Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A
February 2, 2020
Lessons: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people understand that God’s ways are not the ways of the world. What seems foolish to many is truly wise and undeniably strong to those who follow the Christ.
Key Scriptures: For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. — 1 Corinthians 1:25
Most folks don’t take too kindly to being called a fool. After all, there’s a lot of baggage associated with that word, and the idea of dressing up in a colorful and motley get-up, including tights and a jester’s hat, to entertain a bunch of snot-drunk lords and ladies isn’t a popular job description these days. Perhaps, however, we would do well to revisit the notion of the fool and its relation to Christian calling and vocation.
Fools have been around for a long time. They entertained ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, and the Romans called them Balatrones, welcoming them to banquet tables of the wealthy and powerful. The word itself is derived from the Latin follis, meaning bag of wind, bellows, or something containing wind or breath. Paul was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, so he likely would have been familiar with the concept of fools. He uses this image and the notion of foolishness and wisdom to talk about Christ and the cross in his letter to the Corinthian church, saying “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).
After all, fools weren’t really foolish. They were actually quite wise, strategic, and valued by kings and other royals. Sure, they entertained and helped keep things light and cheery, but they also were trusted and evidently could deliver bad news to the king without fear of losing their silly heads. Not all fools were male, either. Henry VIII’s daughter Mary had as her childhood companion Jane Foole. Fools even went into battle with their monarchs, served as confidants, comforters, and political messengers. Want to learn more about the history and role of fools? Check out this article and learn how William the Conqueror’s fool, Taillefer, and his bravery quite literally changed the course of history at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
So what does it mean to be a fool for Christ? It could mean living like the late Ken Feit, who called himself an itinerant fool for Christ. Ken was a Jesuit seminarian who eventually left the Jesuits to become a vocational fool. He trained at clown school, learned pantomime and sign language, and studied storytelling with Native American and African storytellers. He traveled the world sharing, or “making” (as he would say), stories. This twentieth century fool said, “I am interested in the fool as an agent of spirituality. Unless we become as fools, we cannot really be wise.” You can read more about him here and here.
What would it look like for us to become more like holy fools for Christ? Just check out what God says in this week’s lesson from Micah, how the Psalmist sings, and what Jesus teaches in the lesson from Matthew’s gospel. To the majority of the world these teachings may seem foolish, or perhaps merely irrelevant. For followers of Christ these teachings are wise and too be woven into the fabric of our lives. What do we need to release to be a holy fool? What do we need to change? What if all of us took some baby steps toward foolishness?
Granted, clown school isn’t for everyone, but the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people. Here’s to more Holy Fools in the Body of Christ! After all, no one should die from a case of terminal seriousness.
Do you have storytellers in your congregation? Artists? Jugglers? Singer/songwriters? How about bringing a little holy foolishness to worship this Sunday? If you’re concerned about writing original content check out Foolish Wisdom: Stories, Activities, and Reflections from Ken Feit, I.F. (Itinerant Fool) by Joseph Martin. Here’s one of Ken Feit’s brief stories to whet your appetite for some foolishness:
One of the wonders of life is a bubble. It is born from human breath like a story. There’s so much color alive inside each bubble. Each one is a window, a magic magnifying glass. No two bubbles are like. Some spin while others are still. Some linger and have babies before your eyes while other crash madly against walls and sidewalks. A bubble’s life may seem short but it never really dies. Like music or incense, a bubble blends with the rest of the world.
Imagine what fun you could have passing out bubbles to members of the congregation while telling this story!
Is Micah 6:8 more than a t-shirt slogan today? We can certainly hope so, although the non-profit Happy Givers have quite a nice line of Micah 6:8 items. Seriously, how do we live in relationship with God as God desires and simultaneously live in the world? Invite conversation about what it means to “…do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” How do we do that in 21stcentury contexts? What might be examples of people living out this kind of life? You might cite The Simple Way community in Philadelphia and Catholic Worker communities in varied cities to get the conversation started.
This week’s focus verse is 1 Corinthians 1:26. “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
Share the focus verse and these or similar words:
I have good news for you today! Did you hear that verse we just read from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the congregation in Corinth? That is SUCH good news! I am SO excited. Do you know why?
I am excited because I don’t have to be wise or powerful or royal for God to want to be in relationship with me. I don’t have to have fancy degrees or a lot of money to share the good news of Jesus! And neither do you. Neither do any of us gathered here. God works from the ground level up. All of us are invited to be part of the kindom, to work of justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. Did you hear that last bit? It’s how God tells the people what relationship and community are supposed to look like.
Yes, the good news is that God has given each one of us gifts and talents that can be used to share God’s love with everybody. We don’t have to be rich, special, or anything but who we’ve been created to be. Every ordinary body is special in God’s eyes. Please pray with me.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you for loving us (thank you for loving us) and calling everybody (and calling everybody), every ordinary body (every ordinary body), to share our gifts and talents (to share our gifts and talents) in the name of Jesus (in the name of Jesus) with everybody we meet. (with everybody we meet) Amen. (Amen.)
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
As stewards of the gospel we are called to be holy fools and truth tellers in Jesus’ name. How will you be a fool for Christ this week?
Stewardship at Home
This week consider watching a movie that reflects what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. One good one is Chocolat. This is the story of an unconventional woman who comes to a small town in France to open a chocolate shop (during Lent, no less). Be sure to look for the Pere Henri’s Easter sermon, particularly when he says:“I want to talk about Christ’s humanity, I mean how he lived his life on earth: his kindness, his tolerance. We must measure our goodness, not by what we don’t do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist, or who we exclude. Instead, we should measure ourselves by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”
Looking for a movie that multiple generations can enjoy? Try Remember the Titans. Not only is the film still timely, but it points out how leading with love is always the best path to take.
2017 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2017/01/we-are-called/
2014 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2014/01/consider-your-own-call/
2011 Reflection: http://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2011/01/god’s-love-language/
Images: Susan Murtaugh; Maxi Manterola; and spaceaemoba, Creative Commons usage license. Thanks!
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