According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw - each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (ESV)
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Eyes Wide Shut
Friday of Epiphany 3
30 January 2015
As our church's blind outreach ministry grows and matures, I have been amazed by the ability of our sight impaired friends to navigate from place to place with no aid. Those who are blind have an uncanny ability to guide themselves through an extraordinarily good use of their remaining senses; processing what they experience to tell them about their surroundings. This is quite different from those of us who are beginning to cope with diminishing visual acuity. As I grow older, I am frustrated by the fact that I can no longer see what I once saw. I enjoy doing small maintenance projects around the house. I especially like doing plumbing projects, like replacing washers in faucets and such. Inevitably, the amateur plumber has to get down under a sink with a wrench. What I could once see at any angle and in low lighting conditions, I can now only feel, not see. While doing plumbing by touch, much mischief can ensue.
My dear sainted grandparents were victims of this sort of physical devolution; my grandfather suffered the aftereffects of a significant construction accident, which left him with impairments when he walked, my grandmother suffered degenerative cornea disease, losing her visual acuity so that remediation was no longer possible (read: Coke bottle glasses). The family light-heartedly referred to them as the "blind leading the lame." My grandmother became increasingly prone to entanglements because she could see only well enough to get into trouble while walking about. Almost daily, I see a man who is blind walking down the street just outside my office window carrying a white cane and led by a guide dog. He moves along the sidewalk at a good pace and with fewer difficulties than my partially-seeing grandmother. Sometimes we need to be blind to truly see.
That is especially the case with the faith of the cross. God in Christ has been lifted upon the ignominious tree and left to die there. Behold, this is the salvation of the world, but human wisdom sees the crucified God as an abandoned derelict. This is the righteousness of God, but the world sees this as the work of an abusive father. This is glory, but the world sees this as disreputable. This is the light of the world raised for us to gaze upon it, but the world sees this as the heart of darkness. This is God's holiness, which the world considers wicked. This is strength, but the world sees this as weakness. There is no middle ground here. There is no way to accommodate the world's hatred of the Crucified. Our Lord Himself warns us of this: "Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours" (Jn 15:20). There is no middle ground. There is only the persecutor or the one who keeps the word. This is also why the apostle Paul proposes faith in such stark terms in his first letter to the Corinthians. There is either the divine foolishness or worldly wisdom. All that the world thinks must be eradicated. Our minds must have spiritual 'Roundup' sprayed upon the worldly weeds of human wisdom. We must plow the whole field under that the cross might be planted there and stand as a beacon of God's righteousness. If we are to treasure the cross, worldly treasure must be cast out. If we are to have the wisdom of God, the foolishness of the cross must be embraced. If we are to see, we must become blind. We must live with our eyes wide shut. So Paul says, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise" (1Co 3:18).
"Paul proposes that one become dead to the world. This deadness harms not at all, but rather benefits, because it is the cause of life. He also bids him to become foolish unto this world, introducing to us through this the true wisdom. Now he becomes a fool to the world, who slights the wisdom from without, and is persuaded that it contributes nothing towards his comprehension of the faith. As then that poverty which is from God is the cause of wealth, and lowliness the cause of exaltation, and to despise glory is the cause of glory; so also the becoming a fool makes a man wiser than everyone. For, with us Christians, everything goes by contraries.
"Why did he not say, 'Let him cast off wisdom,' but rather, 'Let him become a fool'? He said this that he might especially disparage the heathen instruction. For it was not the same to say, 'Lay aside your wisdom,' and 'become a fool.' Besides, he is also training people not to be ashamed at the lack of refinement among us; for God quite laughs to scorn all heathen things (Ps 2:1-4). For the same sort of reason Paul does not shrink from the words like 'fool,' trusting as he does to the power of the things of which he speaks.
"Therefore, just as the cross, though considered ignominious, became the author of innumerable blessings, and the foundation and root of unspeakably great glory; so also that which was considered to be foolishness became for us the cause of wisdom. For as anyone who has learned anything poorly will acknowledge, unless he has put away the whole, and made his soul level and clear, and so offer it to him who is to write on it, he will know no wholesome truth for certain. This is also true about the external wisdom. Unless you entirely turn it out and sweep your mind clear, and like one who is ignorant yield up yourself to the faith, thou will know rightly nothing that is truly good. So also those also who see imperfectly, if they will not shut their eyes and commit themselves to others, but trust their own matters to their own faulty eyesight, will commit many more mistakes than those who do not see."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 10.2
Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all that He might bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our eyes may ever behold our Savior and His cross, that we may not fear the power of any adversary but rather rejoice in Your Son's victory for us; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all those who are groping for the truth, but only see the lies of the world. Help them to be blind to it and see only Your grace
For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord would continue to bless him with strength and courage as he undergoes chemotherapy
For Rita Baker, that the Lord would watch over both her body and soul
Art: CARAVAGGIO The Conversion of St. Paul c. 1600
© Scott R. Murray, 2015