Lectionary Reflection, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B
July 4, 2021*
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 Corinthians 12:10
Leaders are supposed to “have it together.”
Don’t ever let your weaknesses show through.
Remember, the best leaders are able to lead independently, making their own decisions and charting their own course.
Success is best measured in numbers, dollars, and other quantifiable terms.
Victory is achieved through strength and perseverance rather than through weakness and vulnerability.
This week’s lessons will sound quite strange to the ears of those who believe statements like those above. Jesus’ instructions to his disciples and Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth take an opposite approach to ministry and leadership. In fact, there are important messages in both the gospel and epistle lesson for all who lead and serve in congregational settings and faith-based ministries. In a world and cultural milieu where the church faces increasing challenges, these lessons offer both encouragement and a wake-up call for all who would be disciples.
First, we witness most effectively to the gospel–to the grace and love of Jesus Christ–when we are transparent and real with ourselves and others. Every single one of us has weaknesses. None of us is perfect. By being open and transparent in our relationships and interactions, by not fearing vulnerability, we give others permission to do likewise.
Secondly, as followers of Jesus we will face difficulties. True, most of us may never experience persecution or threats of death, but the life of a disciple is no guarantee of smooth sailing and an easy walk. There are times when leading and serving in the name of Christ can be scary, tough, and unappreciated. That’s why Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. Not only is there safety in numbers but also comfort, companionship, and support. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto and Silver. This is why we have the Body of Christ and why we worship and serve in community.
Finally, it is always worth reminding one another that the example Jesus sets for disciples is one that turns conventional practice and wisdom upside down and inside out. He always goes to the margins, draws the circle of inclusion wider, and dispels accepted notions of power and might and the status quo. In Christ, and for the sake of the good news, we can find strength in what the world considers weakness. We draw our meaning and our power in ways that appear countercultural but that are steeped in grace and love.
How do we go about living out such a model for discipleship, and how can we lift one another up in the process? We can begin by accepting ourselves and loving ourselves as God loves us–beloved children of the Creator who die daily to sin and rise to newness of life in Christ. We can keep it simple and keep it real. Just as Jesus commanded his disciples to go about their ministry with minimal trappings, we can always be aware of whether we are relying on bells and whistles or on the message of our Lord. We can continue to tell one another the stories of our faith and in the process remember that we are woven into a great fabric of believers across time and space, and that we are part of something much bigger than our own little selves and our present context. Perhaps most of all, we can remind one another that it is o.k. to be ourselves. We don’t have to be like the church down the street, we don’t have to have the latest and greatest of every living thing, and we don’t have to try to be what we’re not supposed to be. We just have to be who God intends for us to be: we go together, we face adversity and hardship together, and we find strength in weakness together. We do this because Christ call us to proclaim the good news, to share life together in community, and to love and serve others for the sake of the One who loved us more than life itself. Yes, in Christ even weakness becomes strength.
Blessings on your preaching and teaching. May all your weaknesses and growing edges become strong in Christ.
* This reflection was originally posted in 2012.