This country has a power crisis.
Eskom is a disaster – has been for a long time, and will take some time to fix – new power plants coming online are not yet up to standard and performing efficiently. Scheduled maintenance and unforeseen supply problems means we have this thing called loadshedding – which is a common occurrence – of course loadshedding will be with us for a while. Even when it rains! Our coal gets wet and the power goes off.
For perspective, we actually don’t have it nearly as bad as some – I was in Malawi early last year - - they have up to 18 hours of loads shedding a day sometimes…… 18 hours! So the power is only on for 6 hours – enough for you to charge up the battery banks the richer households have, so you can effectively run your appliances.
Some of you have invested in generators, ups’s, solar panels, all sorts – coughed up your hard earned cash because you acknowledge it is a big problem. Power is essential – you need power to live – you need power to prepare your food – heat your water – to keep your beer cold and your bath warm. To give you light – keep your devices charged and your internet on.
I want to talk about Power this morning – but, thankfully, not the Power that Eskom provides… or doesn’t provide. It’s Easter Sunday morning, and we’re going to be thinking of the Power of The Cross - On Friday morning as Dave Williams was leading he really did a great job clearly reminding us of the kindness of God and how the cross was the most kind act ever performed – the greatest act of kindness towards us – and I want to parallel that this morning – it was also, the same act was the greatest act of power – the greatest display of power towards humanity as well
Find your way to 1 Corinthians 1 please.
You might be surprised to see how often the idea of power comes up through scripture.
You know, meek and mild Jesus, the sacrificial lamb – turning the other cheek – the fruit of the Christian life being gentleness and patience – self control. Tolerance and service, obedience and humility – where is the POWER!!
Those of us in the secular corporate world know that everything is about power – the race to be the CEO – to be the head – to have the influence and sway, to have people under your command – would you believe that my company even has a system to allocate parking bays based on your position in the firm? It’s all about rank and Power.
But the Christian servant leader – no, he is different – supports from the back of the flock – he is not power hungry – like the world would use that word.
So what do we mean then when we talk and think about the Power of the Cross – when we sing those songs we like so much…
When we read verses like the ones we are about to read
Lets read just 1 Corinthians 1 verse 17 and 18 – I love long readings – but for now – 2 verses
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Paul writes to the Corinthian church and says – I’m here to do a job, to preach the gospel – and guess what – the message I bring (thankfully, for any speakers preparing a message, for, say an Easter Sunday service) – the message is not dependant on the wisdom and the eloquence of the speaker. The message of the Cross is powerful – because of what IT says – not because of the fancy words Paul uses or how he says it.
We enjoy listening to speakers we like – speakers who are skilled, smooth, who know how to put together a sermon – who make us go mmmmm, who tell funny jokes – who challenge us just enough – you know, don’t want to make the people too uncomfortable - you won’t be asked back again if you cross a line you know. But if you go on too long, or too short… if your laptop dies and causes a distraction – if you start saying things that people don’t like to hear – well, somehow the message gets disregarded – that how we work isn’t it.
So here’s a first point and we haven’t even really started yet – whatever we find the power of the cross to be – we empty the message of its power – when we confuse the message with the apparent wisdom and eloquence – says Paul – of the messenger. The power of the cross – does not come from the messenger. When you lift up a speaker – and put your faith in an earthly person – you are missing the point of the message. Whether it is the mighty apostle Paul, or the reverend Billy Graham, or the most high Bishop Joe Bell, or some engineer who Maurice knows will say yes to an invite – the message is the same, and the power is the same…
Verse 18 is where we want to get stuck in this morning – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing – but to us who are being saved it is the POWER OF GOD.
Paul's audience has an expectation – it seems there a bit of a power struggle within the Corinthian Church – they’re looking for a leader to elevate and lead a faction maybe, so, he’s very careful to downplay his own skills - I mean come on can you believe it the great Paul, this guy who goes on all these missionary journeys, how many thousands do you think he has seen converted – he is careful to say – the power is not from me.
The next few verses talk about the Jewish people looking for a sign, and the Greeks looking for wisdom – but this is the message he preaches – Christ crucified. They’re looking for something mighty and profound and amazing, but Paul wants to talk about a carpenter who was put to death by the authorities…a flip of the script – a plot twist of note.
1 Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty
1 Corinthians 2:5 your faith might not rest in the wisdom of man but in the power of God
SO let’s think about this cross – let’s take a quick moment to consider this message
It is the central story in this book
It is the central event in the life of Jesus
It is the central event in Western History!
