Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis
This Week at Plymouth, August 25
“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
The first time I saw homeless people was during my first year in college when I moved to Washington, DC. In my naivete and faith in the world’s wisdom, I had definite, negative opinions about “those” people. However, I experienced a transformation when a young Muslim man told me that if I wanted to know what was happening, I would do well to talk to the homeless people willing to speak to me. And what an education I got when I took his advice. What enduring wisdom I received about faith, hope, and generosity, not to mention their unique view of the world from the margins.
Look around the world to survey religion and its place and influence, looking at its power and the number of adherents scattered across the globe. It would be fair to conclude that Christianity has triumphed. That by no means is to suggest that no poor, persecuted, and martyred Christians are suffering under oppressive regimes. It is, however, to assert that, if one knew nothing about the origins of this faith, judged by the standard of the world’s wisdom, it would be shocking to discover that the One in whose name we gather was a convicted criminal who was executed using the most degrading punishment the Roman regime had at its disposal: crucifixion on a cross. A faith that boasts in its claim of wealth, popes, presidents, empires, and grand temples and cathedrals traces its theological foundation to the scandal of the cross.
Which raises the question, how did Christianity become so respectable? How did this religion, which found God’s revelation in death on the cross, become the religion of the empire? God revealed God’s self decisively as a peasant rabbi in an occupied backwater town and region in first-century Palestine. God manifested God’s self within someone so low and despised that he was executed at the hands of a merciless imperial criminal justice system. What would our witness look like if we reclaimed a view of the world from the margins? Human wisdom cannot always rightly judge or measure what matters most to God alone. I found that out from a man who lived on the streets. Human wisdom tells us that what we know, what we possess, and our access to what is honorable and respectable are what make us worthy of being chosen. The shame and scandal of the cross is that it disrupts that way of organizing the world, making it clear that our human categories and hierarchies don’t matter to God. Perhaps, if we remember that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom or God’s weakness is stronger than human wisdom, we would boast in all the foolish, unexpected, scandalous ways God continues to love us all.