, or feel what we feel regarding spiritual things. It is a gift from God, but for those who have seen, there is an imperative to grow, to live accordingly, that wisdom and spiritual power be shared. How did Christ share his spiritual power with us, but by suffering with us? There we see the foolishness of it all, because why should we choose to suffer?
Why should any of us? Well, because suffering love is what makes us truly the human beings we were created to be. It is the definition of love – that one identifies with another in both joy and sorrow. One of the joys of ministry is the glimpse into suffering love every week. Praying for Bri and Jamie as they ushered baby Eaden into the world. Praying with Anne Paul and her tired family around her bed, and hearing Anne muster all her strength and clarity of mind to say, “Give my love to everyone at Peace.” Seeing Bob Hughes and Pete Kottra with struggling with dignity and patience in the hospital. Talking to Tom and rejoicing with him over Betsy eating roast beef after weeks and months of no food, not even ice chips many days. Conversations with many of you about the current national strife and how it has never been this way in our lifetime and how can we make a difference. Talking to our daughter Emily after her classmate took his life, and yesterday the shocked face of Linda Koser, as she described her husband’s massive stroke on Friday, seeing the suffering love in her eyes as she wondered about the days ahead.
There is no other greatness in this life than suffering love, love poured out for others. There are all kinds of successes in the eyes of the world. There’s the fleeting power of wealth, of prowess, of smarts, of athleticism, talent, and beauty. But the one who came to show us true wisdom and glory was not a great football player, a great business leader, a great financial investor, a great politician, a great musician or actor. No this One, Jesus, was a great servant of all, willing to take into himself the faults, the sins of all of us. You know how we say casually when we mess up, “My fault” Jesus took all of the faults of every human on himself, and said, “No, it’s mine. I’ll take it.” There’s the wonder of the cross – it is not to glorify bloodiness or gore or capital punishment. No, it is to say, see how Jesus took a horrific means of killing people, punishing them, and he said, “I’ll take it for you.” “My fault.”
Knowing nothing except Christ and him crucified. If we, like Paul, know nothing but Christ crucified, then we are suffering with, we are taking on the faults of others. We are thinking communally, not individually about the problems of the world. Wisdom according to God’s Spirit leads us toward others, into the lives of others, for the sake of others. That is what is means to be wise, that is real human strength, real greatness, according to God’s Spirit. When God’s Spirit fully inhabited a human being, then that person, Jesus, walked around healing people, challenging injustice, loving those rejected by the world, welcoming the children, and eating with outcasts. This love became so audacious, so disruptive to the powers and authorities of his day that they rose up to kill him. And he who was faultless said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” And the night before he had shared food with them, saying this food I’m sharing is my body and blood, myself given for yourself.”
This Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, who gave his all, his life, his body, all his love for us – he wants all of us, every bit of us, not just a little piece of us on Sunday when it fits in with the Super Bowl and everything else on the schedule.
What we do here together as people empowered by the Spirit of God, what we do is bizarre, if you stop to think about it. To say that we are nourished by reading this Word, singing these songs, praying these prayers, and consuming those gifts of the Table, to say that it is better to give than to receive, to be persecuted than to attack, to be meek and poor than bold and rich. This is uncommon wisdom, but for us, it is powerful. So powerful it demands our whole life. Demands my soul, my life, my all.