A Centurion

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 NRSV    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.  19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 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?  21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom,  23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


Guard duty at the Temple was a bit of a bore – not that I prefer excitement, mind you.  I have seen my share of forced marches and bloody engagements and now that Jerusalem has been pacified enough to become a posting for those of us in pudgy middle-age, who am I to complain?  Let the young men dream of battles and victories.  I just want a predictable day and a good meal at the end of it.  Temple duty guarantees both.

I am a people watcher; both because that is what I am here to do - keep an eye on things - and by my own nature.  And if there is one thing the Temple has a lot of, it is people.  There are the pilgrims - doe-eyed and amazed at the scale of the place; the tradesmen who stay busy just keeping the place in good repair; the merchants selling everything from oils and anointing balms to animals for sacrifice; the crack-pots who come to the Temple to see if they can stir up trouble - they don’t last long.  A cuff of the hand, a bleeding nose or busted lip, and a warning not to be seen again usually does it.  I enjoy my work, but I have to say I have always been a bit mystified about why so many come to this place.  This God they built the Temple to worship doesn’t seem to have done much to protect them from warriors like me - and if a God cannot help you stay on top of the heap, I say it is not much of a God.

That is why it came as such a surprise to me when I realized that there were some people I had grown used to seeing and would even try to find when I was on duty.  They were regulars - in fact it seemed like they might even be living in the Temple.  The man was named Simeon and the woman was Anna - both of them as parched and ancient as an old scroll.  And yet so alive!  Both of them were animated with an inner life, an inner light that drew me close.  I never spoke to either of them, but I would position myself close enough to overhear their whispered prayers about God’s redemption and their hopes about the future.

Now I am just an old warrior and what do I know about the things of God.  But I will tell you this - that wizened old man and that quiet but sagacious old woman are not fools.  In fact they are what I hope to live long enough to become one day: gentle, peaceable, confident, and hopeful.  And to think that they became what I want to be worshipping a God like the God of Israel . . . I guess the joke is on me.

God whose foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, you choose the weak to scandalize the powerful, the simple to shame the wise, and the poor to point out the bankruptcy of our affluence.  Give us wisdom enough to become full expressions of your love, hope, and power at work among us.  Help us to live simply that others may get their share, to live peaceably knowing that we are not always in the right, and to be gentle people of confidence that you are strong enough and wise enough to bring your kingdom to expression.  In the name of the one who came as weak as an infant born to peasants and yet was your love dwelling among us full of grace and truth.  Amen.