Sermon by Rev Sydney Maitland for Sunday 4 March 2018.
They say that an expert is one who knows more and more about less and less, and that whenever there are three economists in a room there are four opinions. My university studies were centered on economics so I do have a vested interest in this point of view.
But both opinions about the wisdom of the age contain a healthy degree of skepticism, and in days where appearance and feeling seem to take precedence over function and form, perhaps this is no bad thing.
In some ways it taps into the human capacity for both original and creative thought, developing lines of thought and argument, moving from what is observable to what is understood and then to what is concluded, both as a matter of principle and as a course of action.
But then there are Donald Rumsfeld’s famous truisms about what we know and what we suspect and what we cannot possibly imagine – and these are the ‘unknown unknowns.’ People laughed at the awkwardness of his language but could not contradict these perspectives.
So yes there are definite limits to what humans can know, what they can suspect, what they can investigate and what they can conclude.
But this in not to say that ‘Man is the measure of all things’ as implied by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the human form and the measures of the circle and the square taken from him.
Rather it is to accept that there are realms which we cannot even imagine unless we are given a window through which to see them, and this is a window that we have not designed or built.
And this is perhaps where we have to accept that there are realms of reality which we perceive and enter in the spiritual realm, drawing on the spiritual insights of those who have lived and believed and prayed in earlier generations.
It is also a basis for approaching that commandment that forbids us from creating our own images of God and our own idols to represent our ideas of God in contrast with the visions and stories and teachings that we have already been given.
But Paul says something else for he inverts the self-appointed and self-satisfied dimensions of human inquiry to show that God has indeed revealed Himself in Jesus.
And He has done it in a way that confounds the wisdom of the learned and the traditions of the established religious leaders.
God has indeed given wisdom to the unlearned and sanctity to the unwashed. He has taken what is a wholly shameful death and turned it into something wholly glorious through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
And so Jesus took it on Himself to exercise authority over the holiest part of Jerusalem and instead of being over-awed by it He was determined to cleanse it so that it may indeed serve the purpose for which it was built – even if it was built by Herod the Great -not exactly known for his spiritual insights or leadership.
And yet in so doing, Jesus was also predicting its destruction and its worldwide replacement by His own self: crucified, risen and ascended.
But God has done to Jesus what He also desires for us: taken, blessed, broken and given.