Monday, 2 November 2009

True power and true wisdom

WYMONDHAM COLLEGE FOUNDERS DAY

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

What would you like to build your life on?

Money: have the wealth of a Bill Gates
Fame: have the celebrity of a Danny Minogue
Brain power: be as clever as a Stephen Hawkins
Political power: have the authority of a Barack Obama
Physical ability: run like a Usain Bolt

Or would you prefer to build your life on Jesus Christ, who got himself crucified.

It is obvious. You choose anyone but him.

They are successes in life
He is a failure

Perhaps you might say that he has not done that badly. We are here 2000 years later and someone is talking about him.
But in life he was poor, homeless, shamed, tortured and executed. He was the victim.

And not only that. He said that if anyone wished to follow him, they had to deny themselves, and to be prepared to be crucified for him.

The choice for us is whether we live our lives for power and wealth. Watched the X factor a couple of Saturdays ago, when the contestants went to the judges houses. There was a castle in Tuscany, luxury house in Hollywood and the hotel in Dubai. Do you want that or this?

And parents would be outraged if a school started to say to its pupils, we do not wish you to aspire to become like him (Obama), but to become like him.

And yet, our bible reading says that this is the ultimate demonstration of the wisdom of God and of the power of God.

The bible says that if we wish to build our lives on the most solid foundation, we need to build our lives by putting our trust in one who was crucified.

Paul writes, ‘We preach Christ crucified, .. Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:22)

So why – on earth – should we build our lives on one who was crucified?


1. THE CROSS SHOWS US THE WISDOM OF GOD

This is the way that God chooses to rescue human beings.

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, and the problem is that we focus on knowledge and we forget wisdom.

It was the mantra of certain religious groups: if you knew the secret knowledge you can be saved or save yourself.
It is the creed of society: The answer is ‘education, education, education’. You can save yourself through knowledge.

And of course education is vital. It really can transform lives; it can open doors; it can bring about social mobility; it can enable people to imagine new worlds.

But we cannot turn education or knowledge into god.

There are two kinds of learning:
There is a learning that leads to arrogance: which says, ‘We are masters of the universe. We can work it out’.

There is a learning that leads to wonder and humility: this world is bigger and far more amazing than I can possibly imagine.
And it leads us to the recognition that we are not masters of the universe: that if we can control 0.1% of natural forces, 99.9% of them are far far beyond us. It leads us to the recognition that we need God.

And it is that recognition which is the beginning of true wisdom.

And the wisdom of God invites us to put our ultimate trust – not in particular knowledge and not in a system of education – but in a person who hung on a cross.

And we trust the one who died on the cross:
Because his death on the cross shows that he loves us.

We die for what we believe is precious. People give their lives for what they think is important: a reputation, a career, a sport, a nation. A mother or father will give their life for their child.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, chose to give his life for us, to die for you and for me

Because this is the way God has chosen to defeat sin and death.
This is the way that God has chosen to rescue us from the self-centred pride that divides us from other people, the jealousy that eats us up, the unforgiveness that twists us up, the fears and monsters who paralyse us, the sense of meaninglessness that stupefies us, the sin and rebellion that separates us from God, and from death which makes everything ultimately futile.

God chose to do it, not simply by sending his son into this world to be superman.

That is what we ask for: we say, ‘If God exists, why doesn’t he intervene and sort the world out’. But God chooses to do it by sending his Son to live among us and to die for us.

We cannot fully understand it. We do not need to understand it. We simply need to put our trust in the one who died for us.

It means that you are not going to be saved, you are not going to sort your life out, by right answers, by being clever or physically strong or rich or famous. You are not going to be saved by winning cups or trophies.

You are saved when you put your trust in someone who loved you enough to die for you.

This is good news. It is good news for people who win the prizes, because it says to them: ‘You don’t have to go on winning the prizes’. And it is good news for those of us who never win the prizes or become prefects or whatever: because it says, ‘It’s OK. You are beloved’.

God’s wisdom is this: however big you are, however little; however important or unimportant we think we are; however right or however wrong; however good, however bad; however much other people tell you that you are a success or tell you that you are a failure (I took the funeral of an elderly lady, called Miss Bishop. She had carried a memory with her for 90 years. Her mother had died, and father couldn’t cope with the children. So as a 6 year old girl on an August bank holiday she walked down the road to her grandmothers, with a baby in a trolley. She was lame in one leg. The grandmother said, ‘Oh I’ll have the baby. I won’t have her. She’s disabled. She won’t be any use’). It doesn’t matter what they say about you. Jesus died for you.

And God’s wisdom is that however much we mess up our lives; however deep the pit we find ourselves in; however dark it all is – we can put our trust in the one who did not mess up, but who went deeper and darker than anything we can face, because he loved us.

And he didn’t save us by zapping our enemies, and making life comfortable for us. He didn’t save us by teaching us a body of knowledge and then examining us in it. He saved us by identifying himself with us, by meeting with us, by coming alongside us and walking with us.

2. BUT THE CROSS ALSO SHOWS US THE POWER OF GOD

Jesus hanging on the Cross destroys sin and defeats death.

There are two kinds of cross that you can see.

One has Jesus on the Cross (crucifix): it tells me of the power of God because there was nothing that could stop Jesus going to the cross. He went there in obedience to God his Father and in love for human beings. Evil, Satan, Temptation, Circumstances tried to stop him, tried to make him turn back and disobey his Father God. They couldn’t.

The other is an empty Cross: that tells me of the victory that Jesus won on the Cross. If there was no power on earth that could stop Jesus going to the cross, this tells me that there was no power on earth that could keep Jesus on the Cross.

He rose from the dead.

And the death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest power moment in the history of the creation.



If scientists are right, the old creation (this world and this universe) began in a moment of unbelievable power: a single blinding moment, which we call the big bang. But it became a creation that was ruled by sin and death.

But the new creation, God’s new world, also began in a moment of equally unbelievable power: when the Son of God gave his life for us and died for us on the cross.

And when a man, woman, girl, boy chooses to listen to Jesus, to live in the way he wants for us – even if it is to live in a way that we would not choose to do – ‘to die’ to ourselves and to live for him - we are born into this new creation, this new world. We become new people. And even though we continue to live in this world and we will die in this world – the person who is a new creation will have a life that not even death can destroy.

And when that happens we are building our lives on the most solid foundation that there is – that will stand firm in the face of success or failure; fame or shame; acceptance or rejection, tragedy or joy; life or death.

So yes, please do aspire to use your gifts and maybe you could become a future Hawkins, Bolt, Obama (Thatcher, Brown, Cameron). It would be great if future generations say of you: ‘She was at Wymondham college’. But do not let that desire ever control you. Do not let it control who you think you are, your values or what you think is your ultimate purpose.

Instead, may I urge each one of us to build our life by putting our trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who loves us, and who gave his life for us.

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