Pray For Those in Danger

COLLECT for The 3rd Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

We do not initiate prayer ourselves. It is God through his Spirit who puts the desire to pray within our hearts. Our role in prayer is to will to serve God who wishes to use us to his glory. Jesus is central to all our prayer. St. Augustine once said, “Christ prays for us as a priest, prays in us as our Head, is prayed to, by us, as our God. Let us recognize, therefore, our voices in him, and his voices in us.”

In this week’s collect, our request is that we “may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities”. We do not pray for God to keep is from danger, rather to KEEP US in our dangers and adversities.

Whatever may happen to us, we should have faith that God will make good out of any situation, if we offer it to him. This is the meaning of Psalm 9: “There shall no evil happen unto thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

St. Peter Released from Prison

St. Peter Released from Prison

I cannot help but think about St. Peter in Acts chapter 12. He was in danger and adversity. He was in danger of losing his head to Herod, who was finding pleasure in killing Christians. In the passage, he was sleeping. He did not seem to be terribly worried about his own safety.

The house of Mary, the mother of John, was praying, and God answered their prayer. Peter was delivered from danger. Those praying, barely believed this, thinking that Peter was a ghost when he came to their house, but he was indeed free. In the case of Peter, as with us, God’s angels prevented evil from happening to him. God turned a bad situation into good.

This week, remember to pray for those who are in harms way. Remember to pray for your enemies. Remember to pray for those in civil authority. Remember to pray for those who are lost to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Remember that God sets captives free, and God answers prayer.

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; A Christological Celebration of The Incarnation

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

In 692 AD, the council of Trullo, the Eastern Church set the date for the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary as March 25th. The dates relates to the dating of Christmas on December 25th. Today, March 25th, is nine months before Christmas, our Lord’s nativity.
The word “annunciation” is the anglicized form of the Latin Annuntiatio nativitatis Christi, or the announcement of the nativity of Christ, which you find in Luke 1:26-38. The festival celebrates the proclamation by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Yehoshua, which means”YHWH is salvation”. Jesus was named correctly; he is the way of salvation. “Jesus saith… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).”
The passage from Luke gives the beautiful account of Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. The passage, does not focus on the words of the angel to Mary as much as on the character of Mary herself. Mary asks the angel, “But how shall these things be?” Gabriel responds, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in they womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest.” Mary asked how this could be, for she was a virgin. Gabriel responded to her that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and she would bear a son who shall be called the Son of God. Mary responded by saying, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect example of a humble acceptance of God’s favor. She trusts in God and is obedient to His will. Mary is the icon of the self-giving response of humankind to God’s redeeming purpose. Romano Guardini, one of the most important Catholic writers and thinkers of the 20th century said of Mary, “No one is like her, because what happened to her happened to no other human being.”
The Annunciation is a festival of our Lord Jesus Christ; a Holy Day celebrates the Incarnation of our Lord. Today, we celebrate a jewel in the midst of our Lenten fast. We celebrate the day that, “…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Let us remember the incredible grace given to us freely. Let us return thanks by living lives of humility and obedience. Lives that duplicate the trust and obedience to God’s will, shown us by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sermon Epiphany IV

Submission and Civil DisobedienceLet every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

Over the last four weeks, we have learned that that our lives are a living sacrifice, purifying ourselves to be able to live outside of conformity to the world. We have, through the Spirit, a transformed understanding. We live in a Christian community, a Body in Christ with a mutual interdependency, just as our physical bodies have many parts and each part is dependent upon the other.

At the beginning of this series from Romans Chapters 12 and 13, we learned that the Christian life is one dedicated to God’s service. The World’s culture cannot transform people. Instead, the Holy Spirit transforms those who seek God’s will.

Then we considered that Christians must not be conformed to self-will, but to God’s will. As before, God’s will alone transforms and renews us. By giving ourselves over to God’s will, we offer our talents to God and work within the Body of Christ, the Church. Jesus gave varying gifts and jobs to people within His body in order to do the work of the Church. That is why there are many members of the Body, each with a different task within the Body.

Last week, in the third sermon of the series, we learned that if we are to announce that Jesus offers us new life in Him, we must be holy. If there is little or no difference between us, the citizens of heaven and the citizens of the world, then we have no message at all. What people notice about us is the way we live our lives and how we treat other people.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in four weeks, and today we will consider the relation of members of the Body of Christ to the Civil Authority.

