First, a note about this week. Ray and I leave for Boston in the morning, and will be gone until Saturday evening. The Lewis Fellowship in which I participate is meeting there and Ray and I are combining continuing education with some time away. So, I may or may not get to blog again this week.
Now, onto the topic of this entry. If it's Sunday night, it must be.....Sermon reflection time.
I really enjoyed preaching today. We had our women's retreat on Saturday, and I was reflecting then about how much I feel balanced again. I have finally gotten back to my sense of God's rhythm and grace. Thanks be to God.
This is part of the reason I so enjoyed today's lectionary texts. And I stressed/worked less on this sermon than any other in recent memory. This was partly because I felt so in tune, and partly because the lectionary involved one of my favorite verses of Scripture: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2Cor.12:9)
The gospel lesson was the first two pericopes in Mark 6. It's the story of Jesus being rejected in his own hometown, followed by Jesus sending out the disciples two by two with instructions to travel light. Very light. With, well, nothing. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
It strikes me that Jesus must have been through a heart wrenching time...preaching to the folks you grew up with, only to have them reject you? I would have been crushed. Scripture does not tell us Jesus' emotions, except that he makes a comment that a prophet is only without honor is his own hometown. I can hear a hint of bitterness there.
So what does Jesus do when he is rejected? He turns around and sends the disciples out to preach, teach, and heal. He invites them to depend entirely upon God, to the point of shaking the dust from their feet if they come to a place that is not receptive to the message. It is up to God whether the folks they meet are receptive or not. It's not about their own abilities to preach/teach/heal. Jesus reacted to his rejection by witnessing to the truth that when we feel most ineffective, that is precisely when God is most able to use us. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
When I am feeling discouraged, rejected, isolated, useless, powerless, vulnerable, weak...whatever it is, God's grace holds me up. In fact, it is when I am most vulnerable that God is most powerful. Amazing. Awesome. And that is of course the message of the cross.
I remember the first time I was asked to go visit someone in the hospital. It was my first year of Seminary, and the senior pastor where I served on staff just walked in and said, "you need to go to the hospital and visit them." I gulped and said "ok." I was terrified. I said very little. Mostly I sat there, and then prayed.
I could not believe how grateful they were when I next saw them. They told me how much of a blessing my time spent with them had been. It was God working through me, not me, that did anything useful. Of that I am certain. My grace is sufficient for you, for power if made perfect in weakness.
I think this is one of those truths that don't make sense until it is experienced first hand. Really, I find that is true about much of the life of faith.
My favorite image of God's grace is that of a river. We have the choice to either jog beside the river, in which case we are close to God but working hard at it. Or, we can get in the river and float with the current of grace. My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
Right now, the water is feeling good. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay off the jogging path a while longer.