2 Corinthians 12.2-10
Rev Canon Cheryl Collins
May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Who do you want to be for Jesus?
Over the last week or so in cathedrals up and down our land the Petertide ordinations have been taking place. Women and men have been taking their vows, making a public commitment to be a representative Christian, a minister of religion, a person in holy orders, someone with cure of souls, a vicar. I’ve always imagined that being ordained is a bit like being married. It’s not the big day itself that’s truly important, it’s what comes afterwards when you have to work out on a daily basis who to be for Jesus, and more importantly who Jesus wants you to be, just as once you are married you have to work out what being a
married person truly means. Of course, one of the things that you don’t see coming before you are ordained is how other people will perceive you, their expectations and projections.
Paul was certainly having a problem with the expectations and projections of his Corinthian congregation in today’s reading. It seems that other more exciting leaders had arrived, so called super-apostles and were busy boasting of all the things that made them superior to Paul. it’s true the only physical description we have of Paul describes him as being bald with a bulbous nose so he wasn’t about to win any beauty pageant. But it wasn’t appearance that was impressing the Corinthians, apparently the super-apostles were boasting of their super mystical experiences of God too. Paul seeks to undermine their claims and the expectations of the Corinthians by boasting of things that are mirror images of the Corinthians’ expectations, things that demonstrate his weakness and vulnerability. The point that Paul wants to make to the Corinthians is that the kind of experience we have of God, mystical or not, is irrelevant- it is the meeting with God that matters not the form it takes. We need God. So, although Paul hints that he could match these super-apostles in every way, he knows that his calling is not to gather a crowd of admiring followers for himself, but to witness to God in Christ. Perhaps that’s why he hints about a mysterious thorn in the flesh, undermining Paul’s work. He has begged God 3 times to remove this obstacle, but God has said No. So, if Paul’s thorn in the flesh makes him less plausible and
authoritative for God it is in fact God’s gift to him, because it reminds him that Paul is dependent upon God, not vice versa.
Who do you want to be for Jesus?
Maybe the better question is who will you let Jesus be in you? Jesus himself was no stranger to the preconceptions and expectations of others getting in the way of sharing his message. Our gospel reading from Mark describes him going to his own hometown and discovering that the very people he grew up with have determined not to listen to his message just because he grew up with them. Their question ‘Who does he think he is?’ frees them from the responsibility of hearing what he is saying. But Jesus, despite his own feelings, does not let this distract him from his mission or his message. He sends the disciples out to share the good news so that God’s word is heard, and God’s will done.
Who will you let Jesus be in you?Who does Jesus want to be for God?
The words that spring to my mind are dependent, faithful and obedient. There was a time when I thought it was MY vocation, and at least to an extent all about me. Oh, the arrogance and folly of youth! What matters is God, and God doesn’t need me to go about God’s business here in Sudbury or anywhere else for that matter. But I need God. The stories of the Bible remind us that God doesn’t see as we see. God looks on the heart, while we let ourselves be dazzled or distracted by outer appearances. What God sees is what ultimately matters. When we make the effort to see as God sees, we will encounter God’s chosen in the most unlikely places and the most astonishing people. Our stories are ultimately about God, they are our witness statements if you like to the experience of God in our own lives.
Who God is, how God loves, and who God wants us to be.
Dependent, faithful, obedient. What does that look like in your life? What practices do you find helpful to put you in the place where God can find you and speak into your life? How do you think about what faithfulness to God might mean in this family, in this time, in this place? How do you hold yourself accountable to God, so that as you receive more and more from God, you can share more and more of God and help others know the life of SHALOM, God’s total peace and wellbeing which is God’s desire for the whole of creation? How do we as a community, the body of Christ in this place, seek to be a community which models our dependence upon God, our faithfulness to God’s call, our obedience to God’s will?Who will we let Jesus be in us?
May we live out of the abundant sufficiency of God’s grace and let God’s power be made perfect in our weakness, so that by our lives as well as our speech we proclaim that Jesus is Lord in us. Amen