I am a member of a small group of Methodist student pastors at Emory. All of us are in our first year of divinity school. The school pooled us together in the fall and now we continue to meet on Zoom every week, offering support and prayer to each other.
Last week, we gathered as we typically do on Wednesdays and shared our experiences of Easter Sunday with each other. One of my colleagues, a particularly skilled young pastor, shared with the group that she had a rather distressing experience on Easter Sunday. One of her younger church members, following their Easter service, went home and took to social media to share some “honest” thoughts about the day. This person told the world wide web just how hypocritical and inauthentic Christians tend to be, gathering in droves and pretty hats for this one day of the year and scarce to be seen in the months that follow. “A crazy story that turns out to be nothing but cultural superstition pretending to faith.”
I could tell my friend was clearly bothered by this and I don’t know if it helped when I unmuted my microphone and told her, and the whole group, “That person is not wrong.”
The Easter story is crazy! Preposterous! Utter foolishness!
For example, we gathered just last week in-person and online, singing Charles Wesley’s famous words, “Where, O death, is now thy sting?” just hours after a funeral service for one of our sisters. Not only that, FUMC usually does have about twice the number of attendees on Easter compared to other weeks. Still, for the most preposterous thing of all, look no further than Pastor Keith’s Easter Day sermon about a real, tangible, walking, talking, resurrected Jesus. Not a spiritually resurrected Christ, who, like Santa Claus, “lives within my heart,” but an actual resurrection – this person was dead and is now alive! It does not take much faith for me to believe in the state-ordered execution of an innocent Jesus; but to believe, as we say, “he descended to the dead” and then came back! Well, that is another thing all together. Who could blame someone for taking to social media and calling it out?
St. Paul, whose letters to the early church are not so different from modern social media posts, asks the church in Corinth some sharp rhetorical questions in light of this preposterous gospel story.
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:20)
These questions mock the cultural elites of Paul’s day and of ours – the educated, the well-to-do keepers of religion, the philosophers. These questions convict all seminarians, especially this one.
I suggested to my colleague at Emory that she reach out and thank this young person for reminding her, and the world, of the utter foolishness of our faith. It is preposterous. It is crazy. Thanks be to God. Our systems of theology, philosophy, wisdom, cannot account for it – and the witness of scripture itself would contend with all who say otherwise! Our culture, though it may attempt to normalize it in so many ways, cannot sanitize the power of a real and resurrected Christ. So, let us thank our saints like Paul and this unnamed social media critic for reminding us of our foolish faith. Most of all, let us thank God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. (I Cor. 1:25)