The "foolishness" of god
Our closing hymn this past Sunday was a selection from the new hymnal, entitled “Not by the Wisdom of This World,” set to the hymn tune, JERUSALEM. I fell in love with this hymn tune after hearing it sung at Reagan’s funeral. Even though we are, especially at the moment, not equipped like a cathedral--complete with mighty pipe organ and vaulted ceilings--the expansive composition itself speaks to my heart. Through the expansive range and texture, God’s grandeur, strength, and ultimate glory are replicated musically. The momentary dip to a lower tessitura and color change to a neighboring minor key climbs out to a glorious return to the original tonality. As David explained in his sermon, returning to The Source is what our Lord asks of us, and the source of our hope. Joel 2:13b says, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Music has a marvelously visceral way of helping us experience this truth.
I have a friend in the congregation who has two particularly bright daughters—no surprise, as she and her husband are erudite, accomplished, and keenly intellectual. The little four year old took issue with part of verse 1 in this hymn, where it references the coming of the kingdom of the Father as coming through the “foolishness of God.” If I understood correctly, she refused to sing it. (Speaking of hope for the future—wow!). I was tickled and impressed.
This disconcerting language comes from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (emphasis mine). Paul writes:
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[b] 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 doctoral studies have been engaging, motivating, and challenging. It is clear that, now as ever, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. My prayer for each of you this week is that our seeking, saving Lord equips you with His armor, and that through the joys and challenges of your week, you may rest comfortably, perhaps misunderstood by some, but wrapped in the love, protection, and wisdom of God.
Director of Music and Worship, Christ the King Church Parish