Sacred Soil

Nothing but the body of Christ to hold us up
July 8, 2012, 10:15 am
Filed under: Sermons

July 8, 2012
Time after Pentecost – Lectionary 14

Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

So, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that each one of us is weaker than we’d like to be. Though, we’re not apt to admit it. But, there’s lots of reasons for it.

Life doesn’t always happen as we’d hoped.
Relationships get rocky.
Jobs sometimes feel meaningless.
Money, well, that’s always tight.

And for some of us, that weakness is literal. In our own flesh, as bodies fail to cooperate. For too many find weakness in the reality that our bodies and our ideals will never meet.

Truth is: we’re all weak. All broken. All less than we’d like to be. That’s just how these things go.

Which makes this story about Jesus especially interesting to me. At the beginning, we’ve got him going to his home town—and far from some kind of victory parade, they’re upset with him. They deride him. Won’t acknowledge him. And so he’s not able to do any deeds of power—except a few healings. It’s as if being back in his hometown made him weak.

And then the next thing he does, well, he sends off the disciples to go out. He sends these hapless disciples that don’t even understand who Jesus is—he sends them out proclaiming God’s reign, casting out demons, curing folks…

Oh, and he sends them out with nothing; Nothing. Just the clothes on their backs. Not even a change of underwear. Nothing at all. Talk about weakness. Indeed—utter dependence.

And they go. They go out to share the good news. And I actually think it was their weakness that made it possible. You see, they couldn’t just show up and fend for themselves in these travels. They needed other people willing to help. They needed folks to feed them, give them shelter, a place to wash their clothes. And in the course of this, others began to share their weakness with the disciples, and before they knew it they were sharing their pains, hopes, and stories together. Their shared their yearning for healing and wholeness. And through this, the disciples shared the good news of God—the strength of God, in their weakness.

Sure, there were a few places that didn’t want the disciples coming around. Jesus is clear about that. He warns: if they don’t welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

Shake it off, and move on.

And here’s the thing, the sticky part for us… on that day you came to these waters, on that day when you were baptized, Jesus called you and sent you out too. And perhaps that moment of calling was a pretty weak and helpless time, being as many of us were likely less than a year old at the time. Turns out, Jesus called you, and sent you off with nothing too.

Nothing but the body of Christ to hold you up. All of us weaklings are surrounding you. For all of us are sent together. ..

And I think that’s key, that sending part. The part where we go out despite our weakness. The part where we go because of our weakness. The part where we go out. Together.

But our temptation, when we’re weak, is to stay all enclosed in ourselves. Huddling against our fears. Searching for some kind of safety in our solitude and isolation.  Thinking to ourselves: I can do it, I can fix it, I can live with it—all by myself.

Yet, we know there is tremendous power and possibility when folks go out together to get real about weakness. Power and possibility, because God’s strength is right there, right there in the midst of all that weakness.

Some of you know that I run a little stewardship project with students at the seminary. Our hope is that seminarians will explore their theology of stewardship, and then try to live their lives in a way that’s consistent with what they believe. It’s pretty good work.

So, last fall, I sat the students down, and we talked about this very thing, the reality that our finances often make us weak (being students and all). And, on the face of it, that can make stewardship really hard. But, in the course of the conversation, we challenged each other to work together to see what might be possible. To experiment and see where we might find God in the midst of our weakness. And I must say, I was really impressed.

Some of the students discovered that they’d save a lot of money by sharing meals together—since cooking for one is expensive. They created meal groups that met as many as four times in a week. Others decided to create a book swap; and others a community bulletin board where they shared their joys and their needs. They shared the load, saved money, and created lasting and true friendships in the process. And I think they met God in the midst of this—in the midst of their weakness.

And it’s also true that I’ve also seen the power of weakness present in folks who are deeply at odds with each other, but nonetheless find a way to work together to share the depth of their fear and brokenness. It takes extraordinary courage to do this, but sometimes, when people are able to be real, and be mutual about the reality that we are all utterly broken… well… understanding can happen… and healing just might find a way to take root.

I’d be wrong and naïve if I didn’t say, it’s a risk—this getting honest about our weakness. Financial, emotional, physical or otherwise. It doesn’t always work. It’s not a magical cure. And for some of us, it’s unwise. God’s kingdom has only just begun, and people can still be cruel, and others just find it too hard to open themselves, expose themselves. Perhaps they’ve been hurt too much. It is true: sometimes we have to take our cue from the disciples, and move on, shaking the dust from our feet.

And, it happens that in every dust shaking moment, we learn more about weakness. Some of us end up knowing way too much about that weakness. Yet, our God promises to be near. Always. As Paul reminds us in our epistle today, God’s power is made perfect in weakness. But sometimes we need each other to help us see that—we need that body of Christ to hold us up. All of us weaklings, together.

But let’s be clear: there’s a difference between seeking out weakness and seeking God’s presence in weakness’ midst. Some will abuse this notion of weakness, suggesting that it is God’s desire for us. To which I must say: No. Emphatically, No. God’s hope is precisely the opposite—God desires life in its fullness for us. We seek God in weakness, because ours is the God that heals us from all that makes us weak. Ours is the God that brings transformation. For ours is the very God who took on the weakness of death and transformed it into life.

And ours is the very God who takes each of us just as we are, weak and helpless, and makes us whole. Together.


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