Thursday of Lent III – I Corinthians 1:18-31 

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 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? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

My mother was decidedly against boasting. Too much self-promotion at her breakfast table could get you cut down to size before too long. She along with her mother had a phrase for those whose boasting got the better of them: “She (or he) has a mouth in front of her face!” I never quite knew what that meant literally. After all, we all have mouths in the front of our faces, but I could tell from the way it was said, this is not a good thing. That person is talking too much about themselves.

In the Roman world, however, boasting was not considered such a vice. I think of it more like a resume or what professors like to call a curriculum vitae. Even a business card is a boast of sorts. This is my business, my title, my position, my work. Many who pick up an ancient document like Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” are put off by his obvious self-promotion. But the Romans thought this was simply a good idea. They lived in an extremely competitive world and this sort of boast was part of the competition. They could not imagine life without it.

Paul turns this and the rest of the world on its head for them and for us. Our boast is in someone else, specifically Jesus. Sin has turned our attention inward. We are all born imagining that the universe revolves around my navel. Paul re-orients us entirely. The world revolves around someone else. Our boast is in Christ. The world thinks this is foolishness. Make no mistake about that. But God’s foolishness is greater than man’s wisdom. Make no mistake about that either. As we contemplate the cross, Jesus, and life in this Lententide, it is good to remember that we are each in our orbits around Christ, attracted to him, enlightened by that sun, and cast into darkness when we turn from him. All the good comes from him and goes back to him.

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