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The cross: the unexpected sign of God’s power and wisdom

March 25, 2024

Daily Scripture

1 Corinthians 1:17-24

17 Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.
18 The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. 19 It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent [Isaiah 29:14]. 20 Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. 22 Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The belief that Jesus’ death on the cross was a powerfully saving act of God’s self-giving love, not a mere execution, was revolutionary in the apostle Paul’s first-century world, and still is today. Something “revolutionary” creates a dramatic, fundamental change. Computers revolutionized the way people use technology. The internet revolutionized the way people communicate. Paul’s teaching about Jesus’ death revolutionized the way people saw (and see) God’s power and wisdom.

  • First-century Judaism strongly believed in God’s power. But they never expected God’s power to work through the crucifixion of the long-awaited Messiah. Paul said Christ crucified was “scandal” (verse 23) to the Jews. Yet through the crucifixion God’s power triumphed over the epitome of darkness—death itself. Where has God’s power worked in your life in unexpected ways? How can trusting God’s death-conquering power sustain you in the challenges you face today?
  • Ancient Greeks (i.e., “Gentiles”) loved “wisdom” (e.g., Plato, Aristotle, Stoics). No admired Greek philosophers found it “wise” to think a crucifixion was saving or hopeful. That’s why Paul said Christ’s crucifixion was “foolishness” to Gentiles (verse 23), that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Did you ever not get something you really wanted, but see in hindsight that that was for the best? Can you trust in God’s wisdom even when it works in unexpected ways?

Living Lord, you are God, and I am not. That’s hard to remember sometimes, but I’m grateful that your power and wisdom are greater than mine. Help me to trust that in the end your wisdom and power always prevail. Amen.

GPS Insights

Emily Stirewalt

Emily Stirewalt

Emily Stirewalt serves as Resurrection's Silverlink Pastor specializing in pastoral care of elderly adults. She is an ordained Elder in the Missouri Annual Conference and has served since 2007. She is married to Randall, a special education teacher. They have two daughters, Elliott and Marlowe. When Emily is not in a care home sharing communion or with her family on another Kansas City adventure, you can find her curled up on the couch at home binge watching "Friends" or "Golden Girls."

When I was a little girl, The Wizard of Oz was my very favorite movie, so much so that I watched it every day after kindergarten for months on end. I was obsessed with Judy Garland, doing my first ever book report on her. Since Crown Center has a traveling exhibit dedicated to the movie right now, my spouse and I just introduced our girls to the movie as well. We were a little nervous the flying monkeys might be too scary, but the girls were champs and loved seeing Toto most of all.  

As an adult, I have learned to love the movie all over again. That is thanks to influential public theologian, Nadia Bolz-Weber, who preached a sermon in 2012 that rounded out my theology of the cross so richly and I think points to the uniqueness of the apostle Paul’s writings that we have been studying this Lenten season. In a sermon on Reformation Sunday, she shared that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a lot like The Wizard of Oz. It is different than the quid pro quo idea we have often made it out to be. Nadia says, “The Gospel is not an if-then proposition.  It’s more Wizard of Oz than that.  The Gospel is a because because because because proposition.” 1  

God did not send Jesus to have us constantly feeling like we have to earn love.  
God did not send Jesus to teach us a lesson about how bad we are.  
God did not send Jesus to die to satisfy anger.  

Because God so loved the world, we were given Jesus.  
Because we keep messing up repeatedly, the cross of Jesus is still there for us.  
Because we need to be reminded, every day, of God’s love for us, Jesus went to the cross.  
We do nothing to earn it. It just is.  

Thanks be to God. Amen.

1 Sermon On Why The Gospel Is More Wizard Of Oz-y Than The Law | Nadia Bolz Weber ( 

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.