When I was in our school for ministry, one Saturday at lunch we mused over the question, “When you’re in your casket, and friends and parishioners are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?” My friend David said: “I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine deacon, and a great family man.” My friend Galen commented: “I would like them to say I was a servant of God who made a huge difference in people’s lives.” There was some silence. All eyes fell on me. I stirred my coffee, took a sip and said: “I’d like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”
My friends in Christ, today’s lessons are really interesting.
In Second Samuel, young David is made king, and as the reading notes, he “became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”
In our epistle, Paul writes about his affliction, perhaps metaphorical…a thorn in his flesh…and that three times he asked God to relieve him of this thorn and three times God refused, telling Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
In our Gospel, Mark writes about a Jesus who can do little in his home town and about the disciples being sent out, two by two, as messengers and ministers of the good news.
These stories give us examples of weakness and strength…weakness and strength that we can all relate to, and the amazing power of our God, who is always there and will give us this strength, sometimes if we but wait…and sometimes when we least expect it.
We Christians get stuck, far too often, looking at, and dwelling in the bad in our lives, rather than rejoicing in the good things…the blessings…that God provides.
Take a moment and reflect on your lives and your spiritual journeys. Do you look at the weaknesses or the strengths? When I look back on my life and the faith walk that made me who I am today, I see more weakness than strength, more failure then success, more haughtiness than humility. I see the kid who grew up poor, rather than the nurse and deacon he became. I see the absentee father who drank way too much, rather than the sober dad who now has good relationships with his children. I tend to see the failed marriage, rather than the man who found happiness with the most amazing woman he knows.
These lessons today…and the stories of my life and all of your stories, in many ways, present us with this paradoxical warp and weft of weaknesses and strengths that we all learn to love and live with and learn about.
Leonard Cohen, one of the poets of our ages says that our hearts must have cracks in them…that’s how the light gets in. Ernest Hemmingway wrote, “Life breaks all of us, but some of us are strong in the broken places.”
Strong in the broken places. I like that. Young King David, afraid and unsure of his mantle, became a strong and ever-remembered king.
Paul, despite his thorn in the flesh, spread the Gospel to the known world in the time after Christ’s death. Paul reflects on his own brokenness, his inability to cope with unnamed infirmities. Three times he petitioned God to relieve him of the issues that plagued him; and three times, God reminded Paul that he had been gifted with all he needed to cope.
I love this lesson from Second Corinthians. We do not know what Paul’s thorn was, but he communicates his understanding that it is better, with God’s help, to bear our human frailties than it is to glory in our ineptitude. In our periods of suffering we are drawn to God and reminded of God’s promises: God WILL supply our needs; all things WILL work together for good to those who are called according to God’s purpose; and God’s grace, that wonderful, freely given gift will ALWAYS be sufficient
Jesus was a prophet who could do little good in his home town, and he sent his disciples two by two to heal and proclaim the good news. Christ died and rose for us, and we remember that resurrection every Sunday. We ARE an Easter People.
As we come together with each other, at this table, many of us feel broken. We may not speak of it, but we know it is there. My dear friends in Christ, be assured that all of us can become strong again. We can endure.
So I ask myself, as I do every time I preach: What do these lessons mean to us, at Trinity Church, in Independence, Missouri, in 2012?
We have an E Club that has recently reformed. The E word in E Club is evangelism. To me, these lessons mean that we can be amazing examples of discipleship if we share our faith stories with the unchurched around us. Let them know of your struggles. More importantly, let them know of the faith, the community, and the Eucharist that fortifies you to endure.
Let them know that God’s grace is sufficient for yourself and and is also sufficient for them. Most importantly, remind them that yes, life breaks all of us…but thanks to God, this community of faith, and this Eucharist…we are strong in the broken places.