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Sermon for 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Year B)

    Jul 08, 2018

    Passage: 2 Corinthians 12:2-10

    Preacher: Rob Donehue

    Series: Sermons for Year B (2017-2018)

    Category: Sermons for Year B (2017-2018)


    Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B (2018)
    July 8th, 2018
    St. Anne’s, Conway SC (Lackey Chapel) 

    2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:1-13

    I’d like to begin this morning by telling you all a bit about what I was doing up in Sewanee while I was away for three weeks. I was taking some continuing education courses, and one of the courses I was taking was a small seminar that dealt with some of the pressing issues currently at play in the Anglican Communion. The course was led by a professor who once served as a research assistant for a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and by a bishop from Southern Malawi who served a term as the president of the Anglican Consultative Council. Among the students in the course were priests from Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North Carolina. There was also a university professor from Memphis, a Methodist pastor from Alabama, the former dean of the cathedral in Hawaii, a priest from Brazil, and an archdeacon from Nigeria. So, in this group of eleven people, we had voices and insights from six provinces across the Anglican Communion. Not bad for a small university in the middle of nowhere, TN! 

    As I mentioned, the class itself dealt with some of the issues and controversies going on in the Anglican Communion. And it’s safe to say that we were not all of one mind. There were times when it seemed like we were dancing around issues and not really engaging. There were times when it became strikingly clear that we were coming at a topic from totally different angles. There were times when our preconceived notions were challenged. And there were times when the discussion got pretty heated. Through it all, there was a sort of sense of fragility; a sense that our cohesion as a class was in danger of being lost. But it never was.   

    At the end of the course, we were each asked to sum up the experience, and everyone said that they were pleased with how the course went and thankful for the opportunity to hear so many different perspectives. One of the images that stuck with me from the end of the course was when I saw two of my fellow students, who could not possibly have been on more opposite ends of issues, hug each other and share a laugh over how fun it is to be ministers of the gospel. 

    And in reflecting about that class, St. Paul’s words came to mind: “whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” What, to me, seemed so weak, so fragile, so precarious, provided an opportunity for people with vastly different points of view to exemplify the power of God’s love. This is one of those gospel paradoxes that I tend to think we don’t really appreciate until we find ourselves in a situation of real powerlessness and are then surprised to find that in some mysterious way, God is right there, powerfully with us. 

    But this kind of realization isn’t confined to seminary classrooms. It hits close to home, too. I know some of you who make it a daily habit to pray for members of this church who are sick or suffering. I know that some of you have made this a discipline in your lives no matter what else might be going on; even if you yourself are sick or suffering and in need of prayer. And if that’s the case, I invite you to think for a moment about the maybe not so apparent absurdity of what you’re doing. Because if you’re broken, how in the world are you going to be able to help someone else who is broken? How can you help others from a position of weakness? The simple answer is that God’s grace is powerful enough to be present even in the midst of our broken lives. There’s no easy formula for how the grace of God works, but the truth is that somehow, it does. And when we ask God to be present, in mysterious and often overlooked ways, God hears our prayers. And in moments like that, God is present so powerfully that it’s almost impossible to deny it.    

    Right before we left for Sewanee, Davis and I made a visit to a church member who was diagnosed with a terminal illness that is getting progressively worse. We were there to take her communion. Her husband is a kind man whose negative experiences growing up in the church have left him feeling, quite understandably, that church just isn’t for him. And at the time of the visit, Davis and I were still reeling from some devastating news of our own. 

    So, if you can picture it, there we were: four broken people, gathered together in a room to ask for and share the presence of Christ. When we began to pray together, I remember initially being taken aback by a sense of the brokenness in the room. And I remember thinking to myself, “Well, this is a sorry lot to be coming before the throne of God.” And then, almost in answer to that thought, came the reminder that, yes, that’s exactly what we are. And it’s exactly in the midst of this sorry lot that God chooses to be. That small gathering had an indescribable beauty and grace about it, and it  was a reminder that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

    In a way, that small gathering was a microcosm of what the church really is. Because all of us in the church are, in one way or another, broken. All of us are weak. And we come together in our brokenness in the hope that God’s presence might heal us and make us whole. This truth applies no matter whether the church gathers as a group of two or three under a tree or by the thousands in grand buildings. We’re all just broken people seeking the power of God’s love to mend our lives. 

    And, if you’re willing to look at it in a certain way, the Eucharist is the church’s expression of our trust in the power of God to heal our brokenness.  Because in the Eucharist, God gathers up the fragments of our lives, makes us whole, and then in a powerful act of love returns us to ourselves. [That’s one of the reasons why at the end of the Eucharistic prayer I usually say, “Become what you see, and receive who you are.”]   

    So, if you have come here feeling fragile and broken, I hope that you realize that you are in good company. I hope that you don’t feel that somehow your brokenness disqualifies you from knowing the presence of God or prevents you from taking part in what the church is gathered to do. And I hope that you go from this place with a renewed sense that the power of God is indeed make perfect in weakness.