When I saw what the scripture reading was for this morning, I did an internal yawn. I realize that having that sort of attitude about the sacred text is probably sin upon sin, but it was an exceedingly familiar passage. The kind that gets whipped out for countless devotionals.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I love Wright’s paraphrase… We are battered old flowerpots filled with the glory of God, so that it is quite clear that the power and the glory belong to God, not to us. In addition, Wright did a fine job articulating the truth that one of the things God wants to do is demonstrate his power through our frailty and brokenness. We often see people and measure them by whatever standards we hold dear to evaluate who is worthwhile, or significant, or successful.
This is exactly the trap into which the church in Corinth had fallen. They wanted impressive leaders who lead triumphantly and laughed in the face of hardship and danger. But Paul was imprisoned and seemed to be on the losing end of struggle and hardship. Paul was a stumbling block for the Corinthians.
Ok… fine truths and all. But honestly, it was stuff I had heard before.
Then I went about my day, which includes meetings, planning, and various other conversations centered on leading the church. In one of those meetings, some of what we were asked to consider was how to remove the obstacles that keep people from seeing church as an attractive option for their lives. To identify the stumbling blocks people have as it relates to church involvement and deal with them.
And then I remembered Paul… his very existence a stumbling block. People in Corinth weren’t into unimpressive (by their standards) church leaders. I could see some trendy leader type telling the Corinthians, “people aren’t digging Paul. In the final analysis, he comes up lacking. He’s sort of a downer for folks. We need to do the hard thing. We need to transition him out as our apostle.”
I know… ridiculous. But if one applies the “let’s remove stumbling blocks” line of thinking too broadly, we might begin to move away from the very things that God considers to be precious. Today, in a very round about way, I was reminded that “God’s power and glory showing up in our weakness” is exactly what the cross and resurrection are all about.
Sorry Paul. I meant no disrespect.