The foolishness and wisdom of God
[Sermon preached on April Fools Day/Easter Day 2018]
Have you heard the one about an atheist who brought a case to court arguing that atheists were being discriminated against. “Christians and Jews,” he said, “have their religious holidays, which are often national holidays as well. Why are atheists excluded?” But the judge said, “Atheists do have there own holiday – April the 1st, April Fools Day. For the Bible says: The fool says in his heart there is no God. Case dismissed!”
Now I don’t think there is evidence that this actually happened, but it does make a good story. It reminds us that it is foolishness to dismiss the existence of God.(Psalm 14:1).
This year (2018) April Fools Day and Easter Sunday coincide. Traditionally All Fools Day was a day for playing tricks on people – making “April Fools” of them. We can extend this idea and say, in a sense, that on the first Easter Day God made a fool of Satan and of all opposed to God.
Satan might have thought that he had Jesus in his clutches. After all, Jesus had been crucified and buried. He had taken on himself all the sins of the world. He was apparently in Satan’s power and defeated.
But death could not hold him and God raised him up victorious over sin, death and Satan. Yes, on that first Easter Day God was shown to be wise. And the sinful world was shown to be foolish.
The wisdom and the foolishness of God
Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians speaks about the wisdom and the foolishness of God What appears to be foolishness in God’s plan of salvation for the world is actually divine wisdom. On the other hand, the world’s way of sorting out its problems – its ‘wisdom’ – is shown to be foolishness.
Listen to these words of Paul:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness 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; the Intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
They are powerful and arresting words aren’t they?
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached”
(That is the apparent foolishness of what was preached)
“to save those who believe.
“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness the Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18-24)
Yes, they are stirring words, and they are at the heart of our Easter faith.
Paul is saying that all can come to believe in Christ, whatever their religious background. The Jews, he says, regard the Crucifixion as a stumbling block, and to the Greeks (or the Gentiles) it seems to be nothing but foolishness. But both groups, when they come to know the truth, can see Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Paul goes on to say, “For the ‘foolishness’ of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the ‘weakness’ of God is stronger than man’s strength. In other words: what appears to be foolish on God’s part is much wiser than all the worldly wisdom that exists. And what appears to be weak on God’s part is stronger any human power.
On that first Good Friday afternoon the Cross seemed to be foolishness. The disciples of Jesus felt that the end of the world had come. Jesus looked to be a fool, hanging there on that cross. He looked to be a loser, a complete failure.
Yes, he had previously been successful – crowds had followed him – but now he’s been abandoned. And there he hangs, dying a shameful and agonising death.
That’s the way it seemed on Friday, but on Sunday morning everything was turned around! On that glorious morning the Cross was vindicated and shown to be the means of salvation for the world. It was demonstrated that God’s wisdom had triumphed. His plan of salvation had worked.
And it is still the same today. People in this world are looking for purpose in their lives, and also for the solution to the many problems of our world.
The problems of our age include: overpopulation, pollution, climate change, conflict, war, terrorism, violence, poverty and oppression.
Politicians are seeking answers to these problems. Many believe the answer lies in this or that political system of the right or left, or this or that political party, or this or that campaign. But all these schemes are mere foolishness if they are leaving God out of the picture. If they are not seeking his help and guidance how can they find the answer to the problems of this world?
God is the Maker and he knows what is best for his world. Thus to find the answer to our problems we must look to the Maker’s Instructions.
God has the answer
God has provided the ultimate solution to human sin in the Death and Resurrection of his Son. Through Jesus our sins are washed away and we receive eternal life. We receive grace to be changed ourselves, and to be Instruments of change in the world. I firmly believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to the world’s problems and that it is only by human hearts being transformed that the problems caused by humans can be overcome.
Marxists are supposed to be the ones who are the revolutionaries: they want to “smash the system”, to create a Utopia in which all will be equal. But I would say they fall far short in their revolutionary aims! Christ is the only true revolutionary. He doesn’t just want to change the system, he wants to change human hearts. His aim is no less than the transformation of individuals through the working of the Holy Spirit. When that happens society will be changed. Many times throughout history there have been religious revivals – and after each one there has come social reform and change.
Of course the world regards this as foolishness: they see our faith as pie in the sky. But in reality it is the one true wisdom.And so I wish you all a Happy All Fools Day, and also a Happy Easter!