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Monday, June 29, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 or Ezekiel 2:1-5, Psalm 48:1-14 or Psalm 123:1-4, II Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-3 II Corinthians 12:9 may have been my mother’s favorite verse. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness,” words spoken by the Lord to Paul. The words hung over the kitchen sink, inscribed on a small plaque. She suffered a mental breakdown during my teen years, eventually spending time in the state mental institution in the days of electro-shock therapy. She went on to live a significant, relatively normal, life, characterized by much service to the community. She became what Henri Nouwen spoke of as a “wounded healer.” My parents were both living witnesses to the power of people who find their way through weakness to strength. Somehow they managed to convey to me, in a way that I internalized, that fighting was not acceptable behavior. It doesn’t sound very manly, but when a bully attacked me, I would simply go limp, and soon he would give up. When the Lord speaks to Paul in that verse quoted from II Corinthians, Paul has said that he will not boast about anything “except my weaknesses.” (II Corinthians 12:5) He concludes, in verse 10, with the declaration, “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 seems that when he is aware of his weakness he is also most aware of the power of Christ in him. (Vs. 9) Well, what about it? Doesn’t make much sense. To be powerful you have to scramble your way to the top, pushing aside everyone who gets in the way. Isn’t that the way it works—for individual and for nations? If you don’t stand up for what it yours, fight back, exact revenge, those bullies will take away everything you have. I admit I’ve often wondered whether radical obedience to the way of Jesus could ever work—especially on the grand scale of international power plays. We will probably hear a speech or two about what makes a “strong” nation this holiday weekend. Can we listen to them with hearts and minds that see power coming from a gentle inner Spirit that sees and measures not as the world sees and measures? Both Ezekiel and Mark speak to the need for people to hear the words of a prophet, to be called to account by a voice from another perspective. Ezekiel paints the picture of a rebellious nation which is “impudent and stubborn.” (Ezekiel 2:4) At least they will know that “there has been a prophet among them.” (vs. 5) Someone needs to continue to speak words that challenge the usual ways of power politics. Jesus, in the Gospel according to Mark, speaks of a prophet who is without honor in his hometown—he being that prophet. People can’t imagine that an ordinary carpenter, an ordinary anything, ordinary people like us, might have anything to say that would affect the course of history. When we worship and speak and act as Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ does the world know that prophets are in their midst. I hope we never stop hearing that prophetic word here and never stop doing our best to apply it in our living in our private and public activities. If you like to wonder about strange elements in biblical stories, you may want to speculate on this person whom Paul knew, described in the first part of the passage from II Corinthians. The person was “caught up to the third heaven.” It is there that the person “heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.” I’d rather be encouraged by the possibility of strength in weakness than five visions about things which cannot be told—nor probably understood. I’m sure there are graces beyond description in realms that reach from here to eternity. For the moment I’ll settle for grace which is sufficient to empower me in my weakness. Would that the world know more of such grace in its interpersonal and international functioning.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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