"Crack(ed) Pots" - Pentecost 2B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
June 3, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Central Passage
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Pentecost 2B

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: June 3, 2018 – Pentecost 2B

2 Corinthians 4:5-12


Crack(ed) Pots


            As long as I can remember, I have been unhappy with my body. By the time I was in third grade, I weighed over 100 pounds. In fifth grade, I tipped the scales at nearly 160 – probably the heaviest kid in my class. By seventh grade, I was over 200 pounds. Now, I did try to do something about it. I tried diets and exercise. I did taekwondo with my mom and sister for four years or so. I played football and baseball. And a lot of that helped. By the time I got to high school, my weight had settled at 210. But I always felt “too”. Too big. Too much body hair (thanks Grandpa George!). Too prone to sweating. Too slow. And a lot of my peers picked up on that. The message was reinforced – I was not normal.  


            Many of you might have similar stories or worse about your own body image. Even though we believe, as Christians, that the human body is a good creation of God, many of us don’t believe that about our own bodies. The body doesn’t seem good to us. It’s never the right size, never the right shape, often unreliable. Like anything else, it falls apart over time, from disease or age. It’s difficult to believe that this unreliable bag of bones we have is worthy of the label “good”, much less the honor of carrying the good news of God to all people.


            But that’s exactly what we proclaim here, Sunday after Sunday. We proclaim a God who comes to us in-the-flesh, a God who is like us in every way except for sin, a God who saves precisely by taking on weak, unreliable, mortal human flesh.


            In this second emotionally wrenching letter to the church at Corinth, Paul (and his companions) describe their apostolic call. They don’t promote themselves, Paul says. Their message is not about flash and pizzazz. Unlike other religious teachers of that time, they don’t do many miracles. They don’t exhibit dramatic spiritual gifts that often. They don’t wow the crowd. In fact, there are hints in 2nd Corinthians and elsewhere that Paul was rather unimpressive in person. In chapter 10, Paul quotes what he has heard through the grapevine about himself. “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’” In the 2nd-century apocryphal work, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, we have this description of Paul, perhaps handed down through oral tradition. “He was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long, and he was full of grace and mercy.”


            He was full of grace and mercy. Through all these unimpressive physical characteristics, the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ was seen in Paul. And through him, the church was planted – seeds of God’s love and salvation for all people that have stretched through the centuries and across continents and seas to us, the people of Hartford City, Indiana, in the year 2018.


            Which should remind us of something fundamental about how God reveals himself and his love for us. God reveals himself in what people perceive as weird, unappealing, or uninteresting. In Scripture, God consistently shows a preference for the plain, cracked, earthenware jar over the gleaming, golden chalice. Out of all the peoples on earth, God chooses Abraham and his family – a family of nomads, immigrants, and strangers – to be the means by which God will save the world. God chooses Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim – the younger brothers of their families – over their older siblings. God chooses the people of Israel to be his own – one of the weakest and most vulnerable peoples throughout human history. God chooses the inarticulate Moses to lead his people out of slavery. God chooses the foreign women Rahab and Ruth, not only to be part of his people, but to be part of the most important family line in Israel, which culminates in Jesus the Messiah. God chooses David, the eighth son, the shepherd of sheep, the “pink-and-pretty”, un-kingly boy to be king of his people. God chooses the boy Jeremiah and the tree-dresser Amos to prophesy. God in Christ chooses twelve dense Galilean men to be his apostles, along with the persecutor and murderer Paul. Throughout Old and New Testaments, God has consistently chosen the ordinary, unremarkable, and everyday to house the extraordinary. To be a receptacle of the good, the true, and the beautiful.


            In this time, where our congregations have been increasingly relegated to the margins of American culture, this is good news for us. Jesus never called on the church to be politically powerful. He never told us to rule over others or control people. He never told us to be a flashy, entertainment-oriented church. No, Jesus simply told us to love one another. To do good for one another, as he did for the man with the withered hand in our Gospel reading this morning. To be carriers of the good news of salvation within the ordinary, cracked, earthenware jars of our bodies.


            And we are freed from all these expectations that the culture makes of the church – and of ourselves. We can be simply what God wants us to be. Ordinary, flawed people who house the extraordinary and perfect within ourselves. People who aren’t hung up on appearances. People who simply love. As Paul reminds us, this extraordinary power of the gospel to save does not come from our own abilities, or merits, or appearances. In fact, to the outside world we will often look ordinary. Or less than that. Sometimes we as the church will look just plain weird.


            But Jesus makes us special. Jesus chooses us. We are made beautiful, no matter what we look like. We carry him – our true treasure – within ourselves.


            Let us pray.


            Lord Jesus, you came as an ordinary human being to bring us to your extraordinary self. You choose ordinary men and women to be bearers of the extraordinary good news and grace you offer. Help us to see your grace at work in us, clay jars though we may be. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.