Today’s Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
20Where 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? 21For 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. (NRSV)
I love the poetry in the phrase “in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom.”
A few ideas are in play in this reading: the first is that we cannot think our way to God, that God is not a puzzle to be worked on mentally and finally solved. In fact, such an approach is perhaps counterproductive — or to use Paul’s word, foolish. I am reminded of a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.: Truly wise people know that admitting ignorance is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness–and it provides an opportunity to travel together in the journey to new knowledge.
The second idea is that we are a part of, in that memorable phrase, an upside-down kingdom. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that the things that we think we know about how the world works–the things we are taught by society to value, the kinds of people we look to as leaders, the things we spend our time doing–are exactly the opposite of what God would have us value, who God would have us follow, and how God would have us spend our time. “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” Again and again, God forces us to realize that the things we think we know turn out not to be true: our Lord rides to glory, yes, but on a lowly donkey; he is a leader, yes, but through serving the least of us; he dies, yes, but in dying is born anew.
The third idea is that this inability to achieve knowledge of God through wisdom is in fact God’s plan at heart. God knows that we are foolish people, and instead of making wisdom the “key” to knowing God, God made it so that we would find God in and through our foolishness. That is a profoundly comforting idea, truly a sign of God’s love for us: we aren’t expected to be special, we are expected and welcome to be ourselves, foolishness and all.