January 29, 2017 – Year A
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
When talking with others about the Jesusy things, there’s hardly anything that gets under my skin more than when someone starts a sentence with “The Bible is clear that…” This is because the Bible is a complex collection of texts written in many literary styles speaking from within and to a culture with a particular set of concerns at a particular place armed with a limited set of knowledge (as are all humans).
And then I come to this week’s assigned texts – reading and rereading – and the phrase that keeps wanting to rush out of my face is “The bible is clear that justice, mercy and peace are the crux of the whole matter. The matter in this case being that – God – Who is Without Matter and Through Which All Matter came into being and Of Which all Matter is Constituted.”
The words of Micah, the psalmist, Jesus and Paul are clear that God’s desire is all about how we act, not what we believe.
Some will want to call this preaching politics, but honestly, it’s not politics, folks, this is about people. The sorts of people who admonish preachers to not talk about politics tend to be the kind that think the Bible, and the message of Jesus, is all about believing the right things. Anytime folks don’t want to talk about how we can actually treat people, all people, better, they tend to call that conversation “politics.”
But today we have evidence that following Jesus is about behaving, not about believing.
What does God want of us? The best worship experiences? Tremendous worship experiences? All the biggest, most lavish and ostentatious displays of piety? Nope.
Micah is clear that it’s about what we DO, how we treat one another.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The questions of course that we may have, if plain reading is not our thing, is what IS justice, what IS kindness and what does a humble walk with God look like?
This is a peppy little ditty that basically asks, who gets to hang with you God, in your groovy pad on your holy hill?
The psalmist is clear that it’s all about what we DO, how we treat one another.
“Who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;” The psalmist even gets really specific and reminds folks against the prohibition of lending with interest.
The Beatitudes, Jesus manifesto, turns the world’s wisdom on its ear. The lowly will be lifted up (and the mighty will be cast out, I mean if you read the beatitudes in Luke, which I believe is crucial –
Jesus is clear that the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers will be exalted.
There are a lot of wonderful, faithful commentaries on The Beatitudes, and one in-depth exploration for which I have mad respect comes from Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer, Associate Professor of New Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary –
Here are some of her powerfully faithful words…
“For you see, the old fable they used to tell us is not true. Being Christian is not at all the same as being a respectable person from a decent family. Ask the martyr Perpetua who was thrown to the lions, relinquishing both her respectability and her decent family because she refused to deny Christ Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Or, if you do not want to go back that far,ask Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez, Mary McLeod Bethune and Martin Luther King Jr.,Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Being a Christian, a disciple of the one who first appeared to Mary of Magdala and whom Martha of Bethany called “the Christ, the son of God who has come into the world,” being a Christian means being standing where Jesus stood, with the outcasts and the voiceless, and with those who are already standing with them. It means standing with the migrants, with or without papers, as children of the living God remembering that our ancestors were once wanderers through desert places. It means standing with the working class that are taught to blame “those people” for the injustices that irresponsible,unresponsive corporations are perpetrating on them. It means standing with those for whom this great recession has been and continues to be a great depression. It means standing with those nations that are at war over the minerals we need for our cell phones and our motor cars.It means standing with those women and men who are still in refugee camps months and years after earthquake or fire or war or flood. Being a Christian means lifting up your voice with prophets and peacemakers, truth tellers and troublemakers of every generation, putting all on the line for the sake of the God whom Hagar called El-roi, the God who sees.” from “When” a sermon for [Presbyterian Women] on the Beatitudes.
If you want to dig deeply and learn more from Rev. Dr. Aymer, check out the study guide. Print it out, pass it around, create a group study and talk about this stuff, y’all, because it matters. A lot.
Here’s how I hear the beatitudes every time they come to mind…
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Wow, I am really getting worried when I understand and agree with Paul multiple weeks in a row. This text, which I had to read over and over and over to make sure I was hearing what I was hearing, is beautiful and simple in it’s seemingly obtuse complexity.
Paul is clear that the conventional wisdom of the world is not God’s wisdom. Paul is also clear that God’s foolishness is wisdom.
Wait what, God is foolish? Ohhhh, you mean in the way that God creates from nothing, gives in abundance, and is selfless to the point of letting creation have free will, a free will that would execute their own God. And then is extravagant in grace by not striking back in revenge, but returning with open arms and love? Damn, that does seems dumb.
And why does that seem dumb? Because the “wisdom” of the world teaches us to take all we can, to hoard our resources, to be afraid of one another, to think of ourselves first and when wronged, to seek an eye for an eye.
Ugh, so yeah, I’m gonna have to say…
Based on these readings, the Bible is clear that God’s will is justice for the least of these, kindness for all creation and selfless, humble faith.
It is clear that there is no greater call on us as Christians today than to try and figure out how the hell we can actually live into the call of the prophet, the psalmist, Jesus and yes, even Paul to turn the world’s wisdom on its head and truly, actively seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
So let me be clear that – if you are not preaching these “politics” in the pulpit this weekend, then you are not preaching the Bible.