weakness and the Powers

I did a little devotional this morning with the Project 12 students and staff using 1 Cor. 1:18-27 and Marva Dawn’s book Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God pgs. 58-62, Eerdmans, 2001.

I talked about my own enthronement of knowledge into the place of power, and how, in this age where information technology moves us from caring about the physical world into caring about power through getting more information, Paul is saying that the gospel is foolishness by this world’s measurements. I read a bit about Marva Dawn’s health problems and what God was showing her about being weak and allowing his power to work through it.

Then I reflected on how this Advent season we’re heading into celebrates a Messiah coming who turned out to be absurdly weak.

The hope of the ages,

Christ the Messiah,

“the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, creator of all, before all things, holding all things” (Col. 1:13-17)

finally arrives in the world,

born to a refugee couple in a feeding trough.

This celebration turns our worldly need for wisdom into foolishness. The Power we are really looking for comes to us in weakness, confounding our pride, turning our wisdom upside down.


What follows was not part of the devotional, but comes to me as I sit here now:

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. (NRSV)

1 Cor. 15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.
19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;
22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Weak, foolish, pitiable Christians.

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God–the responsible man, who tried to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Letters and Papers from Prison
, pg. 5, Touchstone, 1997.


The view from below

There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled–in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. The important thing is that neither bitterness nor envy should have gnawed at the heart during this time, that we should have come to look with new eyes as matters great and small, sorrow and joy, strength and weakness, that our perception of generosity, humanity, justice and mercy should have become clearer, freer, less corruptible. We have to learn that personal suffering is a more effective key, a more rewarding principle for exploring the world in thought and action than personal good fortune. This perspective from below must not become the partisan possession of those who are eternally dissatisfied; rather, we must do justice to life in all its dimensions from a higher satisfaction, whose foundation is beyond any talk of ‘from below’ or ‘from above’. This is the way in which we may affirm it.

Letters and Papers from Prison, pg. 17



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Filed under Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditations

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