Turn in g T hi ng s Ups id e Dow n A Sermon for the Third Sunday in L ent Marc h    Ex odus  I Corinthians  J ohn  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be ac ceptable in thy sight
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Turn in g T hi ng s Ups id e Dow n A Sermon for the Third Sunday in L ent Marc h Ex odus I Corinthians J ohn Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be ac ceptable in thy sight

There s an old tale f rom anc ient I ndia about four aristocr atic sons who ea ch we nt searc hing the ea rth to learn his own spe cial scie nce So they eac h decide d and af ter a ree ing on a place wher e they would meet ag ain the brothe rs start

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Turn in g T hi ng s Ups id e Dow n A Sermon for the Third Sunday in L ent Marc h Ex odus I Corinthians J ohn Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be ac ceptable in thy sight




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Presentation on theme: "Turn in g T hi ng s Ups id e Dow n A Sermon for the Third Sunday in L ent Marc h Ex odus I Corinthians J ohn Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be ac ceptable in thy sight"— Presentation transcript:


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Turn in g T hi ng s Ups id e Dow n A Sermon for the Third Sunday in L ent, Marc h 11 , 2012 Ex odus 20:1-17; I Corinthians 1:18-25; J ohn 2:13-22 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be ac ceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my roc k and my redee mer. There s an old tale f rom anc ient I ndia about four aristocr atic sons who ea ch we nt searc hing the ea rth to learn his own spe cial scie nce. So they eac h decide d, and af ter a ree ing on a place wher e they would meet ag ain, the brothe rs started of f in diffe rent dire ctions. Time went by , and the four

r oy al sons met ag ain at the a ppointed place , and they asked one another what they had lear ned. I have ma stered a scienc e, sa id the first, whic h makes it possible for me, e ven if I have nothing but a pie ce of bone fr om some cre ature , to immediately cre ate the f lesh that g oes with it. I , said the se cond, know how to g row that c rea ture' s skin and hair if ther e is flesh on its bones. The third said, And I am able to c rea te its lim bs if I have the flesh, the skin, a nd the hair. And I conc luded the four th, know how to g ive life to that cre ature if its form

is complete with limbs. The four brothers the n went into the jung le to find a piec of bone so that they could demonstrate their [scientific] specia lties. As fate w ould have it, the bone the found belong ed to a lion, but they didnt know that, and so, picke d up the bone. One [brother] added f lesh to the bone, the se cond g rew hide and hair, the third c ompleted it with matching limbs, and the f ourth ave the lion life. Shaking its hea vy mane, the f eroc ious beast ar ose with its menac ing mouth, shar p teeth, and me rciless c laws and jumped on his crea tors. Then, ha ving f inished

his sumpt uous dinner, the lion vanished contente dly into the jungle. The tale sug ests, as does the be tter known B ible story of the Towe r of B abel, or the once popular nove l Frankenste in, that cre ative, inventive powe rs alwa s hold the potential for self-de struction. St. P aul opens his cor responde nce to the Corinthians pointing to the irony of just how power less the power ful ca n become : For the messag e about the cross is foolishness to those who ar e per ishing, but to us who ar e being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

a nd the discer nment of the discerning I will thwart. Where is the one who is wise? he c halleng es them, Where is the scribe? W here is the debate r of this ag e? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God throug h wisdom, God decide d, throug h the foolishness of our pr oclamation, to save those who believe . As the world a rrog antly snickers a t the foolishness of the c hurch w ith its odd way s, its pray er, liturg , sacr aments, pre aching , sacr ifice a nd love, today we pa use with Paul to challeng the wisdom of

the wor ld with its seeming ly power ful way s. Reinhold Niebuhr, a g radua te of ne arby Elmhurst Coll eg e and a uthor of the una bridg ed, As the world ar ro ga ntl y snicke rs at th e fooli sh ness o the chur ch with its od d ways, its p ra ye r, litu rg y, sa craments, pr eaching , sacrifi ce love, toda y w e paus with Pau l to chall enge the wisdo m of the world with it s seemingly po we rfu l ways.
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untitled, but very popular Sere nity Pray er, w as one of the most significa nt America n theolog ians of the last ce ntury . He lived throug h the first world wa r, the Gr

eat De pression, the sec ond world war , the Holoca ust, the Spanish civil war, the Kor ean w ar, V ietnam, the moon landing , the Cold War. I n other wor ds, he saw a g rea t deal of the worlds wisdom at its worst. Niebuhr insisted that humanity s problems are not due to ignor ance or intellige ncenot be cause there are nt enoug smart people in the w orldbut rather humanity s problems, eve n cre ations problems, ar e due to the cor ruption of human natur e. We ar e thus confr onted, he maintaine d, with the limits of knowledg e and the nece ssity of fa ith. Much of the time, it see ms,

we ar e simply incapa ble of thinking our wa out of our pre sent dilemmas and, most often, better capa ble of thinking our wa into even more massive dilemmas. We are confr onted, then, with the limits of knowledg e and the nece ssity of fa ith. And y et, espec ially in communities li ke ours, we are ever so conce rned w ith our children s aca demic, intellectual ac hievements, but see m to have ver littl e, if a ny , conce rn for whether or not our children know the L ord, f or whe ther or not they are g rowing in their rela tionship t o God throug h J esus. I n compar ison to the appare nt

wisdom of test scores, I just dont see us g iving much attention to the foolishness of the c ross. A fa vorite expression of my colleg e choir master, who appar ently understood the ne ed for humilit , espec ially among the educ ated a nd intelligent, sa s that the g rea ter the island of knowledg e, the g rea ter the bounda ries of ig noranc e. Humble y ourselves the ref ore unde r the mig hty hand of God... , the F irst Epistle of Peter urg es us. Paul will go on to remind the Corinthians that God s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and Gods w eakne ss is stronge r than human

