Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Sermon

Not that I'd ever preach one (the poor congregation - I'd feel so bad for them that they had to listen to me, that I just wouldn't be able to continue), but if I did, it'd go something like this.

I was, through one of those circuitous routes by which the Lord works (in this case, Lady Gaga and her critics), thinking of what it means to be a "holy fool." And I remembered lecturing on one of the relevant passages last week (1 Cor 1:18-24):

"For the message about 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, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Christ was the ultimate "holy fool." He did profoundly foolish things, by earthly standards: preach to those who wouldn't listen, feed and heal those who could not repay him, suffer and die for those who didn't ask for or deserve or appreciate or even know about such sacrifice, forgive those who tortured and killed him. And He did all this when there was no advantage to himself - unlike a "regular" human martyr, his eternal bliss was already assured and could in no way be increased (or decreased, or altered) by what he did. That's the very definition of a sucker - doing hard, painful stuff that he didn't have to do, with no benefit to himself. And for those of us who feel truly grateful for that act (and who don't just mouth the words), what can we do but try also to live according to such "foolishness," if we claim to follow this man? And how often do we fail to do so, and fall back on the "wisdom" we're immersed in from birth: look out for #1, be careful, don't be too trusting, God helps those who help themselves, nice guys finish last, etc., etc., et fucking cetera.

But, what sometimes gives me hope, for myself and others, is that no one lives according to earthly "wisdom" all the time, because all of us feel real love, however fleeting or imperfect it is each time. Every one of us puts the interests of another ahead of our own and gives everything we have, does everything we can, for another person - be that a lover or parent or child or student or friend. Again, we fall back into our bad habits often and painfully, but we have these glimpses of life-giving, life-changing "foolishness." All of us have these, and often enough that we need never lose hope for ourselves or our species.

So that's my hope for everyone, because everyone can be a fool in this good sense and needn't follow that one particular practitioner of it, Jesus of Nazareth, or believe anything I or anyone else claims about Him: may you know the limits of earthly "wisdom" and reject its false promises of comfort and fulfillment, and instead feel foolish as often as you can.


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