There is a saying that goes “it is all how you look at it.”  I think there is wisdom in that old saying.  Everything we see and feel everything we hear and think depends on our perspective.  In our second lesson for today Paul is showing us the way that he looks at things.  Paul is suggesting that Christ’s cross should illuminate our lives and free us from having to look at and understand the world as we are told to see it or that it should be and instead see it as it is and how it can be.  A stumbling block is something that we repeatedly trip over.  It causes us to trip and fall and because we keep tripping over the same issue the cross shines light on the way we see the world so we can stop tripping.

What seems to be a stumbling block to the Jews is pure light and what seems to the gentiles to be foolishness is true wisdom.  Paul is not advocating knowing nothing, rather he is seeing his life’s experience through the lens of Jesus death on the cross.  Paul was a gifted and educated theologian who used his powers not to reinterpret Jesus in a way that would make him fit into the world as it is but rather to offer a different way of life, the gospel that was an accurate reflection of Jesus life and ministry.  He preaches to us saying, “let not your faith rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God..” 1c 2:5

Jewish faith was based on miracles and signs and fables.  Jesus consistently refused to give any signs when he was asked as in Mark 11:27-33

Jewish faith is a story of God’s activity in their history.  Everything that the people of Israel experienced was a sign from God of their special favor.  Setbacks were interpreted as punishment for sin that was designed to bring the nation back to God.  The whole of Jewish history is a series of signs from God that revealed his power.  This is Jewish faith.

This form of perceiving God’s favor easily leads to violence and talk of; “our God”, because it claims that God is on our side within the struggles of history.  This is the kind of faith that leads to holy wars and is very present in all three western religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It is exactly what Lincoln warned against when he said, that; “we had better hope that we are on God’s side rather than asking him to be on our side.”

Greek philosophy had a different way of finding the meaning of life.  Greek philosophy assumed that the divine was present inside people as wisdom and not through the events of history.  Reason is the divine presence in each of us and therefore the more rational we are the more meaning and power we can enjoy.  The love of wisdom, of systematic reasoning gave meaning to life and helps us to live a good life.

Both of those viewpoints are still pursued and they both believe that the cross is a manifestation of weakness, foolishness and failure.  The Jewish and Greek methods of seeing reality is mythic because when you use those methods you become blinded by the method and you cannot see what is there.  So they stumble over the cross and Jesus himself.  Paul reminds us that the cross occurred within history as the power and wisdom of God and that the cross is the condemnation of the way we have done religion and philosophy in the past.  The cross is a tool we use for deconstruction of the world’s accepted truths.

So how is the cross the power and wisdom of God?  Just how do we see power and wisdom when we avail ourselves of the light of the cross?  Since the crucifixion everything is changed.  The cross and Resurrection are the deepest disclosure of God’s way of operating.  The cross shows us that God is never violent or coercive, but non-violent and submissive.  Christ’s life is the very opposite of mighty acts of fanaticism that religion and philosophy have led us to.  The true God allows himself to be driven out of the world and onto a cross, rather than participating in an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth.  The son of God was the victim of the world’s justice. 

God’s mighty arm of victory is the love of Jesus unto death.  All the talk in the Old Testament of God’s mighty arm is decoded by the cross.  Our victory is the victory of God’s love.  Christ’s interpretation of the scriptures reverses their meaning.  Battle is not the clash of armies but the struggle of love against fear.

The wisdom of the cross is the wisdom of faith.  Look at the cross and you see something ugly and pathetic.  Faith lets us see through this horror to the matchless beauty of God and to see that the ugliness is all ours and not His.

Philosophy does not know the category of sin at all and religion regards all sin as somebody else’s acts that deserve to be punished.  Because of this failure to be responsible for our own actions these stumbling blocks continue to make us trip over and over again.  This happens because we do not let the light of Jesus Cross shine on us.  The things that cause us to stumble are the flaws, sin and defects in our own lives that we can’t face and instead project onto others.  Worse yet we are largely unaware that we are externalizing our own faults and projecting them on to others.

If we don’t face our own sin and scandals we will desperately and quite unconsciously project them onto public substitutes so that we can unburden ourselves.  Jesus cross exposes this faulty mechanism and at the same time makes it possible to escape this viscous cycle because of the forgiveness offered to us. We can face up to our own sin because Jesus begins his relationship with us with forgiveness.

It is both foolish and scandalous to deny that there is sin and to blame others for our own failures.  The cross of Christ is full of wisdom power and glory that sheds light on all our selfish ways of doing business.  The cross offers the forgiveness of sin and a new economy based on forgiveness.  For that reason the cross is the place where you and I will find the power and wisdom of God that allows us to truly see and to stop foolishly tripping over the same things over and over again.

 

1.   From where do we get our perspective or outlook on life?

2.  Because we believe things rather than know them can that prevent us from seeing and getting value from experiences and views that seem to be opposite from ours.

3.  How does Jesus death on the cross shed light on everything that we believe and think we know?