Each day in Lent I am posting a brief reflection on one of the readings from the Daily Office Lectionary. Today’s my’s reflection focuses on the Epistle Reading.
1 Corinthians 1:20-31
Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!
Common English Bible (CEB)
Am I ever grateful that God chose what the powers-that-be see as foolish. I say this as one who is not all that wise, and more so as one lives among the faithful who often lured into thinking that there must be some special qualification to minister in the name of Jesus. I say it as one who belongs to the church, which is often more concerned with respectability than it is with integrity. In my twenty plus years of ordained ministry I have been invited with some degree of regularity into upper-class, members-only clubs, striding pass ‘what the world considers low-class and low-life’ to get in the front doors. Now make no mistake about the fact that those who belong to members-only clubs are also loved by Jesus and are also called to live in the Way… and so many do! I was invited there by people whose lives are defined by service.
That said, I am still confronted with these words of Paul to the people in Corinth. I think the very crux of the matter is about humility and service. I am concerned that we lose sight of that in the success driven culture that we live in, and that I sadly see hints that The Church is adopting as it becoming increasingly more officious, less able to laugh at itself, and more desperate than ever to find that large donor. How foolish we are? A life of faith will drive us to service. Even if it looks foolish to our respectable club members. We can accumulate, we can achieve, we can break new ground, and indeed we can celebrate. If all we have to show at the end is how very successful we are – we have sadly missed an opportunity to serve.
I have been reading Brother Cornel West through February. These words leaped out at me yesterday
“When you end up obsessed with success rather than greatness, prosperity rather than magnanimity, security rather than integrity — You end up with a generation of peacocks… Peacocks walk around displaying their beautiful plumage… ‘Look at me. I am so successful. I am so accomplished. Look at my breakthroughs.’… I can hear my grandmother saying from the back of the room, ‘peacocks strut because they can’t fly.’ I can hear her say,
‘you can’t get off the ground. You are just a royal turkey. That’s all you are.’ Bling bling with no end and no aim is nothing but a form of idolatry. We’ve come out of a long tradition of service to others — and not just blind obsession with the self.“
I love these words from Brother West. It really does not matter what your income is folks. What are we doing with what we have been given. When I think about it, I gained entry into some really beautiful and exclusive places because I am ordained. I am a parish priest. I have three university degrees and a good job. I even dress up from time to time. So bringing me to places that celebrate ‘success’ is not too big of a stretch. But I never forget that I come from a place where such ways of life were unknown to me and to my family. Some of the funniest stories my Dad would tell to the family back home upon returning from visits to us, were about his trips to the ‘Windsor Yacht Club.’ What made them funny was my father saying “…when I was at the Windsor Yacht Club!” What was beautiful was to witness my father in the Windsor Yacht Club. His face was an open book. He was the same around that dining table as we was around our own dining table. He was one of ‘low-class’ but loved his foolish family, was proud of them all, worked hard – always for others and never for himself. I have often told people that my father and mother were probably the most successful people I have ever known. But my definition of success is really wrapped up in the world’s idea of foolishness. Success: service to family, to church and to community, giving till it hurts, love for those who are difficult to love, honesty, hard work, integrity, empathy, resilience. Any ‘blind obsession with myself’ I’ve learned elsewhere (not from mom and dad). Lent is as good a time as any to confess it and turn away from it and toward others…. so….
I am spending some time on this seventh day of Lent asking myself when have I put my own respectability about my own integrity?
I am spending some time this seventh day in Lent asking myself, when have we as a community (St Aidan’s) placed respectability above the integrity of the Gospel?