Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sun. Jan. 19, 2014 (Jenna Veenbaas)

Jenna Veenbaas (graduate student at Regent) spoke on "Walking in Weakness". Scripture is filled with stories of people struggling with weakness, and of those, Paul's story is one of the most poignant. Paul founded a church in Corinth (Acts 18). Several years later, he asked Christians in Corinth to collect money to assist the starving Christians in Judea as an act of charity and also of thanksgiving for their new religion. But the church in Corinth was too riddled with its own problems (incest, immorality, pride, etc.) to think of helping others. Some men gifted in public speaking and rhetoric ridiculed Paul's inferior speaking ability. Paul decided it was necessary to return to Corinth to restore order and perspective, but the visit went so badly for everybody that he had to leave prematurely. In a now-lost letter, Paul criticized his friends, calling for repentance. Titus then visited Corinth, with more success. This resulted in a collection of writings we now call "2 Corinthians", and within that group is an unusual unit (chapters 10-12) addressing a new problem: men claiming super-apostolic status and wanting to be paid for their teaching (which was the typical Greek custom). Since they compared themselves to Paul, Paul reluctantly adds to their comparisons, but in a different way. Rather than playing up his own strengths and best attributes, Paul lists his weaknesses. For instance, Paul did not claim to be a hero; heroic soldiers were the first to scale city walls in battles, but Paul had himself let down over a wall in a basket, in order to escape. Rather than listing the number of churches founded, he lists all the physical suffering he endured for preaching. In response to men claiming to be super-apostles, Paul refers obliquely to being "caught up into Paradise", without ever explaining himself. He counters that experience with his mysterious reference to his "thorn in the flesh". Even though he had this extraordinary experience (the 'third heaven'), he also had some sort of problem or affliction ("thorn") that resisted repeated prayer. Even for one who was doing all he could for the Kingdom, there was to be no miracle healing, he just had to live with his 'thorn'. Paul, like others in scripture, had to face grief and unsolvable problems. This possibly recalls Isaiah's referring to the Messiah as "a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief". One-third of the Psalms are laments; there was apparently ample need for a repertoire of songs of that vein. Although we cannot explain them, we do often find that our troubles drive us to our knees more readily than do prosperity and good health. [JEK]

Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday, January 19th, 2014 using your browser's preferred media player.

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