Paul says;

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

St. Paul was proud of his Roman citizenship and had little sympathy with the rebellious undercurrents prevalent among the Jews in his day. Paul believed in passive submission to the established political power of Rome, reflecting his Lord’s own attitude (Matt 22:15-22). Paul saw the Roman imperial order as being divinely constituted, a providential instrument for the restraint of lawlessness. The peace and justice of the empire allowed for the furtherance of the gospel.

We must remember that when St. Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, Christians had no opportunity to influence the political order or shape its course, as we do today. Paul’s admonition to Christians was to live above reproach and not bring yourself into conflict with the state.

St. Paul Paul goes on to say that, “…there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” He states clearly that Christians are to be subject to their governing authority because they are given authority by God.

I believe that we tend to forget who the real enemy is from time to time. We tend today to demonize individuals; family members, neighbors, athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs, bureaucrats and politicians. St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Philippians that,

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

While we witness people perform perverse sinful acts, we must realize that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against sin, Satan and death. In fighting against that enemy, St. Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God. The offensive weapon in that battle is the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God. The power of the Word overcomes evil. How often do you take up your sword? Do you know your weapon against the Enemy, the Word of God?

Paul also tells us to pray. We must not forget the power of prayer. I think that it is interesting and empowering to realize that the Christian Church, the alternative to the Roman Empire, eventually conquered that empire. That mighty empire eventually transformed into a Christian Empire.

Today, I believe that rather than be transformed by our culture, we have the opportunity instead to transform the culture. We must be patient and realize that the transformation may not occur in our own lifetime, or in the lifetime of our children. In any case, if we are to have such an impact, we must begin on our knees in prayer.

Before I end today, I do not want to leave you with the idea that submission to the civil authority is the totality of biblical teaching on the subject. Christians are not to give absolute, unconditional and unthinking obedience to their government. There is biblical precedent for resisting the civil authority when it is at cross purposes with Holy Scripture.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the High Priests, the captain of the Temple guard and the Sadducees were annoyed that the Apostles Peter and John were teaching and proclaiming the resurrection of the dead in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and ordered by the council not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge (Acts 4:19).” Was it better for them, the Apostles, to be judged by the civil authority or by God? In the worst of circumstances, the most the civil authority can do is deprive you of your mortal life. When God judges, we can be judged worthy of eternal life or eternal damnation. Eternal life comes only through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, so no matter what force a state may threaten, never deny the name that has the power to save you.

Peter was imprisoned for teaching Jesus’ name. He prayed and was released by an angel. He overcame by the power of prayer. There was no violence in Him, just the name of Jesus, faith in Him, the Word of God and prayer. We have access to those same tools, the full armor of God.

There may come times when it is necessary to disobey civil rulers.  These exceptional circumstances include;

 

  1. When the government prohibits the worship of God (Exodus 5:1).
  2. When it requires the taking of innocent life (Exodus 1:15-21).
  3. When it demands killing God’s servants (1Kings 18:1-4).
  4. When it requires the worship of idols (Daniel 3:1-7).
  5. When it commands prayer to a man (Daniel 6:6-9).
  6. When it prohibits the propagation of the Gospel (Acts 4:17-20).
  7. When it demands the worship of a man as god (Revelation 13:4-8).

It is true, we must obey God and not man. The late theologian Francis Schaeffer reminds us of that in his work A Christian Manifesto. He states;

If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in its own way at that time to worship Caesar. And that point is exactly where the early Christians performed their acts of civil disobedience even when it cost them their lives.

God is in charge of history. He has not abdicated His authority to kings, or Supervisors, or Delegates, to judges of human affairs, Parliaments, to Congress or presidents. A Christian’s citizenship lies in another country, the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s Kingdom. St. Paul tells us that, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).” Christians are not just citizens of God’s Kingdom; we are members of God’s household, members of His family. We must obey God, our Father who is in heaven, and not man. Ultimately, God, and not man, will judge all things. We owe Him our worship. We must read His Word, and we must pray.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1

Sermon for Epiphany III

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves… for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hunger feed him; if he thirst, give him drink… Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12: 19-21).

Julius Caeasar and PiratesEarly in Julius Caesar’s political career, feelings ran so high against him that he left Rome. He sailed for the island of Rhodes. While at sea, the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces. Caesar’s staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling them that he would someday return, capture, and crucify every last man. The kidnappers greatly amused. Caesar was free when the ransom was paid. Upon his return to Rome, he gathered a fleet and pursued the pirates. The Romans captured and crucified the pirates.

