BIBLE READING:  Matthew 5: 1-12



SERMON

If there is one thing that you and I and the rest of the world would like to avoid at all costs, it would be feelings of embarrassment, feelings that come when we look foolish to people.  Nobody likes to look foolish. In fact, while we are in school, from our first days in kindergarten, students will do almost anything to avoid being called “weird,” or “different,” or “foolish”.  Their attempt to not be foolish will affect how they dress, whom they talk to, whom they hang out with, where they go, what they think, and what they like.  They want to do things and say things and wear things that are cool, and avoid looking or acting like a fool.  Because nobody – absolutely nobody – wants to look foolish. 

 

But, young people are not the only ones who do everything in their power to keep from being foolish.  In the sophisticated world of adults, you and I also go to great lengths to avoid feeling foolish.  We intellectualize our feelings.  We rationalize our mistakes. We double-check and triple-check ourselves to make sure that we do not do something as foolish as locking the keys in the car or leaving the airline tickets on the dresser at home. Whether we are making a presentation in a business meeting, or reaching for an empty wallet in a posh restaurant, the one thing that we do not like is to be a fool. 

Maybe that’s why it is so difficult for us to be Christians.  Because being a fool is something that we try to avoid at all costs.  Yet, in order to be a Christian – not just a pew sitter or a church meeting attendee, but rather an obedient disciple of Jesus Christ – being an authentic follower of Christ means that every day we are called to be fools who follow a foolish God.  Being a faithful Christian means following a God whose power is revealed in the weakness of the cross, whose wisdom is proclaimed in the nonsense of Calvary’s rough wooden beams that bear the body of the Crucified Saviour.  Being a person of faith who trusts in God means that the world may look at you as nothing more than a fool following a foolish God. 

 

And in the Bible, we find a long list of faithful fools.  There’s Noah, obediently carrying out God’s instructions.  Building a huge ark.  Hammering and sawing away, constructing a floatable zoo. Noah is the laughingstock of the neighbourhood.  He’s actually expecting a flood, when there’s not a cloud in the sky and the weekend weather forecast don’t even call for rain.  What a fool he is! 

 

Abraham and Sarah are just as foolish.  Just when they have reached retirement age and could be getting their hands on their pensions, they decided to follow a foolish God to some unknown destination.  And to top it all off, when Sarah should have been volunteering at the local library or taking a well-deserved cruise on the Mediterranean, this foolish God has her knitting blue baby booties for an unplanned pregnancy!  No wonder she bellowed out a deep belly laugh when she heard about her due date! 

 

And other accounts of faithful fools and their foolish God abound in the pages of Scripture.  There’s Nehemiah, trying to fulfil his silly dream of rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem, being laughed at and ridiculed by Israel’s enemies.  And a young shepherd boy named David, who foolishly goes out with only a slingshot and some smooth stones to do battle against Goliath. 

 

And, of course, the weird and wacky antics of wild-eyed prophets were always solid evidence of God’s foolishness.  Jeremiah smashing pottery jars in the city square as a sign of impending destruction.  Crazy Jeremiah walking around the town with a heavy, wooden oxen yoke on his neck, just to dramatize God’s message.  Jeremiah buying a field as a symbol of hope when the enemy army was attacking the city.  Jeremiah, what a fool! 

 

And yet the biggest fool of all was from the town of Nazareth.  A fool if ever there was a fool.  Started his own company and picked out 12 of the worst, unskilled employees he could find.  And then, he would do such foolish things as attempt to feed a crowd of 5,000 people with a few fish.  Or, one day he told a group of mourners that a little girl that had just died was not really dead, but only sleeping.  And, of course, the people laughed at him.  Who wouldn’t?  What a foolish thing for him to say!  But the most foolish thing was his untimely death on a cross. 

