the cross

If I had the time this week, I think I would have preached the 1st Corinthians lesson for Sunday.  We’ve got a good crew of Lutherans who worship with us on Sunday mornings and I feel like a good sermon on Luther’s Theology of the Cross would be perfect for Lent 3, Year B.

I say “if I had time,” because that sort of sermon doesn’t happen very quickly.  It starts out as an exegesis paper, then it develops into a systematic theology and then, somewhere about 5am on Sunday, a sermon is born.  I just don’t have that in me this week.

But I do want to spend sometime today thinking about that opening line, chapter 1, verse 18.

“The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

What strikes me is the tense of the two verbs.

  • Are perishing – verb participle present middle or passive dative masculine plural
  • are being saved – verb participle present passive dative masculine plural

Both are ongoing.  One, those who are perishing, are doing it of their own volition.  The other, those who are being saved, are being helped by some outside force.  It would be easy to just draw a line of those who are in and those who are out, but Paul doesn’t allow us to do that here.  Instead, the situation is very fluid.  Some who were being saved might now be perishing.  Some who were perishing, are in this moment being saved.  And some, maybe most, possible all find both within themselves at any given moment (think Mark 9:24, the man whose son the disciples have failed to save, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”)

The cross very much is foolishness, or to borrow from last week, the cross is shameful.

But the cross is also the power of God, or to borrow from John, the Temple will be rebuilt.

Thanks be to God, I don’t have to figure it all out; faith like a child is all that is required.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.


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