Such was the Romans’ attitude toward crucifixion. It was reserved for the worst of criminals, a means of showing extreme contempt for the condemned. The suffering and humiliation of a Roman crucifixion were unequaled, and Caesar had his revenge. Our Lord Jesus suffered this same contempt and humiliation.

Today, contempt and humiliation is rampant. In the political arena, candidates crucify the character of their opponents. Our culture glorifies revenge. If you follow the media at all, you are left with the impression that revenge is a proper action when someone wrongs you. Many of our movies have revenge as their plot. There is a television show named “Revenge.” There are shows aimed at children and teens where the ongoing plotline is revenge against siblings, revenge against parents, or revenge against other kids in school. There are endless streams of country music songs about revenge. Miranda Lambert made a cottage industry out of the revenge song.

It should not be so with the Christian, but I fear that many people who call themselves Christians do not live as Christians should. Many people who call themselves Christians keep a private system of piety which doesn’t impinge on the public world.

For this reason people leave the church. If our religion is a matter of personal opinion, or personal piety, it has no power to save souls from mortal death. If Christ came merely to save atomized individuals, apart from any sort of community, then there is no reason for Church. You can stay at home with you the version of Jesus that suits you. If people come to church and find that people there are no different than the people outside the Church, then the transformation that is preached is empty. In Church is no place for backbiting, assassination of character, or revenge.

Church, our place is to be different, a peculiar people, different from the world. Our fellowship should be a refuge.

Our job is to announce to the powers of the world that their time is up and that they allegiance to Jesus himself. The way we live our lives should announce, that in Jesus name, there is a different way of being human, characterized by self-giving love, by honesty, and by breaking down the barriers that reinforce the divisions which keep people separate from and at odds with, one another. The church must say this with its very life.

The Church is to do nothing less than bring the whole world under the lordship of Christ. The gospel leaves us no choice. The church is to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord. When we announce His lordship, we must make it clear that the one true God has dealt in Jesus Christ with sin, death, guilt shame, and now summons men and women everywhere to abandon their idols that hold them captive to these things and discover a new way of life in Christ Jesus.

In the letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is concerned about the unity among Christians. The Church in Rome consisted of Jew and Gentile. In Jesus, God eliminated the difference between Jew and Gentile. All are welcome in the Church, because Jesus accepts all who will follow Him as Lord. The gospel creates, not a bunch of individual Christians but a community.

If we are to announce that Jesus offers us new life in Him, that we will be transformed into new beings, free sin, free from guilt, free from death, then the only way people will listen is if we live transformed lives. If there is little or no difference between us, the citizens of heaven and the citizens of the world, then we have no message at all. What people will notice is the way we live our lives and how we treat other people. Today’s Epistle reading concerns the latter, how we treat people outside our Church community.

St. Paul tells us to live in harmony with other people. We must treat all people justly and we should bring about reconciliation through acts of charity.

That is quite different from the way of the World. As mentioned earlier, our culture seems to admire the man or woman who takes things into their own hands and deals out their own personal brand of justice. God instructs us to behave differently. A parallel to today’s Epistle is found in Deuteronomy 32:35, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” We should know that God will take care of things. If we feel someone has wronged us, we can be reconciled knowing full well that if justice is not served, God will repay.

To be a true Christian witness to this world, we must be radically different from the world, and treat our enemies with love and charity.

Jesus commands us to;

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44

In this day of constant lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul’s command sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him.

  1. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of retaliation and leads to mutual reconciliation.
  2. It makes the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her way.
  3. Finally, repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy. Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving them will free you from bitterness.

In proverbs we are told, “If tine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25:21).”

Forgiveness involves attitudes and actions. If you find it too difficult to feel forgiving, respond with kind actions. When we do so, Paul tells us that we “heap burning coals” on their head. What does that mean? There was an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one’s head as a public act of repentance. By referring to this proverb, Paul was saying that we should treat our enemies with kindness so that they will become ashamed and turn from their sins. That brings us back to our purpose as a Church, to proclaim Jesus as Lord so that people will know Him, repent of their sin, be forgiven,  become reconciled with God, and receive the inheritance of eternal life.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves… Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12: 19-21).

Sermon for Epiphany II

Romans 12.9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Romans 12:9

This week I was reading the Second Office of Instruction in the Prayer Book. One of the questions concerns today’s topic, that is, “What is your bounden duty as a member of the Church?”

