Paul, in this letter to the church in Corinth, understands the believers’ confusion about Jesus’ death and what it means for his followers. To some, the proclamation of a crucified messiah is at best a mistake and at worst blasphemy. For others, a god simply could not be killed by mere mortals. It would be offensive to think otherwise.
“Nothing about this makes sense,” my friend said as he ordered the peanut butter-bacon burger at a local diner. “Peanut butter belongs with bananas or jelly, not ketchup,” he continued before inexplicably ordering it anyway. The burger arrived steaming hot, an opaque brown glaze coating the burger patty. My friend took a bite, and his eyes transmitted a single message: It was good.
The ingredients were all present for Jesus to fit a particular understanding of messiah or god. He was a great teacher and leader. He performed miracles. He inspired the masses. The only thing standing in the way was the thick, sticky coating of a cross that made no sense in the rest of the recipe.
That is the difficulty of believing the gospel. Everything about it sounds good if we think only of the parts we like; however, there is so much more than what we like. Paul knew his audiences would be tempted either to take only what they wanted or to throw everything out; and yet, the most crucial part of the gospel is the part we do not readily understand.
Sometimes none of this makes sense, and that is okay. Just trust that the truth is in there.
God of wisdom, help us to make sense of your Word, even when it is challenging. Grant us the courage to seek truth and answers, especially when we do not understand. Grant us patience to be graceful when we meet others who interpret scripture differently than we do, and may all your people together find your truth. Amen.
As we continue in the season of Lent, we remember another important chapter in salvation history. Just as God established covenants with Noah and Abraham and their descendants, so did God renew the relationship with the Israelites by giving them the law. Obedience to the law was not the means of earning God’s love, but a response of love by the people to the love God had already shown them. The psalmist understands that God’s law creates a cause for rejoicing, for it is more valuable than gold. Both Paul and John address situations in which some had distorted the worship of God. Either they considered themselves too good for the gospel (1 Corinthians), or they had violated the covenant by altering proper worship for the sake of profit (John).
Read Exodus 20:1-17. How do you keep God as the central focus of your life? What draws you away from that focus?
Read Psalm 19. In what ways do you experience God’s laws as “sweeter . . . than honey”? When do you find yourself trying to resist God’s laws?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. What does it mean to you that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom”?
Read John 2:13-22. How do you respond to Jesus’ anger and actions in this reading? Do his actions fit with the way you generally picture Jesus?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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