In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians there are some amazing pieces of rhetoric that reflects deep thought and understanding. In his hymn to the cross, Paul uses an understanding of both the Jewish faith and the Greek funeral oratory system of his era. In linking them within this passage he cuts through the ties of ethnicity that create division and seeks to build a magnificent edifice on the weakest foundation of the world at that time, a man crucified on a cross. In our day to day misunderstandings and our fears can we like Paul and the Corinthians lay our differences aside and start to build? The foundation, just as in Paul's time, is a foundation not of strength but of weakness. The Christian faith has been battered by the tides of rationality and a culture that sees only profit for profit's sake. If we think clearly about these things we are in a position that is no worse and no greater than found in Corinth. Paul's oratory appeals to both intellectuals and those who are faith believers not because they are beaten at their own game but because Christ offers a fresh approach. It is like being given two options both of which mean death and suddenly finding a new path that is inconsistent with everything that has been thought possible before. The cross turns everything upside down.
Is it possible to build on a weak foundation in the midst of nothing?
Christ gives us a way to live that life at the beginning of the classically named Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of chapter 5 of Matthew's Gospel. The Beatitudes are perhaps at first glance somewhat unusual and topsy turvy. The poor are blessed, the sorrowful are blessed as are the hungry, the gentle and the peacemakers. A far cry from reality one would think and does this mean that we have to become these extreme low end, despised people. Can't we be rich and free from hunger? Our rational and interpretive scholarly minds try to finagle our way out, putting spin on to interpretation so that we can be at ease. Yet, as Christians these are our living instructions these are our way of building on the weak foundation of the cross. Just to give some examples as to our own interpretive slant to these instructions. Instructions, if you will, given not to erudite learned people but to the poor and the hardworking women and men of rural society. Who are the sorrowful? What are they sorrowful for? We automatically, I think, start with those who are mourning death but perhaps they are sorrowing / mourning something else entirely. Perhaps the mourning is not death but the recognition of sin and wrongdoing and so we are mourning what we have / have not done as a people? In recognition comes understanding and an ability to stand in hope for our lives as we turn away from sin to embrace Christ. In doing so we build our lives centred on God and so we become blessed by God. We begin to think in terms of others and so seek after righteousness, more rightly translated as a just community. This becomes an action that is lived out into the world around us.
Micah sums this all up in the simplicity of one verse describing what God wants from us as we grow into his presence and take on a Christlike personna. We begin to give to God a contrite heart as we walk with a humbleness (poverty of heart) before God seeking to do justice and mercy with the loyalty expected by those who have formed a covenant with God, as we have through our baptism.