The Foolishness of the Cross:
“Fool for Christ’s Sake”
The Greeks schooled in the rhetoric of Aristotle did not warm up to the Gospel message that the Apostle Paul preached. Some had apparently referred to him as a fool — with his narrative of a crucified lord. In a humorous response, Paul uses the term “foolish” in a self-deprecating manner, calling his preaching “foolishness” to both Jews and Greeks. Some of the Jews found Paul’s message more than foolish – the idea that the long-awaited Messiah would be crucified was offensive. A third indictment against the Gospel is the seemingly foolish teachings of Jesus: love your enemies; if someone wants your coat, give them your shirt too; take up your cross and follow me.
The theology of the “Foolishness of the Cross” became an important part of monastic life. A “Fool for Christ” would turn away from the typical life of working, owning property and maintaining a family. Taking the foolish path caused one to be more humble, more dependent on God, and able to dedicate more energy to their spiritual life.
From within these spiritual communities there emerged what we might call a fool of fools: the Fool for Christ’s Sake, or simply, the Fool for Christ. A bit like a court jester, the fool gets away with strange actions because he reveals truth through his foolishness. If you remember Detective Columbo from the 1970’s you have seen a great example of a Fool. Eccentric and scruffy, Columbo knocked suspects off balance (“who is this annoying detective?”). He always solved even the most complicated cases. Fools for Christ are similar – they do odd things, but for a very good reason. That reason may be to bring awareness to the community, or perhaps as a means to test their ability to remain humble. For example, highly educated monks may keep their privileged status secret, allowing others to assume they don’t know anything.
When do you feel a little self-conscious or foolish about your faith in Christ? When do you hold back from saying or doing that which God is leading you to say or do? Risk-taking is the life style of the Christian, taking our lead from Jesus. In this season of Lent and Easter, examine how counter-cultural (foolish-sounding) the teachings of Jesus are. Often these days, someone will try to shut a Christian down by saying, “don’t speak about politics.” The teachings of Jesus impact all parts of life, including the political. Guns kill people. Jesus Christ is against that.
Forcing segregation of Black Americans and denying them work and opportunities has added to the pain and misery of these people. Jesus Christ is against that. Rich people have put their wealth first, at the expense of the health of whole communities. Jesus Christ is against that. There are complexities in our world, and Christians need to make sure we are addressing them. Sounding foolish, having your feathers ruffled, making missteps in conversations are all a part of the work Christ calls us to.
Christians think theologically. So, you will at some point challenge or upset people. They will talk about you, perhaps disown you. If we don’t want to upset anyone, if we don’t want to look like fools, we need to take a hard look at ourselves – Church is not a social club and Jesus was not crucified because of some misunderstanding. He spoke truth to power, which angered powerful people, and he cared for the most vulnerable. So let us embrace our Foolishness – let us risk all for the sake of God’s will on earth.
In Faith with You,
Man arrested after taking child to school, faces deportation
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — First Presbyterian Church of Metuchen, New Jersey, is seeking the release of an Indonesian Christian member who was picked up last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Roby Sanger was dropping his daughter off at middle school when the agents approached and took him into custody. He now faces deportation.
“Roby came to this country in 1995 and was seeking asylum along with 200 other Indonesians. They didn’t know there was a one-year window to apply for asylum,” said the Rev. Justin Karmann, associate pastor at First Presbyterian. “If you miss that window, you lose your opportunity and he didn’t know it, none of the immigration lawyers really knew it, so being a person in a new country they completely missed that window.” Karmann says Sanger wanted to do the right thing and follow federal guidelines for immigrants in this country.
Last Thursday, Sanger and two other Indonesian Christians were approached by agents. Gunawan Liem, who lives in Piscataway, was also arrested while taking his child to school. The third man, Harry Pangemanan of Highland Park, was able to seek sanctuary at a nearby church before he could be taken into custody. ICE says the agents had orders of removal from an immigration judge. Sanger, who is a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church, had fled Indonesia to avoid religious persecution.
On Sunday, more than 500 people gathered at First Presbyterian for a prayer vigil in support of Sanger’s release. “Roby Sanger joined our church in 1996,” said the Rev. Ellen Clark Clemot, senior pastor at First Presbyterian. “He and his wife worship every Sunday here, they raised their daughters in our church and are active members of the congregation. Every one of us at First Presbyterian Church is seeking Roby’s release because he is a member of our family. He belongs here.”
“There was standing room only for those that crowded into the sanctuary. It was amazing. The church, community, politicians, interfaith community. Everyone was present. We prayed over Roby’s family and spoke on his behalf,” said Karmann. “Then we marched to the downtown area where politicians spoke on behalf of immigrant rights and Roby Sanger.”
