The Two Foolishnesses


A sermon at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church by George R. Pasley

Psalm 27

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.


1 Corinthians 1:14-18

I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 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. 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.


I heard a sermon one time- and I’m bragging, to say I heard the sermon. Itw as an EXPERIENCE.

The preacher was, and perhaps stil is, one of the very finest preachers in America. Maybe ever.

His name is James Forbes, and he is now retired- been retired, for a while- but eh was one of the preachers at a conference I went to, and he was telling stories.

One of them went like this: the board of his church was upset with something he had done, something he had done that spoke up for justice on behalf of some disadvantaged people, and they had a meeting, and asked him to explain himself.

And the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was afraid.

He was trembling like a leaf.

The most eloquent of men was almost stammering.

So here is what he did: he recited verse one, of Psalm 27- and it sounded something like this:

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid!

It was an exercise in finding courage. Finding courage to stand up for the people that God was standing up for. Courage to follow where Jesus himself was leading.

It was an exercise in breaking THROUGH the army that besieged him.

And the LORD taught him the way, the straight path, because he found the courage to follow.

Well, this Psalm is in the bible for one very good reason: there is a LOT to be afraid of!

Dr. Forbes was afraid of getting fired.

Dr. King was afraid of getting killed.

There are children who go to school, afraid of getting beaten.

There are children who come home, afraid of the same thing.

I turned around out on John Mountain one time, because I was afraid of spending the night out there.

I dare say, there are people in town every day who are afraid of what the doctor is going to tell them.

And there are men and women who tremble when they say good-by to their loved one, because they are afraid they might not come home from war, or a dangerous job.

There is plenty to be afraid of, and even though the Bible tells us hundreds of times NOT to be afraid, we are. But the person praying this Psalm, whoever they are, they are reminded: who SHOULD we be afraid of? Nobody, because the LORD is on our side.

Being reminded, we can find our way into courage- and we might be surprised how LITTLE courage it actually takes.

But we need to go one step further. This Psalm- and most of the others- they are prayers about being afraid of the ones who can kill us and maim us and do us harm.

But we need to have just a little more courage than that.

We need to not be afraid of insult, or injury, or even death- because Jesus died, and even there the LORD was on his side.

There are those who are NOT afraid of dying- and they live boldly, and adventurously.

But there are even those who are afraid, and live boldly ANYWAY, because even when we die, they trust that God has our back.

So they take risks, but they are not fools.

The fools are those who live unadventurously.

They take no risks.

They invite no insults.

They suffer no liable.


They live, but we might wonder- do they live well?

Or is it the life of someone who never loved

And never wondered what he was missing?


So here’s the truth: I’ve been a fool, my whole life.

I’ve been afraid. Not all the time, and not in everything.

But every day, in something, I haven’t trusted the LORD,

And I’ve held something back-

Avoided the risk-

And lost.


Now, here’s the question:

What are you afraid of?

What’s holding you back, because you’re holding on to it?

Listen: God’s asking you to risk it, for the Kingdom of God.


Let me tell you, in 1967, when the church came out with anew confession, one of the liens was about “Risking the life of the church for the Kingdom of God”-

And people were mad.


But they were fools, and we may be too if we don’t risk the life of our church.

It may turn out that risk could kill the church- but we might be surprised at how powerful that witness would be!

Or, it may turn out that what seems like a risk was really the cure.

Because Jesus went to the cross- afraid!

But he went, trusting God.

So there’s foolishness number one.

But foolishness number two, well, it’s a slippery eel.

We can trust in the LORD because the Lord is our light and salvation BUT

Our light and our salvation, they don’t FUNCTION the way our worldly heroes function.

Jesus won, because he lost.

Seriously, the notion of someone being crucified and THEREFORE being somebody else’s hero was the laughing stock of Paul’s times.

And truthfully, it would be a laughingstock NOW, if we understood.

No- he lost. But we forget.

He lost because he never even put up a fight.

They mocked him and slapped him and beat him and teased him.

They stripped him naked and whipped him.

They gambled for his clothes and taunted him to his very last breath.

And he forgave them.

You don’t get any more un-American than that.

No, his way to victory was a different way altogether.

It was the way of taking foolish risks.

It was the way of letting go of everything- EVERYTHING-

Every dream, every goal, every love, every passion, every memory-


And letting God do all the holding

Even into death.

His way was a foolish way,

And it still is.

But to those of us who KNOW that we’re dying,

It is the power of life.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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