As Paul describes his thorn in the flesh, his words are quite countercultural for life in the second decade of the twenty-first century, when materialism and financial success are honored in so many settings, when political and military power plays such a role in the news, and when self-promotion is viewed as necessary for success. Paul adamantly asserts that his weakness was given to keep him from being arrogant and thinking of himself too highly. Paul boasts in this weakness so that Christ’s power will be real in his life. Paul’s perspective sometimes seems incongruous and a bit hyperspiritual. Yet I find his humility appealing. The daily news gives many examples of the ways arrogance can result in short-term success but damage relationships long term.
I also find Paul’s contentment appealing. In verse 10, he mentions being content in the midst of weakness and obstacles because the challenges force him to rely to Christ. His weakness reveals Christ’s strength to him, a true gift he takes great comfort in. This reliance on Christ in the midst of everyday challenges shifts his focus from his immediate situation to God’s goodness, generosity, and bountiful gifts, which are all the more visible to him when his life is not going smoothly. Paul frequently urges the Christians in young churches—who have their own share of hardship—to shift their focus from human wisdom toward Jesus’ love and God’s unexpected way of doing things. In these verses, Paul models a profound shift in perspective: a move from pride and outward success to a focus on God’s gifts, goodness, and strength.
God of power and presence, help me be honest about my weaknesses and see your blessings and gifts in the midst of my everyday life. Amen.
The readings from the Hebrew scriptures this week celebrate the city of Jerusalem. This was the capital of the great King David, who united the ancient Israelites and built up the city. The psalmist praises Jerusalem using the image of Zion. Zion is a name used for earthly Jerusalem, but it is also a gesture toward a future day when God’s people will abide in a heavenly city. In Second Corinthians, Paul explains that even though he is an apostle, he still struggles like everyone else. Wild speculation surrounds the “thorn” that plagued Paul, but his point is that when he is weakest, God is strongest. In Mark we see God’s power working through Jesus, who sent out others to expand God’s healing work.
• Read 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10. The king of Israel exhibited the qualities of a shepherd. How do those qualities square with your experience with those in power?
• Read Psalm 48. Bring to mind a place where you experience God’s presence. Do you find yourself drawn there? Why?
• Read 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. When have you experienced a weakness becoming a source of power?
• Read Mark 6:1-13. When have you limited God’s power through your disbelief?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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