|Easter 7, Year C||May 29, 2022||Easter 7, Year C||John 17:20-26|
|Easter 6, Year C||May 22, 2022||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 14:23-29|
|Easter 5, Year C||May 15, 2022||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35, Revelation 21:1-6, Acts 11:1-18|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 8, 2022||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 10:22-30, Acts 9:36-43, Revelation 7:9-17|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 1, 2022||The Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 24, 2022||Easter 2, Year C||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, Year C||April 17, 2022||Easter, Year C||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, Year C||April 15, 2022||Good Friday, Year C||John 18:1-19:42|
|Palm Sunday sermon April 10, 2022||April 10, 2022||Palm Sunday||Luke 22:14-23:56|
|Lent 5||April 3, 2022||Lent 5, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Lent 4, Year C||March 27, 2022||Lent 4, Year C||Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Lent 3||March 20, 2022||Third Sunday in Lent, 2022||Luke 13:1-9|
|Lent 2||March 13, 2022||Lent 2, Year C||Luke 13:31-35|
|Ash Wednesday, Year C||March 2, 2022||Ash Wednesday, Year C||Genesis, chapter 4|
|Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||February 27, 2022||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Pentecost 6, Year B
Sermon Date:July 4, 2021
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost 6, Proper 9
God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul’s response is that he will boast all the more gladly of his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in him, that he will be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ– for whenever Paul is weak, he is strong.
The surveys have started piling in. From the national church on down, everyone wants to know—how has the pandemic affected your congregation? Many questions have to do with perceptions about how churches have been weakened by the pandemic. Has attendance decreased? Has the budget grown smaller?
Some of you have wondered about the same issues, specifically about the number of people who are here. Although I wrote about this in this month’s Parish Post, I will offer this information again for your consideration.
We are smaller. Six people have chosen not to return to St Peter’s as participants. Two people have moved away. And one person has died. So we have nine less people. Meanwhile, Linda, Jan and Larry have come to us. And Lydia is worshiping with us on line. So even though we have new people, we are still down by five people, a significant loss given our size. And when Alex V and Elizabeth move to Okinawa, six more people, four of them our children, will also be gone.
So Paul’s words hold special resonance for me today. I want to cheer when God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s response rings true as well.
“For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Yes, we might appear to be weak, or even think that we are weak, but the reality is that we are strong. As I look back on how God has filled and strengthened us in the past year, even in the face of our losses, I can’t help but rejoice.
In spite of the pandemic and our smaller numbers, we are coming out of the pandemic full of God’s grace—evident in the ways that we have cared and are caring for one another, and evident in the work we are doing for God, with all of our ministries still underway.
God has given us the grace to accomplish in just a few short months the huge task of raising money and collecting school supplies for an entire elementary school in Jamaica. We did not manage this feat through our own power. This generosity and hard work have happened because God’s grace is at work in our midst.
So I am going to boast of our “weakness.” Because even though in the eyes are the world we are tiny and insignificant, God is doing great things for God’s work in the world in us and through us.
With our small numbers, we can’t possibly take credit for all we get done. So we, and anyone else who wonders, can see that God’s power, and not our own, is carrying us through.
Because today is July 4th, and we are celebrating the anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, I want to consider how today’s passages apply to our nation.
As we have lived through the pandemic, some of our national weaknesses have become more obvious.
A visible national weakness is our ongoing division, often along political lines, and our continuing unwillingness to work together, to seek consensus or to compromise. Division weakens us. But God’s power can go to work when people open themselves to God, rather than to worship division, separation, and their own arrogant certainties. God will not force God’s healing on people who don’t want to be healed or unified. Only through God’s grace can we become united. In her hymn “O beautiful for spacious skies,” Katherine Lee Bates prays that God will shed God’s grace on our country, and crown what is already good in this nation with “brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.” She also prays that God will mend our every flaw, give us self-control, and will guide us to preserve the liberty that God wills for all living creatures in our laws. Bates is clear that our nation is flawed, but she also can see beyond the years to the potential that we as a nation have when we open ourselves to God’s grace and mercy.
Today’s gospel offers an instructive example of what happens when people are blinded by their own narrow perspectives and understandings, unwilling to see beyond what they already know.
When Jesus comes home and preaches in the synagogue, the people take great offense at what he has to say. They know Jesus only as the village carpenter, and now he’s putting on airs. They put him down, and close him out. Their actions seem powerful, with Jesus looking like the weakened one, for Mark reports that Jesus could do no deed of power right there in his own hometown other than to lay hands on a few sick people and to cure them.
But in misusing their power because their minds are closed, these people lose out big time—because Jesus simply leaves and goes to other villages, whose people receive the benefit of Jesus’ healing and empowering love in their midst. In fact, Jesus enlists help, which is a good indication that in these other places his message is so successful that he needs reinforcements for his work.
So Jesus sends out the disciples two by two. He instructs them to take nothing with them but a staff. They are to be clothed only in tunics and sandals; no bread, no bag, no money, no outer cloak. He sends the disciples out into the world practically naked, but in their material weakness, he fills them with God’s power. And so, with nothing but God’s power at hand, they cast out many demons, anoint many who are sick and cure them.
God’s power is made perfect in their weakness.
Just as Jesus sent the disciples out, God chooses us and sends us out as well.
As Richard Rohr points out in last Friday’s daily meditation, “God is always choosing people.”
But Rohr says that God is not choosing us “primarily for a particular role or task, though it might appear that way.”
First and foremost, God is calling us to be God in this world, to make God visible, present and known to the world, to speak God into the world, to love in such a way that God is present in our midst.
Rohr goes on to say that “God needs images. God needs people to be willing instruments.”
God chooses us, and we know that we are not alone, and doing only our own thing, but that we are doing God’s thing.
God chooses us all—those of us who are angry or unforgiving, those of us who are old, those of us who are worn out, or stressed out, those of us struggling with illnesses—God chooses each of us with all of our flaws. God chooses us in our weaknesses, or maybe even because of our weaknesses. And God chooses us, this church, St Peter’s, to be God’s image in this world in all that we do, through God’s grace.
In the end, Rohr says, God chooses us so that we can communicate chosenness for everyone else, extending God’s welcome to others in the way that God has welcomed us into God’s healing, transforming power in our own lives.
“Here’s the principle,” Rohr says. “In doing God’s work in the world, we can only transform people to the degree that we have been transformed. We can only lead others as far as we ourselves have gone….only beloved people can pass on belovedness.”
God loves us in our weaknesses. God’s power fills us when we lay our own small powers down. When we are weak, we are strong.
God’s grace is sufficient for us.
I hope that as we journey on together as the body of Christ, we won’t be afraid or ashamed of our weaknesses, but that we will offer up our weaknesses to God’s loving transformative power, so that God can change us more and more into God’s very image, and we can be God’s image in this world.
I hope that we’ll be willing for God to lead us more and more deeply into God’s love, so that we in turn, can love one another more deeply and fully, and united in our love for one another, love others in their weaknesses, for in their weaknesses, and in ours, God’s power will be made perfect.
Resource: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, “God is always choosing people” Friday, July 2, 2021 Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 42–44.