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Faith and Foolishness



“Faith and Foolishness”

a message by the Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Based on the theme, “Faith Works”

Coral Isles Church


September 26, 2021


Proverbs 1:20-33 NRSV


20Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. 21At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you;

I will make my words known to you. 24Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

25and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,

26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, 27when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

when distress and anguish come upon you. 28Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. 29Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,

30would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,

31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.

32For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;

33but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”




Can you remember the most foolish thing you ever did? Maybe as a teen you and the neighbor boys push-started the old VW and drove it around the neighborhood? Not saying we did that, just an example maybe? There is foolishness that causes no harm, there is foolishness that could cause harm – like driving with a few too many adult beverages in one’s system. And then there is foolishness that kills. Let’s be honest, none of us can honestly say we never road the Fool Train. Some of us could qualify as Engineers driving the Train or at least ticket – taking Conductors.

This morning I want to talk about the intersection of faith and foolishness. I want to see if we can find enough truth in the Scripture reading to discern how faith works to help us. I hope we can hear the advice of Wisdom speaking in this passage enough to deal with our own folly, as well as to know how to deal with the foolishness that seems rampant in our current context. I will apologize in advance if my comments hit too close to home at any point, but I will apologize with 2 caveats: I am fairly aware of my own foolishness, and so I point out things that seem foolish to me – you don’t have to agree but I ask you to at least ask yourself why it feels like I am stepping on your toes? Is it because perhaps there is some truth to it?

The Scripture we read this morning speaks in the voice of Wisdom. Let me point out something right at the start: in Scripture, Wisdom is almost always described as a she. Men did you hear that? Are you reflecting on why a paternalistic religion and a Bible written almost exclusively by men chose to characterize wisdom as a woman? Take a moment, I’ll wait. Yes, mama was right.

Now notice too that Wisdom “cries out in the streets.” She does not hide her words of guidance. She does not whisper it in ways we might misunderstand. She speaks in public. Anybody’s mama ever say something like, “Am I speaking Hindu? I said, ‘pick up those socks off the floor.’ She didn’t mince words and she didn’t say it so softly she had to repeat it, right? Wisdom speaks truth, not a hidden truth or a mystery. Anybody’s mother say something like, “If you think I’m lying go ahead and see what happens?” Her words of advice are plain as day. She warns of the consequences of ignoring it. Now, Christopher Titus, the comedian says his father was the type who would watch you start to stick a screwdriver in an electrical outlet, and instead of yelling “Stop!” he would lean over to his buddy and say, “Wait, wait, watch this.” And then when you picked yourself up of the floor five feet away, he would say, “You ain’t try that again are you?” Then he’d pop open a beer. “Splooosh.”

I have to admit I cringe a bit at Wisdom’s warnings of the consequences if we do not listen. It does not come out like a warm hug from Mom. It sounds a lot more like, “you made your bed, now lie in it:”

24Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, 27when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

when distress and anguish come upon you.

I think we all want to believe in a God who is compassionate and will hold us tenderly when we are crying. As a Pastor who believes in trying to embody that compassion, I am aware that there are times when we suffer and it is not our fault. But I also think we all know that when we choose foolish ways we have suffered and the question of Wisdom – I think – is will we learn from our mistake, our foolishness, will we face the consequences or deny our responsibility? Will we hold on to the mast of a ship that sinks because we sailed into the hurricane, knowing what the experts said about sailing in a hurricane? And then will we compound it by wondering why God didn’t save us while we wave off the Coast Guard chopper and cutter that are trying to send rescue swimmers to carry us to safety?

One of the things I believe is foolish is the tendency to double-down when someone has taken a path or followed a belief that becomes clearly wrong. It is sad to me the number of people who have chosen not to get vaccinated who call out to their relatives from their death bed begging them not to make the same mistake. I can’t understand – and my oldest son is one of these – who say they are doing their own research and waiting to get vaccinated for a different version or for more information on the consequences of the vaccine. If a train is coming at you and jumping off into the lake on the side is the only option, but you are scared there might be alligators in the lake, my advice is jump now, deal with the alligators later – IF they happen to be there. Now that may or may not be “wisdom,” but here’s what the Lady Wisdom says:


They hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. 32For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;

I think if we expect God to bail us out when we do not listen to God’s wisdom we are foolish. I think if we choose to turn against God because God didn’t bail us out – I understand the grief we may feel, but ultimately the fact is we probably have been worshiping a false god. We probably have constructed a Wish God. A Wish God is the god we wish for, a Santa Claus god who grants wishes and if he doesn’t we act like a spoiled kid and pout. Now that may seem harsh to say, but Lady Wisdom is challenging me to keep it real today.

In that vein let me offer one more thought about the words we read today. The part we read ends with:

33but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Here’s the caution: don’t misunderstand this. It is not saying if we listen to God we will never have calamities or disasters. The Book of Job is the prime example of this incomplete theology. Job was a truly good man who suffered life changing tragedies – multiple tragedies. He lost family, he lost his fortune, he lost his health. Not because he lacked faith or was a bad man.

So listen to the phrase again and let me share how I understand it:

33but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

I don’t believe Lady Wisdom is promising people of faith never face disaster. That leads to the judgment Job’s so-called friends made, that his disasters were proof of his sin. What our Scripture is telling us is that if we listen to the Wisdom of God we will have a security that goes beyond circumstances. We will live without living in fear that every thing bad that happens will come to us. That is what I think it means to live without dread of disaster and to live secure and at ease. I think when we understand that God is not a magic fairy waving a wand over those who are “true believers,” and leaving unbelievers hanging out to dry we will have a confidence to live, even knowing disaster may strike. And then we will find in our faith a wisdom that helps us cope, endure, and even if we do not survive it we trust a God who is the God of the Resurrection, a God of new life.

The wisdom I trust is looking for truth and seeking to understand and then trusting that God intends good, that God is at work with those who do good, and that God ultimately uses the power that God has to bring good out of evil, life out of death, hope in the face of hopelessness. I struggle when I see people choose evil or choose ignorance, or choose ways that cause injustice and suffering for others to trust that God’s power is greater and that God will bring that reign of life and love and equality that Jesus described as the Kingdom of God. I hope that God can transform me when I am less than compassionate, or even foolish. At my best I pray the same for those who I see as foolish or worse.

Perhaps the best wisdom is to realize that often others see everything as win/lose, right/wrong, true/false. Most of us realize life is full of a spectrum of grays in between. We know that both political parties take millions of dollars from corporations more interested in profit than what is best for the most people. We all hopefully believe that not everyone on one side of the political or religious or any other life stance is completely good or completely bad, and even those who we think are completely bad probably do not believe themselves to be doing evil to do evil. Wisdom leads me, at my best to know I have often done bad things out of foolishness not out of intent. May God have mercy on me for that.

As we try to live through this time, as we try to survive the current foolishness, two things come to mind. This won’t last, but it also isn’t the last foolishness we will see, if we live through it. Let us learn from this so that we might not only survive this, but be better prepared for the foolishness yet to come. And let us see preparing ourselves in this way as seeking the Wisdom of God and the way to live out our faith in the love of Christ. That’s the way faith works. AMEN.


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