 

In other words, what is your job or task, as a member of the Church?

 

The answer in the Prayer Book is, “My bounden duty is to follow Christ, to worship go every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom.

 

Why do we have such a duty?

 

Well first, our Lord commanded his disciples before he ascended into heaven, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mt 28:19-20)

 

Jesus final command was to, “Make disciples.” That is what is means to work and pray and give for the spread of his kingdom, as it states in the Second Office of Instruction.

 

Today, we continue in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, considering what it means to be members of Christ’s body. Last week, began with;

 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom. 12:1)”

 

Here, St. Paul is telling us, and the Roman Christians, that we must dedicate our lives to God’s service. That is your mind and your body.

 

Jews and Pagans alike were used to making sacrifices to YHWH and the pagans to their myriad of Gods, but now, Jesus was the priest and the sacrifice. There is no need to sacrifice bodies of dead animals; instead He wants all of us.

 

This consecration, this dedication of ourselves must be to God and not ourselves. That was last Sunday’s topic. In last week’s Epistle, we read;

 

“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1

 

We must not conform ourselves to the world or self-will. Instead, Instead, we must conform to God’s. That was last week’s topic.

 

In today’s Epistle, we hear how Jesus gave differing gifts and jobs to people within His body to do the work of the Church; to defend the gospel, to preach, to spread God’s Word, to care for the members of God’s Church, to teach them, to work toward their sanctification and to instruct them in morality. That is why there are many members of the Body, each with a different task within the Body.

 

The gifts of grace that Christians receive from the Spirit because of faith are for the benefit of the body of Christ. Each person must realize the need to share their God-given talents and use of them for the Good of the Church.

 

Then there are also tasks that we all share, and I wish us to consider this one seriously. St. Paul gives exhorts us to; “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). 

Do not conceal your love. Hate evil and hold firmly to that which is good. These two propositions from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans put forward the requirements for “Christian love” and “Christian living.”

The requirements of this world are based on the notion of “scraping by.” On the other hand, God is interested in the fullness of life. Jesus Christ declared it to be his Father’s will that the life which we receive from Him is to be lived more and more “abundantly” (see John 10:10). 

It may seem to impossible to always aim for abundance, but only if we listen to the defeatist voices of this world. This world is defeated. It was defeated when Adam and Eve handed their dominion over this world to Satan. As Satan’s ally (willing or not), this world was defeated again when Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter. God is not defeated. He cannot be. He will not be. 

God lives forever in the perfection of life. God offers us perfection, with the help of His grace to those who are brokenhearted before him in repentance for their sins. We must choose between breaking our hearts in loving this world, or breaking our hearts in loving God, who loves us even when are unlovable. The world will give us nothing but a grave. God will put us back together in His image and likeness, never to be broken again. 

We must consider the proposition that we are to love without dissimulation. Love always begins with God. It is His gift, the grace to love Him and one another without hypocrisy. God loves us first. He has no hidden agenda. Most of us “hedge our bets.” We do not love completely. We try to protect ourselves by holding back in an effort to figure out the motives of others. 

God’s love is straightforward. People do not understand that God tells us what He wants. The Ten Commandments are not mysterious, yet we often ask ourselves, “What does God really want?” 

We would stop asking such questions and obey God’s Commandments. We should look at Jesus on the Cross and abandon all doubt about what God wants from us. We should see the Eternal Son made man dying for us in our place. God is asking nothing for Himself. Every commandment that God gives is for our benefit. Believing in Him and obeying Him do not make him more or less God. Believing and obeying Him do make us more human and give us more life. Then we live as God intended before the creation of the world, living eternally in the love of God. 

Everything good in life begins with the God’s love. Loving God, we must, “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” It is impossible to live a good life without detesting whatever is evil. Evil should appall us.

Abhorring evil is not enough, unless we cling to that which is good. That is what we do as members of Christ’s body. The power of God’s love gives us the ability to see the beautiful, as well as the ugly, and then to live in beauty rather than in ugliness.

The defeated world will lie and try to seduce us into sharing its defeat. It will offer us “exceptions” to St. Paul’s basic requirements for Christian love and life. It will tell us that the good is evil, and that the ugly is beautiful.

