Micah 6:1-8 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." So writes St Paul to the Corinthians in this week’s Epistle. Ever mindful of his double identity as Jew and Christian, he is quoting Isaiah, and immediately applying it to Jesus. In the Cross, he says, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise”.
It is easy to give assent to this message, without actually acting upon it to any significant extent. Everyday Christians ‘boast’ of the Cross, but then do not let it much affect the conventional values by which they run their lives, still less overturn them. Personal happiness, professional success, material prosperity, social position, and perhaps political office, are the things around which our lives are built.
In the Gospel passage for this Sunday, though, Jesus sets out as plainly as possible, the alternative values that Paul is referring to. In what are known as ‘the Beatitudes’, he lists the kinds of life that we ought to rejoice in. The problem is, they don’t seem to bear much resemblance to the things we normally seek. The “blessed”, he tells us, include people who are reviled, slandered, persecuted, and do not have the guts to stand up for themselves. This seems like a drastic rejection of the ways in which we naturally hope to raise our children. Can we believe it?
What is at issue here is the nature of a truly redeemed life, a life in which the grace of God has swept away everything mean, grubby and self-serving. At the center lies “purity of heart”. Professional failure, material poverty and social ridicule are truly powerless against those who possess this purity of heart, because they can “see God” and nothing can compare with that. It is worth remembering that wealth, fame and success aren’t necessarily incompatible with purity of heart. Yet as so many novels and movies reveal, they do tend to militate against it. These are the weeds that choke the wheat, very often. When they threaten to do this, our faith is truly put to the test, because at that point discipleship calls us to endorse a way of life that will inevitably strike wise and sensible people as foolishness.
Sermon on the Mount by Laura James http://www.laurajamesart.com/ by kind premission of the artist