March 9, 2012

March 9: It’s foolish to believe


By Ross Peterson-Veatch, Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning curriculum director and associate academic dean
SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Just after the pilot informed us that we had reached cruising altitude and that we could move about the cabin freely, I got to a page in my book that I had read hundreds of times before. On that page in Margaret Wheatley’s Turning to One Another there are two sentences that still jump right off the paper, even now, and grab me by the gut the same way today’s passage does. The first one is: “Determination, courage, genius and foolishness all appear simultaneously when we care deeply about something.” Isn’t “foolishness” the oddest word in that sentence? When we care deeply shouldn’t we be MORE serious than usual? Doesn’t our seriousness signal to everyone that we actually DO care? What’s that “foolishness” doing in there?

It’s foolish to believe, but it nurtures my hope.

By the time I get to the end of the paragraph I remember why foolishness is in there. Wheatley quotes Bernice Johnson Reagon recalling the things that got her friends killed during the civil rights movement, “Now I sit back and look at some of the things we did, and I say, ‘What in the world came over us?’ But death had nothing to do with it…” And when I read the final sentence of the quote it still gets me every time: “When you know what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s somebody else’s job to kill you.”

It’s foolish to believe, but it sustains my discipleship.

This week’s theme has been about “overturning the tables,” and as I meditate on the theme and on today’s passage I know why those two sentences still grab me … because it’s crazy to give up control, but it’s the only thing that will make room for God in our lives. The real foolishness is to seek our own security – whether it be short-term or long-term – believing that we can pull that off without God.

It’s foolish to believe, but it saves me.

I felt the person sitting in the seat beside me start to shift uncomfortably and realized I was laughing with delight, again – like I do every time I read: “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

SCRIPTURE: I Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 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? 21 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. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.



Comments (10)

  1. What a great reminder as we take on the big thing that God calls us too and we cannot walk away from.

    Rebecca March 9, 2012 |
  2. It’s funny that right now, I should read this thought about being foolish for something you care about, because just a few minutes ago, I was thinking of the part of the play Antigone where the title character says, “Leave me my foolish plan; I am not afraid of the consequences. If it brings death, it will not be the worst of deaths- death without honor.” Coincidence? Maybe, but I think not. I don’t even remember what made me think of this quotation, but it could be that something is stirring within me, encouraging me to break out of my comfort zone and be willing – no, eager – to be foolish for God.

    Elizabeth S.O. March 9, 2012 |
  3. Ross, Your devotional in an odd way reminded me of the lyrics of Dave Davies’ (The Kinks) song “Death of a Clown,” a sorrowful, lament of life devoid of clown-ery and circuses and other foolishness. If my hope, discipleship and salvation depend on a bit of foolishness — bring on the clowns!

    Jim Brenneman, GC President March 9, 2012 |
  4. Thanks, Ross. I appreciate in particular the reminder that giving up control is “the only thing that will make room for God in our lives.”

    Lisa Guedea Carreno March 9, 2012 |
  5. You include some expressions and phrases in this devotional that I will quote to my congregation on Sunday when talking about “wise foolishness.” I will give you credit, with my thanks!

    Elaine Kauffman March 9, 2012 |
  6. Quite right, Ross, the very word “faith” has undergone devaluation. It has lost its fire, its verve and voltage. Above all, it has lost its “folly” and has become too rational, too cold, a bland assent to theorems allied to formal, religious behaviour and narrow views. It has lost that vitality which encouraged Jesus by its simple extravagance. Real faith has a kind of wildness, an eccentric beat, which frightens cautious and concentric men. The God of the Christian of “little faith” is not the God of salvation but a donor of privileges. The man of little faith is thus motivated by a short-sighted security that easily turns to images and divination.
    Wishing you the austere joy of Lent.
    Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet March 9, 2012 |
  7. The sentences from Wheatley grab me by the guts as they do you. Equally grabbing to my guts is your way of framing this into the 1 Corinthians text.

    Joan March 10, 2012 |
  8. Thank you for emphasizing this powerful message of courage and foolishness. See also Dan Clendenin’s essay this week at Peace.

    Warren March 10, 2012 |
  9. Ross, the quote from Bernice Johnson Reagon is my favorite part of Margaret Wheatley’s essay, too, but I had to laugh out loud with my own delight at the image of you lauging unaware on the airplane. Ah, my friend, it has been too long since I got to work and laugh with you!
    Thank you for reminding us of the joyful, foolish, and liberating realities of being crucified with Christ.


    Susan Adams March 10, 2012 |
  10. Dear Ross, I was away for the weekend and just now read your devo from Fri. I tell you this because it is just another beautiful gift of God’s timing for all things. Also as I read your ministry/job title I had to smile.. I am at the grass roots stage of work on a wonderful God idea that sprang from a recent visit to Haiti… at this point many could say it is “foolish” but I loved all you had to say.. I know you were Jesus continued encouraging words to me about “his foolishness” woohoo! He is so wonderful! thanks. I’ll be looking up the writings from which you quoted! God Bless!

    Diana March 12, 2012 |