Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wisdom and Foolishness and Blessings and Woes

The Beatitudes (Matthew's version is 5:1-12) may only feel true if you also know I Corinthians 1:18-31. Both texts are read on Epiphany 3A. Both texts seem to turn traditional wisdom on its head. Who would believe that mourning, persecution and poverty are signed of blessedness? Not most people. But the Corinthians passage reminds the reader that wisdom and foolishness are different when seen through God's eyes.

Paul reminds us that what the world says is foolish - notably the cross and Christ's death on it - is God's wisdom. In God's wisdom, the covenant with Abraham is fulfilled and sinful humans don't have their sins held against them. In God's wisdom, greater love has no one than to lay down life for friends. In God's wisdom, being persecuted for God's sake means you are doing faith right.
Marc Chagall. The Madman Who Sold Wisdom. From The Fables of Jean La Fontaine. 1927-1930. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art.
Russian artist Marc Chagall illustrates the collision of wisdom and foolishness in an illustration that is part of The Fables of La Fontaine.  "The Madman Who Sold Wisdom" (Le Fou qui vent la Sagesse) tells the tale of a fool who announces that he has wisdom for sale. Soon enough people line up to buy wisdom, and what he gives them is a length of cord and a slap on the side of the head. Some were angry that they had paid for this; others simply walk away, believing they will look more foolish if they try to argue with a fool. One purchaser of wisdom goes to a sage to ask for an explanation. The wise person answers that the purchaser should stay as far away from the fool as the length of the cord he received. Anyone who stands closer to that will surely get the same slap on the side of the head. "You weren't fooled," the wise one concludes. "He did sell you wisdom."

God's wisdom. The wisdom of the world. The world's foolishness. The foolishness of God. Blessed are those who...

For thoughts on Micah 6:1-8 click here.

And this week on Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page...something entirely different.

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