 

For this Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, yet he did not prevent his own horrible and humiliating death.  What kind of Saviour can’t save himself?  What kind of King has a cross for a royal throne?  What kind of God is crucified?  How foolish!  And how utterly foolish we would have to be to follow such a God!  Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for us to be Christians.  We just don’t want to be fools in God’s cast of foolish followers.

Millard Fuller, was a successful businessman, and anything but foolish.  By the time he was 29 years old, he was worth millions of dollars.  His life should have been absolutely wonderful.  Except something was wrong.  Something was missing.  His marriage was on shaky ground.  His faith was not as strong and vibrant as he had hoped it would be.  He was obsessed with his business; workaholism was his addiction.  So Millard Fuller sold his portion of the business partnership, donated a significant amount of his profits to charity, and founded a Christian-based ministry with the goal of “eliminating poverty housing in the world.”  What a foolish dream inspired by a foolish God!  And yet, by using a strategy of volunteer labour, no-interest loans, and the sweat equity of future homeowners, Fuller’s dream has produced 175,000 Habitat for Humanity houses around the world, from Guatemala to Romania, from Tanzania to the Philippines. Today, every 26 minutes a new Habitat house is completed somewhere in the world, and nearly 1 million people world-wide will be sheltered in a Habitat house.   What a fool for Christ Millard Fuller truly is!

But you don’t have to give up a successful career or start a new ministry, in order to be a fool for the Kingdom of God.  Here today Church, there are people who have travelled quite dome distance, just to come here to worship God and to share in fellowship with Christian sisters and brothers.  How foolish of them to commute to church on a Sunday, to come here today to be part of the worshipping community of this church when they could stay home and rest from the stresses and strains of the week!  How utterly foolish the world must judge them to be!  Today, here in our midst, are Church Council members and Elders who come here for meetings during the week and will sometimes stay very late into the evening so that they can serve this community of faith.  How foolish of them to take their precious time that they could be using to relax or interact with their families!  What fools they are!

And yet, and yet, it is precisely when we are foolish enough to follow Jesus, foolish enough to imitate and emulate the Man of the Cross, to make sacrifices of love as he did, to follow what the world believes is the completely foolish will of God, as he did, that we are really, truly being the Church that Christ calls us to be.  For you see, the real danger that we Christians face is the temptation to not be fools for Christ. The danger is that we will play it safe, that we will not take risks for Christ’s sake that might make us look foolish. The danger is that we will begin to believe that following Christ’s example of self-sacrificing love that led him all the way to the cross is really a foolish way for us to live. 

 

And when you stop and think about it for a minute, you will have to agree that from a purely objective point of view, the Cross really is a symbol of death, defeat, and despair.  The Cross seems to be the ultimate symbol of losing, and Jesus appears to be the Ultimate Loser, in the eyes of the world.  But the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians and proclaims to us that the foolishness of God seen in the Cross of Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.  So, at some point, we need to take a long, hard look at the Cross of Jesus Christ and decide for ourselves what TRUTH is actually revealed in the Cross.  Is the Cross a symbol of weakness and foolishness, or does it reveal a Love so strong, a Wisdom so deep, and a Power so magnificent that it embodies a Truth that is greater than any truth that the world has ever heard.  What do you believe? 

Today and everyday, don’t be afraid to follow the One whom the world looks at as a colossal Fool, but we know is the Eternal Son of God. Don’t be afraid to go out into the world and live according to his values which some people believe are pure nonsense, but we believe those same principles and priorities are the power of God.  Go out into the world and join the cast of fools who have always followed the ways and the will of a foolish God.  With Noah and Abraham and crazy Jeremiah.  With meeting-weary Council members and Committee members who unselfishly give of their time and talent and energy to build Christ’s Church.  Go out and serve like a fool with Habitat for Humanity’s Millard Fuller and a belly-laughing Sarah, who still is amazed that’s she’s pregnant even as she is being wheeled into the delivery room..  Go out into the world and be fools for Christ’s sake and for his glory.  Amen and Amen.