Sunday, January 30, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - “Epiphanies in Evangelism: A Foolish Thing”

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, January 30, 2011

(Standing in center aisle halfway back)
I’m surrounded by fools! I’m surrounded by fools! That’s right, I’m calling you fools, all of you. All of you are fools. Fools. Fools. Fools.

And if that makes you fools, then I’m a fool, too. I’m the foolish pastor leading a group of fools. Fools. Fools. Fools.

(Returning to the chancel).
And why are we fools? Because we believe in the incredibly ridiculous idea that our Savior, our God was killed on a cross, killed in most horrible way, and that that death, that death saves us. That this Savior rose again from the dead and brought victory over death for all people.

You’re fools for believing in Jesus, believing that Jesus died on the cross and rose again, you’re fools for believing that Jesus gives us salvation.

It’s really a foolish idea when you compare it to the expectations of the people around us. It’s really hard to believe when you think about what seems wise and strong, what seems right and good.

Which means when we go out to share our faith with other people we have to realize we should a bit foolish, that there’s a shock in the message, there’s something that won’t compute right away, that this isn’t what people expect to hear when they think about approaching God.

• You see, according to the “real” world, this Jesus Christ thing doesn’t make sense at all
• William Willimon—a preacher and writer—said one of the dangers we run into is when we start to think Christianity makes sense (read article)
• We forget how absurd it sounds, how strange

For instance, when most people think about approaching God, they’re kind of wondering how they’re going to get right with God, what they need to do to get closer to God, what steps they’ve got to take to be with God.

And then we fools come along and tell them that God doesn’t work that way, that God comes to them, that God comes to them through Jesus, that even if they’ve tried to get away from God that He keeps coming to find them.

It sounds foolish that God would leave His throne to come and find us. It sounds foolish to think that there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves so God figured out a way to save us through His actions. It sounds foolish, backwards, shocking, not at all what people would expect.

This foolishness, the fact that the Gospel is a foolish thing, well, that’s always made me feel like it isn’t worth trying to prove that the Gospel is true. I’m not saying there’s never a place to explain why we think the Gospel is true and other religions aren’t, but I’m not sure if that’s what many non-Christians in this generation are looking for. I don’t know that they’re looking for us to prove the truth of Christianity as much as they want to see the truth of Christ, see the truth in our lives, see how that truth affects us.

Do you know what I mean? It isn’t as important to people whether we can prove the Bible is right about God creating the world; that’s not the first question. The first question is whether the truth of Christ has affected our lives, how it has shaped us, how it has given us hope, how it has led us to make different decisions in our lives.

So what’s that mean for your conversations with friends who are non-Christians? What’s that mean about talking to people about Jesus? It means that you don’t have to feel the pressure to prove that Jesus is the truth. That’s not necessarily the first place to start. It’s seen as foolishness, so instead of trying to get people to stop thinking it’s foolish, simply agree with them. Agree with them and then tell your story.

Say: “I know it seems crazy, but I believe in Jesus. I believe that He lived, died, and rose again. I believe that His death means that I can have life after death. I know most people don’t believe in this, but for whatever reason, I believe. I believe that God came looking for me, keeps looking for me when I run away from Him, will come and find me and take me to life after death. I believe in what Jesus said and taught. I believe even though it seems foolish.”

What’s the danger in talking like this? (Solicit answers).
(It might mean people continue thinking we’re fools).

What’s the good thing about talking like this? (Solicit answers).
(It helps avoid a debate. This is the truth you have found).

When we’re trying to prove the truth of God, what sin are we in danger of committing? (Solicit answers).
(Thinking we can make God fit into our world).

How does our view of God change by admitting it sounds like foolishness according to the world’s standards? (Solicit answers).
(God may sound incredibly ridiculous, but that’s because He’s beyond anything we could think or imagine).

• Embrace being a fool
• Embrace the foolishness
• Rejoice in incredibly foolish thing that God has done

• And as you share your faith, you’re calling people to believe in something completely out of this world
• You’re calling people to a truth that has changed you
• You’re not proving the faith by debate and argument
• You’re showing how this truth has affected you