Walking Away From “Wise Guys”: A Devotional Reflection on Corinthians 1:18-31

The elegant simplicity of faith is defined and symbolized in the cross.

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There can be no parsing of the message it represents.  It represents our separation from the God who created the universe; life and us.  Yet, at the same time, it is the means by which we are again made one with Him.

It is fitting that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians should be the conveyor of this message.  Corinth, in modern terms was, at the time of Paul’s writing, the most “cosmopolitan” of biblical cities, being comprised of many nationalities; social classes and particular denominations of Christianity.  Its  geography made it a crossroads of trade for all corners of the known world at that time.

Can you say “diversity”?

The power of Rome; the collected wisdom of Greek philosophy and the clamor of the marketplace must surely have constituted a habitat for faith not so much different from that which exists today.  That is to say, sectarian; diverse; driven by and catering to many ‘special’ interests competing for power and influence.

What better a time and place for Paul to shepherd them back to the Gospel and its meaning for a fallen mankind?

Paul cites Isaiah (29:14) from the Old Testament:  “The wisdom of the wise will perish”.  Those professing faith in Corinth could not deny their acceptance of this piece of Scripture.  That being the case, Paul continues, is it not folly to lose ourselves in using logic or knowledge to discern the nature of God?

Likewise, Paul notes that the Jews “seek signs”.  Their prayers for a conquering Messiah, more powerful than any pharaoh or king or emperor, are for  an ultimate conquest over enemies.   This belief that a true Messiah should be proof that “might makes right” is, again, folly.

For human logic and human strength or power are but that:  human.  To try to attain righteousness; sanctification and redemption with our God through these means alone is hubris at best, and sinful pride at worst.

This sinful folly, born of Adam, and rampant still in our warring and factious society, is what has separated us from Him.  And only He could make Himself flesh through Jesus Christ; and splay Himself on a cross to shoulder our sin as one of us out of  His love for all of us.  His death and resurrection unite us into His Spirit.

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We need only accept this, not due to any ” logic”,  nor even out of deference to ” power”.  This world, and our living in it, is proof enough of His power.  Accept the cross, and its meaning, and know that there is neither wisdom nor power that can understand; discern or measure His amazing Grace.

Boast not of what you can do for God or your fellow man, ….boast of what God has done for you.

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Walking to Calvary: A Prescription for the Eyes of the Soul (A Lenten Devotional)

Devotional for 3/31/2012:   Mark 10:32-34, 46-52
The lesson here for me is faith….expressed in this reading at two important levels:

The Apostles— They “were afraid” as they followed Jesus, who boldly strode in front of them. He took ‘the twelve’ aside and related to them, in a matter-of-fact way, what indeed was in store for him as they continued “up” to Jerusalem. They had been following him with the understandable, but erroneous, expectation that in Jesus, their Messiah had come……however, he actually was going. He would not conquer the Romans in his mortal life span, and they, as his lieutenants, would not be subordinate governors in any lands to be conquered by Him. They were aware of the enmity of the Jewish hierarchy for Him and of the probable treachery which awaited Him.

(His relation to them of what awaited was “matter-of-fact” in nature for good reason……It constituted the third reference to his crucifixion in Scripture. Thus, as observant Jews, they should not have been surprised.)

And yet……they still followed. They followed on through Jericho, on the way to Jerusalem.

 
The Blind Beggar— i.e., Bartimaeus, whose lot in life was one of long misery, subject to the caprice of passing strangers for his sustenance as a blind beggar, confined to the side of the dusty road….a man whose value to the world could be described as less than that of a mile-marker, (as mile-markers do not beg for change).

But he could ‘see’ what many around him could not. Hearing that Jesus was among the throng he could sense filing slowly past him, he “saw” several things:

He saw… that, this Jesus, of whose feats of healing he had heard from his station along the road, was not a frequent traveler along this road, and that, if he wanted to avail himself of any chance at healing, he had to act.

He saw… that, due to his position, he would have to call out to be heard…indeed to “shout” in his plea for “Jesus” to “have mercy on me!”.

He saw… that, when chastised by “many” who “sternly ordered him to be quiet”, that he would have to yell “even more loudly” if he was to have any hope at all of being healed. He saw who was important and did not heed those who scorned him.

And when at last heard and called to by Jesus, he threw off his cloak, baring the entirety of his misery for all to see. Jesus asked him : “What do you want me to do for you?”, and he responded ‘matter-of-factly’: “My teacher, let me see again” Jesus responded: “Go, your faith has made you well”

Note that Jesus did not say : “Follow me”. Bartimaeus regained his sight immediately, and though he was under no constraint to do anything, he “followed” Jesus “on the way”

There are none so blind as those who will not see. We do not need eyes to recognize the power of prayer in speaking to God and expressing our recognition of his Grace.

Walking With Jesus, Talking to God: Psalms as Prayer (A Lenten Devotional)

DEVOTIONAL FOR 2/24/2012: Psalm 25:1-10
To those of us paying attention these last two or three weeks at worship, it should be clear that Pastor’s emphasis has been on one theme…….prayer.

I confess that I have neglected selection of any Psalms in my past Devotionals. Still a neophyte in my study of scripture and Lutheran teachings, I confess that I have endeavored, perhaps out of pride, to focus on readings which ‘speak’ to me, and to discount the value of the Psalms as rigid, ’sing-song’ recitals…..having, until recently for me at least, been an exercise in ’chanting’ prescribed by the ‘pro forma’ structure of the worship service.

How wrong I was!

My study of the Psalm selections for this issue of Devotionals has revealed to me the value of the Psalms as ‘prayer’.

Psalms typically are three-part recitals:

1) They begin with a plea or petition… (Here, “..do not let me be put to shame”, and ”… do not let my enemies exult over me”)

2) They identify a trouble or a suffering being struggled with…(Here…“Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame”, by those “who are wantonly treacherous”…i.e., those non-believers who persecute us.)

3) They conclude with an expression that we can, by expressing ourselves TO God assure ourselves that God does indeed hear us. (Here,…”Good and upright is the LORD”…”he instructs sinners in the way”…the paths of the “LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”)

I thank Pastor for his stress and gentle, yet firm, insistence on learning the importance….indeed, the power of prayer. Further, I thank him for his request of me to submit more than the one or two devotionals I usually submit.

Call it serendipity, call it Grace……the lesson I have been blessed to finally comprehend is that all of the writings in Scripture are of equal value. Instead of ’cherry-picking’ those readings which, as I noted above, ‘spoke’ to me, I should have recognized that the Psalms, as prayer, stress the vital fact that we all of us need regularly to ‘speak’ to God.

As we all await his glorious coming as saved but mortal sinners, prayer is the least we can do, as it shows Him our waiting is active rather than passive. Further, as a continuous and daily exercise, it helps us all to more readily be in a frame of mind of kindness and compassion to our fellow sinners.

Thanks to all at Covenant who afforded me this opportunity to grow in the Lord by leaving these last few unclaimed dates to fill.

Heed Pastor’s lesson!……pray….often; sincerely and with the knowledge that He will hear us as “Day by Day, We Magnify Thee”.