This post is one in a series of devotionals written by Lutherans in the U.S. and LWR staff around the world reflecting on their faith, which calls them to proclaim hope for those in need. Check out the rest of the devotionals in the series.
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1 Corinthians 1:18-25
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” — 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NRSV)
In medieval times, among the people employed by the royal family was the royal jester. The jester was not unlike our image of a clown today: a person who performs at parties, shares jokes and generally seeks to entertain. Yet the vocation of the jester also included, at the right moment, the call to speak uncomfortable truths to the king. The jester, the one tasked with acting foolishly to entertain the masses, became the only voice of truth the ruler could actually hear.
I share this description not because I’m a big fan of clowns. In fact, if I’m honest, most clowns scare me a bit. Yet I’m drawn to the image of a jester because I think the truth of the gospel is best shared in a way that holds in dynamic tension both discomfort and joy.
In our day-to-day lives, we might see paying attention to how products like coffee or chocolate are sourced as trivial, even foolish. But I’ve seen firsthand in Nicaragua how the faith of Lutherans put into action through these products can make a difference for communities experiencing poverty. Joy comes from creating new opportunities through these crops—and the farmers who grow them—that the world sees as trivial.
The gospel foolishness of which Paul writes in 1 Corinthians sparks both a deep yearning for the call of the gospel and a delight in knowing that God has already claimed us. We can all hope for such a spark in our own lives.
Gospel foolishness is different from foolishness for its own sake. It’s more than funny jokes and silly skits. Paul writes, instead, about how the very wisdom of God seems foolish because it upends all normal human expectations. Following such a God, therefore, means we, too, must take up the call to become a bit strange — fools for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the world. Such actions might make us stick out of the crowd a bit. As the writer Flannery O’Connor once put it, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.” Yet sometimes the people who are odd are the very ones through whom the truth is shared.
How are you called to put your faith into action for the sake of others, and how might that look foolish?
God beyond all human wisdom, you call us to follow your surprising truth. Deepen our understanding of your ways. Guide us on the paths of life that we might be fools for your sake, and your sake alone. Amen.
Rev. Adam Copeland teaches at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he directs the Center for Stewardship Leaders. Adam serves as an LWR Ambassador.
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