We’re not looking for power, but faith … a Sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:5b-10 (Year B, Proper 9 / Ordinary 14)
Sometimes I hear Christians say “if only we really believed and really loved like Jesus we would transform the world,” but Jesus said that most would reject God, and war/poverty would be with us until the end times. What they really mean is if we had more numbers we would have power!
Scripture – 2 Corinthians 12:5b-10
Paul, a man of great faith, is not healed (miracles are not a reward for faith). He explains that he must have this thorn in his flesh, to make him rely on God’s grace.
The Corinthians are wealthy, powerful, clever, successful & strong. Paul’s two big letters to them (16 & 13 Chaps) are one long rebuke! He has to justify his authority to say these things and does so – by boasting about his sufferings (Chap 11)! Paul uses his weakness to shame the strong (as in 1Cor Chaps 1-2).
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men” said a wise historian about the idea that religious leaders and kings could not make mistakes.
I mentioned the Islamic State earlier. The Five Pillars of Islam are: declaring the faith; prayer; giving; fasting; and pilgrimage. But look what happens when you give people guns – these gentle ideas are quickly thrown out!
We need weakness to remind us to rely on God. Many of you know my wife but may not know that she has been ill for all her adult life. Our struggle against this illness has been good for us – it has brought us closer together, stopped us from being able to take each other for granted. Our relationship with God is like that.
We won’t transform the world for the better by being strong or clever or powerful. There are lots of strong, clever and powerful people in the world and they’re making it worse as often as better! We will transform ourselves, not the world, by doing three things:
- We will be fallible, average and powerless (what we are now);
- but we will rely on God’s Omni-power, -presence, -knowledge and -seeing: faith in God; and
- we will be doing the best that we can.