When was the last time you were a fool for Christ? When was the last time that you turned the other cheek, Forgave an enemy, offered someone your coat off your back, gave away a tenth of your income, or really trusted your life in somebody else’s hands. These are foolish behaviors by the world’s standards. We are taught to stand up for ourselves when somebody bullies us. We are not supposed to forgive those who do us wrong. We only donate our rejected clothes, not the good stuff. We shouldn’t be tithing, especially in these financial markets. But that’s what Christians do. We make fools of ourselves in the name of Christ.
A lot of our beliefs are foolish by the world’s standards. We remember an executed man as the crucified God. We believe that he was born of virgin, walked on water, multiplied loaves and fish, healed the sick, cured the lame, and gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. We claim that after his body was tortured and killed by the most awful of punishments, he was raised and lives in our hearts and in the heart of God. That’s what we say we believe. That’s what we proclaim in our worship. That’s what we remember each and every time we gather together as the Church – the beloved Body of Christ. In making ourselves foolish by the world’s standards, we begin to understand the wisdom that has been hidden from the traditionally “wise and intelligent” and instead “revealed to infants.” (Matthew 11.25)
St. Paul was correct in his observation: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18) In the book We Preach Christ Crucified, Kenneth Leech, a British priest to whom I am indebted for much of my understanding about the theology of the cross, reminds us that “the entire life of Jesus was an act of folly.”
Tonight we remember and honor one of the greatest fools for Christ: St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was a 12th century man who rejected the world’s standard and followed in the radical prophetic foolish way of Jesus. Francis, a once-wealthy man who gave it all up and took on the foolish but life-giving mantle of Christ, reminds us that divine folly might help us get out of the mess that so-called human wisdom and greed created.
If Francis could speak to us today, I think he might suggest that it will take the foolishness of Christ to recover an economy run asunder by human greed, mend nations broken by human fear, heal an earth damaged by human abuse, and unite a church divided by human misunderstanding. Right now, I’m betting on it, but who am I – another fool for Christ.
Listen to my entire sermon:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Do you believe these words we say every Sunday? It’s easy to believe Christ has died. We have historical proof that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Christ is risen: that’s a little more difficult. It calls for faith in the resurrection, but we see signs and symbols of new life emerging out of death all around us. Christ will come again: now that’s a tough proposition.
I believe Christ will come again. In fact, I believe the Risen Christ makes shadow appearances all the time. We just don’t realize it.
Here at Trinity Cathedral, I see glimpses of Risen Christ on a regular basis. He shows up in the faces and hands of our children at the altar. She appears on the food line in A Place at the Table. He prays in our chapel. She sometimes even walks the Labyrinth. I am usually caught off-guard by Christ’s appearance, but in the end, often in the after-thought, I realize that the Risen One has been here.
The real question for me is not so much a theological proposition about Christ. Rather, it’s a challenge and invitation to us in our daily lives. When Christ comes, what our Lord find in the vineyard we’ve been left us to tend?
Today’s scripture readings are about our vineyard. They are complicated and challenging texts for complicated and challenging times. Read the rest of this entry »