You might be a poor Spiritual Friend, if you are foolish
This week found me and many others down and out with the flu or other form of illness or malaise. As I sought rest, sleep, and respite, I found myself thinking of when I was a little girl and had a few sick days out of school. For me, this meant, laying on the couch in pajamas and watching cartoons with the trusty buck nearby. I remember watching Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and of course Wile e. Coyote and the Roadrunner. The Coyote wanted nothing more than dinner, and he chased the Roadrunner in tireless pursuit of achieving dinner. Trick after plan after strategy, he tried to catch the roadrunner. However, you remember, Wile. E. Coyote would each time would encounter gravity or explosives, a rock or sharp divide. Each time, he would hear the beep! beep! Running off as he picked himself off the ground. Foolish, he is. He only caught the roadrunner once in the last sixty years, and then he did not know what to do with him. And yet, we love to laugh at his foolishness. Despite the time, they spent together in the same frame, no one would accuse Roadrunner and Coyote of being strong friends.
We have taken the month of February to talk about how it is we can be stronger, healthier spiritual friends. We explored not being jealous, not claiming all the glory, attention, and affirmation. Today, we turn to not being foolish. We like to laugh at fools like Wile E. Coyote and imagine they are far from us.
However, the Bible has a lot to say about fools. 143 times the Bible cautions against fools, both believing and relating to them as well as being one. So, aside from the pranks of April Fool’s day, how would we find ourselves acting the fool?
Foolish can mean silly – like joking around and evoking laughter. Like how do you keep a fool in suspense?
I’ll tell you tomorrow.
But fool can also mean short-sighted, lacking insight or wisdom. It is more likely that this is what Paul’s letter to Corinth, Proverbs, and the many other instructions not to be foolish, refer to.
Rarely do we intend to be foolish. Sometimes, we are merely grasping at straws. Not sure of what to say or what to do. Looking for wisdom, when all it feels like is lived experience. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling foolish, because we did not use all of the resources at our disposal or we spoke too soon.
Wisdom is not just the accumulation of knowledge. Wisdom is not merely who can recite the most periodic elements, mathematical equations, anatomical bones in the foot, or presidents in order from 1 to 45. Wisdom is how we process the knowledge we have. In our understanding of our faith, we understand that God grants wisdom, even as we seek knowledge. Wisdom is one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1st Corinthians.
Today, I am suggesting one of the ways to not be foolish, is to seek wisdom in your faith life. If you are not familiar, I would like to introduce this through the Wesleyan quadrilateral. The quadrilateral, like you might remember from math class, is a four-sided shape. In the Methodist tradition, we understand our faith as shaped by four elements: scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. While this was never the language of John Wesley, theologian Albert Outler drew this method from Wesley’s writing. The quadrilateral gave shape to our understanding that to live our faith, we need to take the Bible alongside the larger traditions of the Church, our reason, and our experiences.
Let me say just a bit more about each. In scripture, we understand that the Bible is first place for our faith. Through the scriptures, we learn about our ancestors in the faith. We learn who God has called us to be. The scripture is enlivened with the presence of the Holy Spirit for us to know God more in history, the presence and what is to come. We understand that it is the whole of the Bible. Before there was a universal decision on the whole Bible, there was much debate on which letters were in and what histories were out. Ultimately the teachings of wealthy shipbuilder, son of a bishop, Marcion who rejected what we now call the Old Testament, because of the way he thought God was reflected in it, were what drove us to affirm that it is the whole of the Bible that is God’s word.
Scripture has always been a vital part of Christianity; in fact, we say strongly the Bible grounds our faith. That is why it is shown as the foundation of the house of faith. Tradition is not just how we have always done it. In the early church, scholars and everyday people of faith sought to answer questions and concerns not directly address by the scriptures. They turned to tradition. The turned to the tradition of the church fathers and mothers. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is tradition. While there is mention of God in all three persons in the Bible, the word trinity does not appear in the biblical pages. So, we understand the trinity, because of the tradition of the church. The development of the creeds, Nicene and Apostles are another example of tradition. Tradition is the back wall of the house, providing form and structure.
