David was a strong leader. People remembered the way he “led Israel out to war” and took Mount Zion by force (2 Sam. 5:2, 9, CEB). In our capital cities, we erect monuments to courageous generals and powerful politicians. We are attracted to leaders who promise to solve problems by their personal power and persuasion. We are tempted to follow religious leaders who claim superior faith based on esoteric spiritual experiences.

Paul is defending himself from leaders and “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5, CEB) who brag about out-of-body spiritual experiences. Paul models a different kind of leadership. He acknowledges the struggle that leads him to humble dependence on God’s grace. He doesn't brag about his strengths but about the weakness in which he finds strength that only Christ can give.

In studying the development of character, author David Brooks described “the feeling of smallness and sinfulness” by which “one gets next to the awesome presence of God.” He observed the humility that “comes from daily reminders of your own brokenness [and] relieves you of the awful stress of trying to be superior all the time.”*

The humble strength Paul’s leadership portrays grows over time as we confront our limitations and failures. It emerges as we deepen our relationship with God through the spiritual disciplines that form us into the likeness of Christ who, “though he was in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to exploit, but . . . humbled himself” (Phil. 2:6-8, CEB). In humility we experience grace and find strength.

*David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015), p. 205

O Master, let me walk with thee in lowly paths of service free; tell me thy secret; help me bear the strain of toil, the fret of care. Teach me thy patience; still with thee in closer, dearer company, in work that keeps faith sweet and strong, in trust that triumphs over wrong (UMH, no. 430).

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 6:1-13

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Lectionary Week
June 28–July 4, 2021
Scripture Overview

The readings from the Hebrew scriptures this week celebrate Jerusalem, 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—a name used for earthly Jerusalem but 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 struggles like everyone else. 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.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10. What qualities of leadership are important in this reading? 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. What is it about that place that makes you especially aware of God’s presence?
Read 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. When have you experienced weakness becoming a source of strength and power?
Read Mark 6:1-13. When have you discounted someone because of your assumptions about them?

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.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.