The cross tells us that death is not the end. The cross tells us that there is something out there greater than death – why do we die? because of Sin – bibles tells us that. Does sin have the final say – not when it comes to the cross. Sin, and darkness – is powerful – we all will have to face up to our own mortality, every one of us will die in our earthly body – but who breaks that power – the King of Glory does – the one, the ONLY one who is MORE POWERFUL.
So Jesus went to this cross and he dies – so what, we all die – well we die because of sins – the bible tells us Jesus had no sin – the bible tells us Jesus was God himself made flesh – SO if he was perfect in his Godly nature – un affected or should I say un INFECTED by – why did He die?
Because a sacrifice was required to settle the debt. As a sacrifice for your sins, and my sins – The sacrifices of the old testament – the offerings – they were good, but they weren’t powerful enough – Jesus was the perfect sacrifice – the ultimate sacrifice – once and for all = it is finished, Telestai Hey Stan. The sacrificial lamb given up to death, for us.
Why did he then rise again? Couldn’t the story has just ended there? – No - to show His POWER over sin and death. His victory over evil. To show the new rebirth – Just as he rose from the grave, we all ‘rise again’ in our new born faith – the Bible tells us – we must be born again – we must put the old self to death and rise with Christ. We have no chance of defeating the evil one by ourselves – but IT”S SUNDAY – look what the Lord has done.
This Easter Sunday – we remember – hey, we remember every Sunday pretty much but let’s do it again this morning – we remember – HE ROSE. The death of death. The victory over the grave – eternal life. Breaking us free from the ties to sin – and freeing us into a position where we can truly know him. The cross is forgiveness, the cross is victory, the cross takes our sins away – the cross brings us to Jesus and places him at the centre of our faith. The cross is a bridge – I like bridges! A bridge To God. Without the cross – we have a great bottomless valley of sin between us and God – but the Cross brings us to HIM. Nothing else in the world can do that – only the cross has that POWER.
Does that move you? Is that message powerful enough to do something to you. OR is it, just a story.
When does a cool story become a powerful message.
Like me, you guys probably like to spend your evenings watching rubbish on television. And despite a gazillion options at your fingertips, there never seems to be anything good on. Let me tell you the last thing I watched that I enjoyed so much that I was moved – physically moved to tears. Don’t tease me about this – this stays in this room – turn off the camera.
Have you guys seen the documentary about the 2019 rugby world cup – Chasing the sun or something. Stan told us on Friday he liked the Passion movie – well, while Holy Stan watched a Jesus movies, I was watching a rugby documentary. Anyway, I watched that thing, and I cried like a newborn baby – Sarah would come in and I would be tjanking away.
Nothing wrong with being in touch with your emotions.
But why did THAT make me cry. I don’t even actually watch rugby that much – I’m not smart enough to make sense of all the rules. I can watch a cheesy romcom with Sarah where they are OBVIOUSLY trying to manipulate your emotions and I can roll my eyes… but why, when ol Rassie Erasmus starts telling the story of Makazole Mapimpi and his family do I start leaking from the eyes.
Well, there are two reasons. Number one – because it is a true story – it really happened and number two – it connects to me – this is my team, my country, my people. I don’t weep when it’s not real and relevant to me – Rocky doesn’t make me cry. And I don’t weep when the people mean nothing to me – imagine watching the triumphant life story of Owen Farrell or some New Zealander – who cares.
Now, that’s a silly example – but the principle works. The message is powerful when it is real and it is personal – so come back to the message of the Cross – we believe in an objective truth that exists outside of ourselves – we don’t get to decide what is true and real. We believe that Christ actually went to the Cross – that HE actually died, that he actually rose again – we don’t believe that it’s just some cool early church myth meant to teach us a few guiding moral principles – the whole of our faith is centred on the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Remember it was predicted. Old Testament points to it. Jesus even knew what had to be done, and in obedience to the will of the Father – doesn’t resist.
We also believe, that this has personal application – it wasn’t just something that happening to save a certain group of people who were around 2000 years ago – we believe that the message of the cross speaks to US. That when we say he dies for the sins of the world – that includes your sins, past a present future, and it includes my sins. Paul writes to people looking to claim Christ for their own group – and he says Christ has died for all – Jew Gentile, Greek, whoever.
Is it foolishness? Is it strange – is it weird? Well, come one, let’s admit, isn’t it a bit weird that we have this symbol that we lift up – this cross on our buildings, round our necks, on our flags – that symbolise the roman method of execution for the worst criminals two thousand years ago?
