The Foolish Cross

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – Week of 1 Lent

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, Educators, 1964, 1904

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)

Psalms 45 (morning) 47, 48 (evening)

Genesis 37:12-24

1 Corinthians 1:20-31

Mark 1:14-28

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25a)

Paul addresses head-on the obstacle that makes his proclamation difficult for many to believe — the cross. Why would anyone worship someone who was executed as a capital criminal? It’s like someone today saying our God died in an electric chair. The Rabbis will tell you that the scripture says “cursed be any one who hangs on a tree.” (Dt. 21:23) The cross is the Roman solution to threat to order from rebels and insurrection. Some Greeks will speak of the impassibility of God. Why would anyone worship a God who is subject to the vicissitudes of human life? God should not suffer? God is beyond change. God on a cross. Scandal and foolishness.

But among those who were not “wise by human standards” or “of noble birth,” among “the weak” and the “low and despised,” this story that God enters into our deepest despair and pain and overcomes it is “wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” It flips on its ear the elitist projections about God. God is with us in our most desperate times. God soaks up evil and violence; God endures injustice and cruelty; God experiences pain and abandonment — and God answers with nothing but love.

Dorothy Sayers says it nicely: “God did not abolish the fact of evil. He transformed it. He did not stop the crucifixion. He rose from the dead.”

For those who are looking for a powerful, triumphant tribal Lord who overcomes our enemies with might and violence, this weak God looks foolish. For those who are looking for some pure heavenly escape from the change and sufferings of this world, this vulnerable God looks foolish. But for those of us who are weak and low, in despair and pain, this is a God who understands. This is a God we can trust because God knows what we are suffering. This God gives meaning to suffering. And when you are miserable, it makes all the difference if you believe that God is with us and that God uses our human misery to heal the world. It is the wise foolishness of the cross.

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