The church and other community activists have been meeting with the ACLU and working through the legal process. “We spent three days preparing and filing all of the paperwork. It is far harder than I thought and if it’s hard for white Americans to work through this, I can’t imagine how difficult it is for others,” said Karmann.
Sanger is the only one in his household who is employed and his detention places a financial burden on the family. The church set up an account on Friday to raise money to cover costs.
“In 24 hours, more than $12,000 was raised and as of Monday, more than $20,000 in donations and funds had been collected,” said Karmann. “The money will be used to cover legal fees, rent and all bills since he was the only source of income.”
The arrests on Thursday have generated interest from local mayors to congressional representatives and the governor’s office. The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), traveled to Metuchen, NJ, on Friday and met with church leaders and Sanger’s family.
“Roby Sanger is a member of our faith family. We must bind to one another and rise up to keep our family together. It is his faith that caused him to flee to the U.S. and it will take the faith of all of us to keep him here safely with his family now,” Nelson said after his time with the congregation. “I am grateful to the Presbytery of Elizabeth for their active presence on the ground accompanying the family and the congregation. The Office of the General Assembly is here to support these efforts and to ask members across the denomination to do the same.”
The Office of Public Witness has issued an action alert on the situation in New Jersey.
to General Assembly
January 23, 2018 by Presbyterian News Service
(PNS) A group of Presbyterians will be making their way to the 223rd General Assembly this summer by foot. Organized by Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Fossil Free PC(USA), participants from around the country will walk 260 miles from Louisville, the site of the offices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to St. Louis, where this year’s G.A. will be held.
In a joint press release, the participants say they are making the walk this June to “stand against investing in the fossil fuel industry.” The journey begins at the PC(USA) headquarters on June 1 and will close at the opening of the General Assembly on June 16. Organizers say they will end each day of the walk with teach-ins and worship centering around the stories and experiences of people on the front lines of climate change.
“As a pastor, I plan to participate in the walk because I believe our denomination must always stand alongside the most vulnerable in our society,” said Rev. Neddy Astudillo. “Climate change is demanding from us not just to support with money those who suffer its symptoms, but to look at its root causes and do whatever is in our hands to avoid it.”
Astudillo and other participants will once again urge the General Assembly to vote in favor of the church divesting from fossil fuels. Fifteen presbyteries have already voiced support with the overture.
During the 222nd General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, the Immigration and Environmental Issues Committee recommended divestment by a vote of 31-25, but commissioners voted to continue the church’s current policy of corporate engagement in the hope that companies would work with them to reduce pollution.
“The Presbyterian Church has a long history of caring for creation through worship, education and advocacy,” said the Rev. Abby Mohaupt, moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA. “Divestment is the missing step in our love of God’s creation.”
“We all want to move toward a low-carbon future and it has never been more important to be engaged on this issue than it is now,” said Joseph Kinard, chair of the Committee on Mission Responsibility through Investment. “We agree that climate change is real and that the church needs to respond. This can be achieved through several different strategies.”
Kinard added, “I am reminded of Micah 6:8: ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and walk humbly with your God?’ We wish them well in this endeavor.”
Those interested in walking, sponsoring or endorsing the “PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World” can visit https://pcusawalk.org for more information.
Since 2012, Fossil Free PCUSA has been calling on the PC(USA) to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Since the 1940s, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has worked to end war and seek nonviolent solutions to world problems. Fossil Free PCUSA is a project of the fellowship.
by Rick Jones, Presbyterian News Service
LPC Men’s Discussion Group
Five LPC men met at Dave Reichard’s house on January 18th to discuss the tax law recently passed by Congress and concerns that the law’s increase in the standard deduction will cause decreases in charitable giving. With the increase, many more taxpayers are expected to elect the standard deduction in lieu of itemizing their charitable deductions, for example to their church, and taxpayers who take the standard deduction would not receive the tax benefit of their gift to the church. Questions the Group probed were whether/how our individual stewardship decisions may be affected by the federal government’s new law, and what the Bible tells us about generosity, stewardship. and the religious obligation to give.
At each meeting, we share great fellowship and learn a bit more about ourselves and each other. For each meeting, the host selects a topic of current interest with support from The Wired Word, an outside vendor. We explore issues regarding the topic and relate them to biblical teachings. Our meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month and rotate to a different member’s home each month. (We unfortunately cancelled our Feb meeting due to the flu.) Our next meeting will be at 7:30 PM on March 15th (call the church office for information). All LPC men are invited to attend, and to invite non-LPC members. If anyone would like a ride to the meeting, just let us know.
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