sermon podcast: Epiphany 322 Jan 2020 By Alison Maddocks
Alison Maddocks: Diocesan Stewardship Officer, 26 January 2020
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Some years ago, whilst I was still working in the commercial world, I was fortunate enough to hear a rather inspirational speaker. His name was Paul Birch and he worked for British Airways.
Having worked for the company for about 17 years and having tried to leave several times, only to have been offered a new job attractive enough to get him to stay, he decided that it really was time he left to do something new. He was determined that nothing was going to change his mind this time. His boss however had different ideas and asked him – what would it take to get you to stay?
Paul went home to think about it.Still intending to leave, he came up with an idea that he took back to his boss the next day. He said “I want to be the ‘corporate jester’”! Expecting his boss to laugh and show him the door, he was surprised to find himself in detailed conversation about the role and even more surprised to then find himself, flying all over the world, playing the fool!
Based on the fool in Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’, his job was
- to question authority,
- promote honesty, and
- approach problems in creative ways.
Today, in our New Testament reading we are told that we too are to be seen as fools, fools who have accepted the message of the cross.
The fool, or court jester, that Paul (Birch not saint) took as the inspiration for his job, was anything but a fool. The fool would entertain the great and the good at the king’s court and in other great houses by poking fun at people there and their lives.A dangerous game
The fun was to be found in spotting truth and exaggerating and exposing it. The skilled jester could say things to the king and court that nobody else would dare to say.They held a mirror to those in power and showed them how they appeared to others.
So what does it mean to be a fool for Christ?
Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, where all sorts of misguided divisions and arguments are breaking out says that his job is preaching and that he is not expected to do that with ‘eloquent wisdom’ because if he did that he would get in the way of the power of the cross.
Paul is ridiculing the Corinthian church, mocking them in saying “are you really saying I’m for Apollos, or for Paul or I’m for Cephas or I’m for Christ?”
Paul holds up the mirror and shows them their faults.
The message of the cross is simple and powerful.
The message of the cross is that God loves us, in our brokenness, in the messiness, in the mistakes, in our misguidedness.
The message of the cross is that God’s love is enough and we don’t need to back any other horse just in case.
What does it look like when we play the fool for God?
It looks like us doing mad things, like helping our neighbour who has come out of hospital even though we don’t have any obligation to do so. Like leaving the doors of our churches unlocked, even though people might choose to abuse the privilege.
It looks like giving our time and our gifts to the foodbank, because their clients need to experience some good news, or being willing to say that ‘yes’ we really do believe in God even though there is no ‘proof’ and even our closest friends and family want to call us mad.
MAD M,A,D just happens to stand for Ministry and Discipleship. Caring for others, putting the needs of others before our own, we are all Ministers. Discipleship, letting our belief in, and commitment to Jesus make a real and everyday difference to our life choices it’s who we are.
When we look at the world through the lens of the cross whose only weapon is love, whose manifesto is healing and life in the midst of death, it might indeed make us look misguided and powerless and yet we know ourselves to be ultimately guided and utterly empowered.God grant us the courage to live like that.
- How have you known God’s guidance in your life in ways that might have looked to others like foolishness?
- When have you done something empowered by God that you know you wouldn’t have done in your own strength?