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ss=MsoNormal style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt'>May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, Heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen
You might be surprised to know that Churches can be about the strangest organizations that I have ever been a part of
I have been on sports teams, a variety of jobs and workplaces – but churches; once you get inside, inside and see how things tick… they can be the strangest of all organizations
What do I mean by this… well, what I am referring to is:
The driving ‘purpose’ of any organization and measuring up against that ‘purpose’
You see with a sports team – the *purpose* is the competition – building up towards that the goal of participating and competing
With most businesses, its *purpose* is providing a product or service – all efforts are measured by the organizations ability to do this
It might be that, unlike in business where unproductive members are either re-trained, re-appointed or dismissed… churches are people – not buildings… and measurement of purpose is hard to do – and so purpose can get confused along the way
It is this boasting in confusion of purpose that we meet up with our passage from 2nd Corinthians today
Through-out 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul is defending his authority against attacks of false apostles.
They have come to Corinth to establish their own authority and power, the usurping apostles spread disparaging comments about Paul.
His letters, they say, are weighty and strong, but when you see Paul in the flesh, he’s not so impressive.
And when you hear him preach, his speech is weak and of no special merit, and you see him for the fool he is.
So Paul responds, in so many words, “If you take me for a fool, then I’ll play the fool.
What does a fool do?
(Exactly what the false apostles have been doing.)
So I will boast, matching the false prophets boast for boast.
They claim to be sons of Abraham; so am I.
They claim to be servants of Christ; so am I -- and hear how much I’ve suffered in Christ’s service.”
Then he says, “If you think I am weak and a fool, I’ll show you just how foolish I am.
I’ll boast, not of my strength, but of my weakness.”
For only a fool would boast of weakness.
He speaks of his weakness cryptically, as “the thorn in [his] flesh.”
When Paul boasts of his weakness, he has turned the false apostles’ criticism against them.
For the hallmark of a true apostle is found, not in his strength, but in his weakness.
The Good News I bring you this afternoon is not a eulogy for virtue as you can see.
I do not come to praise the power of your knowledge or perseverance or patience.
On the contrary, this is a eulogy for weakness.
You see, whatever you contribute in your life of faith this summer, its source is not your strength or your virtue or your excellence, But its source is your weakness.
Its source comes when you surrender your ambitions and allow God to reign
For as Paul tells the Corinthians, /“When I am weak, then I am strong.”/
The point is this: true holiness is not a matter of personal power—it is a matter of God’s power in the midst of personal weakness.
It is what enabled St. Paul to declare:
/"Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong./
(2 Cor 12:10)
Another way understand all this talk about weakness, is to consider how we are saved
We are granted salvation by the once, perfect sacrifice of Jesus
All our sin, both committed and in the future – us, generations past and generations to come - all is forgiven by the substitutional atonement of God in Jesus the Christ
The servant ministry of Christ – once, perfect, complete – makes us Holy justified to God
In Christ, all our transgressions are wiped away and we are made right with God
Yet considered from a perspective outside the church – this would seem like complete foolishness
How could someone who was executed by the ruling power – someone who appears to have no power…is weak – how can this provide salvation
/For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God./ (1 Cor 1:18)
The Cross is expectations of this world, turned on its head
This world is all about the appearances of power and the Cross is the surrendering of power, and into servitude
Jesus predicted what He was to do and declared His purpose …and ours…
/Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
To the world – to be a servant is weakness
To the world an instrument of death, the Cross, is foolishness
But God declares that the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven – comes when we love one-anther just as Jesus loved – in service of one another
I will conclude with a brief story…
A minister was visiting patients at a convalescent home; it was a nice day and one of the men the minister had come to visit was sitting in a chair out on the lawn.
The old man was leaning over one arm of the lawn chair patiently stroking a cat Cats like to be stroked, you know.
It calms them and makes them purr.
The cat in this case, however, was definitely not purring.
It was complaining rather loudly and pawing the grass.
As the minister drew closer, he immediately saw why.
The old man was stroking the cat from back to front, rubbing it the wrong way and he was saying something softly to the cat.
The minister bent over to listen.
The man was whispering over and over: "Turn around cat!", "Turn around cat!"
God's grace is sufficient.
We need to turn around, and let God's grace gently stroke us and soothe us.
Thanks be to God - Amen
 Illustration Sourcebook III - # 2119 - GRACE
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