Sufficient - Reflections 7-1-2021

Texts for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost 
 Lectionary 14
 July 4, 2021

 Mark 6:1-13

2021 Note: I am actually preaching on Corinthians text this Sunday. 
You can read my thoughts under the "Current Sermon" tab on our homepage. So as not to repeat myself, I am sharing this devotion from 3 years ago which is the last time this text was used in worship.

These are the final verses the text from 2 Corinthians:
7 ...a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.* Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power* is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 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.

Over the years, the words above from 2 Corinthians have not usually been easy ones to own. It is simply not logical. I spent years honing my skills. I studied and practiced – went to seminary for the love of Pete; I am well prepared, competent, and even excellent in my job. Careful planning based on solid theory and theology followed by great execution of those plans made things “perfect”. Weakness? Bah!

It is a little ironic that this scripture should pop up this week. I just got back from an ELCA youth gathering
[2018 Houston]. This has been a fairly regular “gig” through my 30 years of ministry and I know from experience – heart stuff, not head - that “my grace is sufficient for you” is the only way to survive one of these intense and chaotic trips.

In fact, it was the very first one as the primary adult leader that taught me the complete miracle of those words. The youth pastor had just left and suddenly this was my baby. I was scared to death. The congregation had a long history of participation in the ALC’s gatherings, very powerful, very “successful” participation. My leader’s handbook and my innate planning skills got me through the preparation stages pretty well. Confirmation and Luther League had helped to create solid relationships with the youth. But I still was not prepared.

I was not ready for the reality of being responsible for 9 youth and a young adult leader driving in the church van to San Antonio TX through the open expanses of Kansas and Oklahoma during a massive heat wave that put day time temps well over 100. We were driving a church van that couldn’t handle a massive heat wave, regularly overheating, regularly dying, and needing to run without air conditioning as we traveled. In San Antonino, during an outdoor event, I had 2 youth end up with heat exhaustion who were taken to two different hospitals (please remember this is pre-cell phone era). Then, I had a youth need medical care for an infected foot. Another evening, I lost someone at the mass gathering (again, pre-cell phone era) and saw him across the outdoor stadium just as the lights went out. We both ran through the hallway toward each other in the dark and eventually found each other. At the end, we headed home with continuing van troubles, and heat. A bandaged foot stuck between the driver and passenger seats and a slightly sick and grumpy group of kids filled the seats.

When we got home safely, I knew God’s grace was sufficient. Because I also knew that “all that” all week was out of my control completely. Power was made perfect in weakness. I held onto that lesson for every gathering, including the one last week. You could say that I boast gladly of my weaknesses so God’s amazing grace is seen.

Now, it took many more years before I could recognize, much less claim that was true for all of my ministry and work… or all of my life for that matter… Whenever I am weak, then I am strong is not the best interview line… It is by grace alone that I can say that God’s grace is sufficient.

This is a question from Sunday’s Growing in Faith Together post:

In what ways have you experienced the grace of God in times of weakness?
Has it been sufficient for you?

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245