Today's readings from the Revised Common Lectionary included:
- + II Corinthians 12:2-10, in which Paul writes to a church taken in by slick "super apostles" using the church to their own ends. Paul boasts in his own weakness, because his own limitations become the dwelling for Christ's power.
- + Mark 6:1-13, where Jesus is disdained by his own hometown congregation and can do very few miracles because of their amazing unbelief. The result is that he takes his teaching "on the road" and begins to impart his power and his work to the apostles.
- + Romans 8:18ff, contrasting today's passing struggles with the eternal glory Christ is bringing out in our lives.
- + St. Luke 6:36ff, where Jesus assigns our duty to be merciful to others as the Father has been merciful to us, and to avoid the hypocrisy of correcting others' flaws while ours remain unexamined and unaddressed.
It is not pleasant to be weak, or to be booted out of our ministry's familiar comfort zones, or to stay fixed on our greater hope when present situations are hopeless, or to be merciful and self-critical when faced by the merciless and self-assured.
But to be without these kinds of things would mean we are not God's children. The Word of God tells us (emphasis added):
And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
That puts a whole new perspective on our "defeat" and the do-what-you-want, undisciplined powers in the church.