streng th. Howe ver muc h human re ason is a divine g ift, St. Aug ustine claimed, reve lation is a divine nece ssity . Gr eek trag edies may provoke us to conside r civil disobedience . A Mahler sy mphony may touch the ver depths of human emotion. Photos from the Hubble telescope fill us with cosmic wonder . But howe ver muc h human re ason is a divine g ift, reve lation is a divine nece ssity . And what Paul is sug esting to the Corinthians is that there is nothing r easona ble about the divine r evela tion through the cross of Christa story not of human powe r, wisdom and we alth, but a

story of divine we akness, foolishness and pover ty The Corinthians had g otten it wrong . Some were brag ing tha t they wer e super ior to others with their various spiritually -endow ed g ifts. No, Paul ha s to remind them, ...not many of y ou wer e wise by human standar ds, not many wer e powe rful, not many wer e of noble birth. But God chose w hat is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God c hose wha t is weak in the wor ld to shame the strong ; God chose w hat is low and despised in the w orld, things that a re not, to re duce to nothing thing s that are , so that no one mig ht

brag in the prese nce of God... L et the one w ho brag s, brag about the L ord. Her es the ir ony of just how power less the power ful can be : Paul is quot ing I saiah whe re the prophet say s that The w isdom of their wise shall per ish, and the discer nment of the disce rning shall be hidden... . You w ho hide a plan too de ep for the L ORD, whose de eds ar e in the dar k, and who say , Who sees us? Who knows us? You turn thing s upside down! Today , J esus will turn things upside down in the te mple. The divine re velation throug h J esus offe rs another kind of wisdomthe wisdom that

is not Much of the time, it seem s, we are simpl incap ab le of thi nking ou r way out o f ou pr esent dil emm as an d, most often, mor capa ble of th inkin ou r way into ev en more mass ive dil emm as .
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conce rned w ith appear ance ; the wisdom that does not point to s elf; the wisdom that does not see to humili ate a nother; the wisdom that does not trea t knowledg e as a wea pon. I nstead, the divine reve lation throug h J esus is willing to take the blows of violent power and the slurs of a rrog ant wisdom in order to make clea r that the wa s of violence and ar rog ance

will not last. W hat will last is the foolish proclamation of the c rossthe proc lamation that power has the c apac ity to serve and not dominate, and tha t wisdom is found, not onl in the ivory towers, the ha lls of overnme nt, or the labora tories of re sear ch, but also in the stree ts, the deser t, the cave , the ce ll and the he art. t seems that only the ver y oung and the ve ry old, the women and the dominated, the hurting and the simple-minded a re a ble to see Jesus, along with the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame, the pr isoners, and pe ople like the Apostle Paul. These fools

se e thing s as they rea lly are . We smart ones, we ll, we know better . We know that if we w ork har d, achie ve, g et fa ncy deg ree s, and ac sensibly , we ll be in the know. believe it wa s the writer Flanne ry O' Connor who said, You sha ll know the truth and the truth shall make ou odd. I t reminds me of the story about a r etireme nt dinner for a ce rtain pastor. A fter e very one had of fer ed tributes to his mi nistry , the pastor f inally g ot up to speak in response. H is first words wer e these , I want to thank esus Christ for making me into the person I am. Wit hout J esus, I

might have been nor mal. esus makes the normal into the odd, the dull into the adve nturous. But we are alway s in a strug le to keep from turning the worship of the true a nd living God awa from God a nd toward our selvesmaking it normal, ordinar , even dull, or w orse, de signing worship to suit our own personal pr efe renc es, sitting at mee tings asking What do people like? What do I like? ra ther than What does God de sire. You' ve made my Fa ther' s house a house of thieves, Jesus say s in the other g ospels at the temple clea nsing. I t is one of the fe w occ asions when Jesus

goe s ballistic. Stop making my Fa ther' house a me a-ma ll for y ourselves. Stop turning the worship of the true a nd living God a way from God and towa rd y ourselves. Stop cong ratulating y ourselves f or y our sac rifice s, y our g ood works, our fine lives, a nd g ive g lory to God for a chang e. No wonder J esus is so ang ry . This is about the first and g rea t commandment, No othe ods... For I the L ORD y our God a m a jealous God... . The temple is the r esidenc e of G od, but it seems that God has be en evic ted. This is the Passover, the time to reme mber how G od fre ed our anc

estors fr om slavery in Eg pt, but it s eems that God ha s been f org otten, tossed aside by the profits of commer ce a nd what suits us. You will not make the house of my Fa ther into a house of business... . You will not rob God of his honor by taking it for y ourself. Take that honor for y ourself, a nd y ou, like those four roy al sons, might just unleash a lion in the jung le, in the temple, in y our life. Centuries bef ore Jesus, the prophet Mica h asked, Wil l God be plea sed with thousands of rams, with 10,000 river s of oil? ... God has told y ou, O mortal, wha t is good; and w hat

does the ord re quire of y ou but to do just ice, a nd to love kindness, and to walk humbly with y our God? ha t will la st is the foo lis h pr oclama tio n of the cross the pr oclama tio n th at p ower ha s th e c ap acity to serve an d no t do mina te, and tha t wisdo m is fou nd , not on ly in the ivory towers, the ha lls of go ve rn ment, or the lab or ato ries of research, bu t als o in the str ee ts, th e dese rt, th cave , the c ell and the hear t.