With the Protestant Reformation and the later Enlightenment, reason was recognized as a vital part of understanding our faith. Reason, here, refers to the scientific understandings in all disciplines. Reason also references our individual ability to consider and reconsider with the mental capacity that each of us has. Reason also responds to our understanding that the Bible is asking to be interpreted. Reason acts as the roof, the full extension of where our faith can go!
Over time, traditions have added to their faith understanding. The Methodist theological understanding is distinct by our addition of experience. Experience is what you and I personally encounter. Experience is when we are reading a section of scripture, and our hearts are strangely warmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Experience is when we are compelled to do something we might not have otherwise done and as we do it, we see God in it. Experience is the door through which we come to faith. This is how we know God at all.
The Wesleyan quadrilateral is holistic understanding of God living through scripture into our lives. This theological construct is intended to give us method for exploring the challenging theological questions of our day. We might use the Wesleyan quadrilateral to discern what as Christians we think about immigration or how to treat irritating neighbors. The Wesleyan quadrilateral led the Methodist church to consider slavery, not as an economic necessity, but a harmful institution that needed to be dismantled. The Wesleyan quadrilateral led opening ordination and pulpits to the women preaching up and against the specific scripture that advise women to be silent. The Wesleyan quadrilateral is where we turn, even intuitively, when we try to determine how to help our children navigate the frightening world of the internet – something never dreamed of in biblical eras. The Wesleyan quadrilateral is where we turn, even intuitively, when try to make best medical decisions for loved ones using medical advances that are still new and we seek relief and safety.
We are foolish when we read the Bible and have it all figured out. The Bible is the living breathing word of God. We must continue to be in study to have the wisdom for what God has for us today. The discord in Corinth was never-ending. The conflict over knowledge and whose disciple one was, was only the flavor of the day. Each time we are convinced that it is all crystal clear and clear as ink, we are foolish to miss out on the complexities of the life God has called us to live.
Our wisdom comes from seeking God in all the ways we understand – through God’s word, the Bible, through the tradition of those in the faith who have gone before us, through the reason given to us, and our own experiences of the presence of God. We may not feel like Wile E. Coyote always failing pursuit of our Roadrunner, foolish in cartoonish manner. But yet, there are times when we choose foolishness over seeking God’s wisdom.
When a friend calls, texts, stops you to vent, complain, unload, “update you”, do not miss the chance to respond to the desire for wisdom. Wisdom in the form of how to understand the circumstance in God’s perspective.
When a news article upsets you, do not miss a chance to seek wisdom. Wisdom to explore what scripture, tradition, reason, and your own experience say about it.
When your own circumstance overwhelms you, looks to a trusted friend in Christ. Yes, to give you joy and laughter, but also to walk with you in wisdom and hope.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Proverbs 26:1-6
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
an undeserved curse goes nowhere.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.
Do not answer fools according to their folly,
or you will be a fool yourself.
Answer fools according to their folly,
or they will be wise in their own eyes.
It is like cutting off one’s foot and drinking down violence,
to send a message by a fool.
New Testament Lesson: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are futile.”
So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, February 26~ Saturday, March 4
Sunday: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17. God dwells in you. How are you treating yourself as a place for God’s wisdom?
Monday: “Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.” 1 Corinthians 3: 18. Fools for Christ depend on God. Next time, you are uncertain of how God would have you respond, spend time in prayer discerning God’s wisdom.
Tuesday: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’” 1 Corinthians 3:19-20. In our figuring, we often seek to cut corners, shave off time, and avoid the long way. Prayerfully, quiet yourself to listen for God’s wisdom in your life.
Wednesday: “So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. Our humanity often leads us to get caught up in how it will work out and who will be involved. Where are you offering God an opportunity to bring wisdom into your life?
Thursday: “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, an undeserved curse goes nowhere.” Proverbs 26: 1-2. Wisdom is not just about knowledge. Wisdom is about using knowledge alongside tradition, reason, experience, and scripture. Where is God inviting you to grow in wisdom by examining a challenge in your life through the quadrilateral lens?
Friday: “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. “Proverbs 26: 3-4. Consider where you can refrain from responding to folly by seeking wisdom.
Saturday: “Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. It is like cutting off one’s foot and drinking down violence, to send a message by a fool. “Proverbs 26: 5-6. Choose today to respond in reflection, instead of anger, bitterness, or antagonism.