July 5, 2015
Mark 6:1-13
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48


To Choose Weakness
Proper 9 | OT 14


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Robin Lostetter
Paul has a bracing message for us in this week’s epistle lesson -- one that seems just as appropriate for Americans extolling their country’s virtues on Independence Day as for the Corinthian congregation: “[O]n my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.” There is much about America to take pride in, but especially on this holiday weekend we tend to be boastful about our perceived superiority to other countries rather than cognizant of our weaknesses. But Paul maintains that only Christ is worthy of boasting about -- and draws on his own experience to suggest that God gives us “thorns in the flesh” to “keep [us] from being too elated.” Paradoxically, Paul notes, our ultimate strength is to be found in our weakness -- “for power is made perfect in weakness.... 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.”

In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Robin Lostetter points out that there is no more powerful or achingly moving illustration of that paradigm than last week’s horrific shooting in a Charleston church. Indeed, the pastor and Bible study group welcomed a stranger into their midst and sat with him for an hour -- having no clue about his violent intentions. Assailant Dylann Roof is reported to have said that they were so nice to him that he even considered abandoning his premeditated mission of starting a race war. But while Roof’s actions caused unimaginable grief at a historically significant black church, he ultimately failed in achieving his stated goal. Paul’s vision of strength was demonstrated in the aftermath by the victims’ families as they offered forgiveness to Roof. In the wake of this incident, Robin asks us to consider: Are we willing to emulate the Christian devotion of the pastor and parishioners of Emanuel AME? Are we willing to “be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ”? Here’s a preview:

 

To Choose Weakness
by Robin Lostetter
2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

How many times have we as preachers or teachers encountered the question “Are you willing to die for your faith?” And how many times has that question rung hollow for those of us living the good life in the United States of America? Teens in my confirmation classes, for example, have continued to play with poorly hidden smartphones and made eyerolls at their more sophisticated peers. The question might apply in some far-off land with an unpronounceable name, but not for Christians in Everytown, USA.

But the shooting of nine innocents on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, may change the context for that question. Amid questions of “to carry or not to carry” and newly raging gun regulation debates, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 becomes highly pertinent. Every time worshipers step into a church sanctuary, the tacit understanding is that one is entering a non-combative zone (except for theological debate) and “sanctuary” from outside attacks. June 17 -- though not the only incident of a violent attack inside a church building -- is the herald of a public change in that perception.

How do we interpret this “new normal” for American Christians on the Fourth of July holiday weekend? In a country of rugged individualism, Second Amendment pride, and a rate of gun violence higher than most industrialized nations, it is counterintuitive to choose weakness. What meaning will it carry if we choose not to arm our pastors, elders, or ushers? If we choose not to use metal detectors or pat down those attending Bible study? If we choose weakness? The members of Mother Emanuel’s Bible study group showed Judeo-Christian hospitality to Dylann Roof and welcomed him into their discussion of sacred text. Their weakness nearly changed his will to violence. What can we learn from June 17 and its aftermath? Will we choose weakness and hospitality, or will we choose guns? Are we willing to die for our faith?

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)



George Reed


Mary Austin


Ronald H. Love


Dean Feldmeyer


Leah Lonsbury


Chris Keating


Robin Lostetter