Thursday, July 4, 2013


2 Corinthians 12:1-10
It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

It would seem that we long for superheroes that are impervious to our human struggles for life. We seem to think that if only we had someone who was able to rise above the temptations and weaknesses that trouble us, we could hold to this person for courage. We therefore set up our icons – Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa – and trust that they will get us through our own very messy lives. And when they fail to live up to our ideals of perfection, we are disillusioned and less hopeful about life. The problem is that each of our heroes has their own imperfections! Perhaps this is the key to the survival of stories such as  Achilles from Greek mythology, or Superman  in DC ComicsAchilles' heel and Superman’s Kryptonite are useful narrative reminders that every human being is vulnerable.  

This is the essence of the Scripture Passage for today: St Paul writes of his discovery that he was not perfect. He had a weakness – which he described as a “thorn in the flesh”, given “to keep me from being too elated”. Although he prayed for this to be removed, it remained with him as a reminder that his achievements are only through the power of God: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”.

Christian leaders are tempted to hide our weaknesses in order to project perfection. Not only does this lead us into a conspiracy of lies about our true selves, but it prevents us from making space for the power of God. We then become “gods”, dispensing wisdom and truth as if they are our possessions. It is the task of every Christian leader to point beyond self to the one who gives life. The challenge is for us to follow Jesus – and not to act as if we were Jesus.  

For Thought:

Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Savior’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered,
All of self, and none of Thee,
All of self and none of Thee.

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered;
Grant me now my heart’s petition,
None of self, and all of Thee,
None of self, and all of Thee.

Lyrics: Theodore Monod (1836-1921)

Fifth Sunday after Trinity
36 The Power of the Gospel

The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 225.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

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