Of Fools and Foundations
The 7th Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ…. Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.
Have you been called a fool, yet? Do you think maybe you are a fool?
Who’s making the judgement? Your bank manager? Your guidance counsellor at school? If the foundation of the world around you is something like the Law of the Jungle, where only the strong and cunning survive, then any behavior which doesn’t further your cause or allow you to come out on top is going to be foolish. In such a world you need to just hunker down - educate yourself and your children in the skills necessary to maintaining your place in the world and avoid all unnecessary distraction.
St Paul would take issue with you as he did with members of the Church in Corinth. Christ, he says, has laid the only foundation upon which we can depend and upon which we must establish our lives. It’s not the Law of the Jungle either. The nature of thefoundation he lays down is expressed in his willing death for the world but the details of that law of life can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ sets out the foundation of a world with a curious shape. In his world those who give will receive, those who lose their lives will find it again and those who allow themselves to mourn will one day rejoice. Being wise in such a world requires a very different skill set from the one which many of our teachers and mentors felt it necessary to pass on to us. Being wise in such a world might require that we adults undergo a process of “unlearning” to become wise again or wise perhaps for the very first time.
The wise among us were oftentimes well-schooled by those who wanted to keep us safe. We inherit what our forebears learned the hard way in wars and Depressions and times of trouble. They’ve done their best for us but the Gospel is not merely the wisdom of the ages boiled down. To depart from the world’s wisdom and the comforting foundation it provides opens us up to the possibility of change, chaos and loss. Foolishness. It’s not something you’d do lightly. You would need to possess some spark of fearlessness. Fearlessness, in fact, is exactly what the Gospel message has on offer. We live out the Law of Love because we must but also because we can. Jesus’ sending out of his disciples into the world is predicated on the datum of his death and resurrection. Easter has made fearlessness a way of life. The Easter experience of the early church allowed them to live different lives from those of their fellow citizens in the Empire – standing tall and standing firm – but upon a very different hard surface.