In a PBS television series the narrator said, "Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central focus the suffering and degradation of its God."
Imagine if we had a gun around our neck, A guilotine, or an electric chair. We’ve grown up in western communities so used to absorbing Christian ritual and custom (while at the same time rejecting Jesus mind you) – that we maybe forget how foolish this seems to outsiders. We celebrate a Cross – a corpse nailed to a piece of wood!
Why remember that – why meditate upon that – why call it wonderful? The Wondrous Cross on which my Saviour died.
Why call it powerful?
It seems crazy from the outside – foolishness. But to those who are being saved – it is a glorious powerful message – I message of hope.
A message of victory over that death. The cross on Friday I bet the Leaders of the time – the Pharisees, the scribes, the religious folk who were so threatened by Jesus’ message and his teachings – I bet they thought that they had won. Look, you see, there is your leader – dead - rejected by his own people – abandoned – not protected – given up quite easily. No battle. Given up on. AND dead. Body pierced. Hands and feet impaled. A mocking, ironic crown placed on his head. POWERLESS
– but, it’s Sunday, and He is alive.
IT’s Sunday and death was not the end.
It’s Sunday and there is indeed something greater than that cruel unjust execution.
There’s the POWER.
Is that POWER moving you? IS that POWER driving your life? Are you fully charged? IF you had a little battery percentage measure on your forehead - would it be close to 100% or would you have a few percentage left.
You know what I hate – I hate when I go to bed and I forget to leave my cellphone plugged in. And I wake up and it is dead. Dead and of absolutely no use, because it has no power.
If we have no power – if we are not charged up and plugged in, we can be of NO USE. And we have been created to be of use. We are here for a reason, we are here with a commission - with work to do. With eternal, supernatural power coming to us from a God who can do ALL THINGS – conquer any sin, use any person, gain victory over the strongest stronghold. Bringing light into the darkest place.
1 Corinthians 4:20 – Kingdom of God does not exist in talk but in power
So how do we then empty the cross of it’s power – by trying to make it dependant on words. We say a lot of things here – we sing a lot of words every Sunday – we pray a lot of words, we hear a lot of speaking – we even, ahem, make a lot of commitments to our God – but the Kingdom of God is more than just WORDS. Earthly wisdom, earthly eloquence – flipped on it’s head by an act of POWER.
We further empty the cross of it’s power when we say – agh, it’s just a story, I don’t really think it happened. Or saying, yeah, okay it happened, but it’s not really for me. By saying – it was something that was relevant and important a long time ago and since then – well faith has changed and evolved and we’ve come a long way since those days…
But when we accept that it is true, and real, and personal, and relevant to our lives here in 2021 - and we live like that– we speak a message way more powerful than any sermon. We allow the power of the Cross into our own lives and the lives of the people around us. That we are forgiven, that we have an eternal hope – not limited to the next however many years on earth – that we are valued and that we are loved.
So what’s the challenge?
Are we keeping plugged in – have we forgotten to check that the lead was plugged in properly
Is our battery dead Are we trying to off grid – to further butcher the Eskom analogy – there’s no going off grid here people – He is the only source of lasting power.
We are so tired and broken – and sure, maybe we’re in a season of rest – but we’ve forgotten to leave the plug in - We’re not actually open to be recharged – to be re-energised –
Have we left this story in the past and turned off the power? Have we reduced our faith to story? Is our openness to being moved by the Power of the Holy Spirit reduced to whether or not we are impressed by the speaker on a Sunday?
I pray not.
When we think of the cross, today, on the special day, but on any day – we remember a real event. We remember a real sacrifice. We remember He gave up his own life – in obedience to His Father – in a POWERFUL ACT.
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.
And we remember why He did it – as a personal ransom, as a sacrifice, to pay the price that our sins demanded.
We were spiritually dead in our sins – but he is greater than death. This is the power of the Cross.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the [i]handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
This is Christian Power – not having earthly authority and being in charge – ruling over others. Not physical strength, having muscles and appearing outwardly strong.
The Power at work in us is over sin. The Power at work in us has already claimed the eternal victory (Stan reminded on Friday – it is finished! The handwriting has been wiped out!). The Power of the Cross doesn’t promise an easy life free from sacrifice and service. The Power comes from Him and is For Him and His glory alone, as we are used in His service.
And we finish with this then -
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.