We often hear it said that “seeing is believing,” but “believing
is seeing” can also be true. Our expectations and
beliefs shape what we see or perceive. Paul notes that the work
of God in Christ did not meet the expectations or beliefs of either
the Greeks or the Jews. Similarly, you and I risk missing the
wisdom and power of God at work because of our expectations.
Our experience shapes our expectations. The Jews, who
Paul says are looking for signs, are a people whose story is
replete with signs: manna, pillars of cloud and fire, a staff that
becomes a snake. The people observed many signs that they
cited as evidence of God’s presence. The same is true of wisdom.
While Paul mentions it as a preoccupation of the Greeks, we
also consider the wisdom of Deborah, Solomon, Daniel, or Jesus
as signs of God’s presence.
Signs and wisdom may indeed demonstrate God’s presence,
but seeking them may become “worldly”—relying on signs
rather than the movement of the Spirit, which they signify. We
must learn to tell the difference.
Godly wisdom and godly signs surprise and confound
normal worldly expectations. They are not restricted to the credentialed;
they don’t manifest at expected times and places; and
they often do not depend on sophistication and training. Think
about the lay preachers of early Methodism, the laypeople who
have served at the heart of the mission movement.
Paul cites the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the
greatest evidence of unexpected power and wisdom. Institutions
and credentials are all well and good, but we must also
steep ourselves in the “foolishness” of God and expect to see the
Spirit at work in new places.
Startle and shape me, O God, by the signs and the wisdom of the Spirit at work all around me. Amen.
The four texts for this Sunday join in warning the people of God that they should not be confused or intimidated by appearances or by how the larger society values this or that. A faithful hearing and responsiveness to the God of the Bible may not fare so well or look so good in terms of the world’s standards of judgment. But what is required and blessed is a community ordered according to the covenantal commitments, shaped by God’s gracious promises, and attuned to what Paul called the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God.
• Read Micah 6:1-8. When have you sensed God’s anguish over human injustice?
• Read Psalm 15. Where do you need to speak truth from the heart, do what is right, be without blame, or be reconciled?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. How have my limited expecta- tions of how God works caused me to miss God’s action in my life or the lives of others?
• Read Matthew 5:1-12. Which of the Beatitudes do you feel most blessed by? Which best describes your life of faith?
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