When I wrote Fidelia and the Pirates a few years ago, and then the Christmas Special last year, I made the main character a resident of Corinth largely because of this letter (also because it was a significant port city and the pirates had to be sailing somewhere--I'm a stickler for authenticity even when writing a goofy drama). During my year of internship, I wrote out a section of the first chapter on construction paper and posted it in my "office," an empty room with a desk that I rarely had any occasion to use, but that seemed to need a motto of some kind. And fresh out of three years at a big-headed divinity school at world-famous university, this was the passage I chose:
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? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
I've been thinking about this a lot, as I see Christianity in America becoming defined by issues and beliefs that I would consider at best secondary, more often irrelevant, and sometimes totally fraudulent. I've written about it in the Dallas Morning News. More than once! There is an enduring temptation to get beyond Jesus, to find our truth or our unity with each other in values or beliefs ("wisdom," in the language of Paul's day) that are not part of the essential proclamation of Christ crucified and risen.
So Paul has his work cut out for himself, writing then to Corinth and to us today. We'll hear about spiritual gifts and calling this week, about factions and leaders next week, and about the "foolishness of God" and the simple message of Christ crucified in the weeks that follow. I don't know how or where this will go, but I hope you'll join me for the journey.