One of our Lenten speakers, the Rev. Callie Plunket-Brewton, spoke to us about how God reveals God’s self to Moses in the burning bush. One of her comments has stuck with me ever since. Drawing our attention to the odd combination of God’s attributes, she mentioned that superheroes (like gods of the ancient world) rarely possess BOTH awesome powers and gentle kindness. That’s right, of course. How many comic book superheroes or ancient Mesopotamian gods do you know who are both super-strong and super-sweet?
If you were going to design a character who would save the world, whom would you pick? Superman comes to mind. He was fairly gentle. Or maybe I’d pick Batman, who has always been one of my favorites simply because he invents his own greatness—no super powers, just ingenious and hard-working. God, however, picked a man who was executed on a cross.
As Paul writes in our lesson from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, the cross is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The foolishness of the cross is a concept familiar to me because of Paul and what he writes in this passage, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really done it justice. Just how foolish is it? Well, I think part of the point is that our salvation doesn’t come in the form of a superhero saving us from a burning building or a sinking ship. Instead, our salvation comes through death—not as an escape from it. In other words, if you’re about to drown and you think that superhero Jesus is going to save you, that’s a good thing—but I hope you can hold your breath for a really long time because Jesus’ idea of salvation and our idea of salvation aren’t always the same thing.
The foolishness of the cross is supposed to be a challenge for us, too. It is a stumbling block to those of us who expect God to reveal his unabated power. And it is foolishness for those of us who think God will always save the day. God doesn’t work like that. And neither does our faith. God sent his son to be our savior by dying on the cross. That gift has saved us ultimately from the power of death. That means there is no limit to his saving power. But it also means that evidence of that salvation comes in less than glamorous ways.
We don’t worship a hero with a long red cape. We don’t bow down to a god whose power is expressed in terms of earthly might. Instead, we follow a teacher who showed us how to love, and we worship him as Lord.