30 January 2011
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Epiphany 4C (RCL)
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
These lessons all fit together, which is unusual in ordinary time. In Micah, God is entering a lawsuit with God’s people, and calls the moutains and hills to serve as the jury. God reminds them of all that God has done for them, in shorthand. Interesting that the prophet chooses the story of Balak and Balaam. Balak hired Balaam to curse the Hebrews, but Balaam ended up blessing them. Will the curses contained in this book end up as blessing? The people respond, “Well, what do you want from us?” and then comes the lovely expression: Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
In Corinthians, Paul is contending with the Church in Corinth. They have wanted something more or different from church membership than they are getting. They wanted association with great people (Paul, Apollos, Cephas), they wanted signs (the Jewish Christians) or wisdom (the Greek Christians), and instead they get the foolishness of the proclamation of an executed messiah. But God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. The crucified messiah is the only way to make the two one, to create a new humanity in place of the old. When we want greatness, power, wealth, status, we need Paul’s reminder.
The beatitudes point to a new society, in which different sorts of people receive honor. “How honorable the poor in spirit,” would be a good translation. Not the kind of panygeric we were expecting. How do we begin to live in such a society? How do we begin to discover what sorts of people God is hanging out with? It has to be foolishness.