It is time for Christians to begin make clear statements about what we love and what we cling to. We will do this by living lives that follow the principles that St. Paul has offered us in his Epistle to the Romans “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” 

 

 

 

Sermon for Epiphany I

Romans 12.5For we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Romans 12:5

If you are around St. James very long, sooner or later I will correspond with you, by mail or by email. You may notice that most often, my closing salutation is, “Yours in Christ,” or, “In Christ.” That closing references our relation to one another much like ending a letter with, “Yours truly,” or “Your friend,” it expresses the connection I perceive with you. I deliberately use the word relation verses relationship, because I believe it to be a more accurate description of our relationship. In the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says that we are, “…one body in Christ.” That is more than merely a relationship. We are, more than friends, we are by baptism and membership, a family, a relation in blood, in Christ’s blood spilled on the cross to save us sinners, and so in Christ, we are one body, everyone members one of another.

 

Over four weeks, including this week, the Epistle readings cover the twelfth and thirteenth chapter’s of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. These chapters first tell us that we are members together in Christ, and then exhort and instruct on how to be member’s of Christ’s body. I will preach a mini-series, so to speak, on these Epistle lessons over the next four weeks.

 

This is also a period where we work together as a body. Today is a vestry meeting, next week our Parish Annual meeting, both are important aspects of how this small body of Christ goes about its business. You will also notice that in my weekly email updates I am asking you to pray for the Church. That is true, and I ask the same of you today, right now and later in the Holy Intentions before the Prayer for the Whole state of Christ’s Church.

 

Before Christ ascended into heaven, he gathered his disciples and instructed them to go to Jerusalem, and there the Father would send the Comforter. They went and prayed, the Holy Spirit came upon them and the work of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, began at Pentecost. Before there was preaching, before there was evangelism to the Jews and the Gentiles, before Matthias was named the twelfth Apostle, before they cared for the poorer and weaker members of their community, they prayed, so today I exhort you to do the same, to pray prior to the work of the Church.

 

It is a fitting time at St. James to preach on being One Body in Christ.

 

In this week’s Epistle, the Apostle Paul states,

 

“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1

One of the distinctive characteristics of Christ’s Body is that we are not conformed by the world. We should not be shaped by or overly conform to the culture of the world. Instead, we should be transformed by continuously seeking the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. In Epiphany we celebrate or Lord’s manifestation, his shining forth as the new Sun of Righteousness, the light which shines in the darkness, the light which all this world’s darkness can never overcome. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4.6) That is the theme of the Epiphany: the shining forth of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, who is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.24). 

In today’s Gospel lesson for this Sunday, we read how Christ’s divine wisdom shines forth. “He is the power of God and the wisdom of God”, he is the wisdom of God, and we are invited to consider that today: Christ as the Epiphany of the wisdom of God. 

In the Epistles of St. Paul, the wisdom of God contrasts with the wisdom of this world, or the wisdom of this present age: “For the word of the cross is folly 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 cleverness of the clever I will thwart. ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, the weakness of God is stronger than men.” St. Paul makes this statement about Christ as God’s Wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1.19-25. 

His point is that the enfleshment of God in Christ, his suffering and dying for our salvation, is a fact that stands in contradiction to all worldly wisdom, to all worldly calculation and expectation, in contradiction to all the schemes our cleverness might devise. The wisdom of God, in Christ, breaks in upon us as a contradiction, and gives us a new knowledge; a new starting-point or perspective. Our life as Christians is radically dependent upon that knowledge, that revelation of divine wisdom. Paul says in today’s Epistle, “Be not conformed to this world (to the wisdom of this present age), but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

The temptations to conformity are ever with us. The spirit of the age presses in upon us; the claims of expediency, of common-sense, of majority opinion (or majority sentiment) seem often very strong indeed; and we as individuals, and we as a Christian community, often find ourselves puzzled and confused as to just what is “that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” All too often, we are mindlessly carried along by the spirit of the age, blown in different directions by the winds of this world’s teaching. 

But the wisdom of God, the mystery hidden from the foundation of the world, is now manifest in Christ, “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1.9-10) And that wisdom is ours, to believe, and to understand, and to make our own, by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is God’s will. 

The tendency of our age, the wisdom of this world, and the temptation of the Church, is towards mindless and vain activity, towards expediency, towards faddish and fashionable innovation. The Apostle Paul today exhorts us “Be not conformed.” 

The Incarnate Lord, the enfleshed word of God shines forth as a light in the darkness; and despite all the perplexities, confusions and perversities of the world, the darkness can never overcome the light of Christ. Let us then look to that light which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4.6) May our minds be renewed in that vision. “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.” Amen. +