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  • First Congregational Church Of Rowley

Strength in Weakness

Scripture: "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

2 Corinthians 12:9

Music: "Strength Will Rise" (Everlasting God) Chris Tomlin

Message: "Strength in Weakness"

I started to share excerpts from this homily by Fr. Richard Rohr on the "paradoxical relationship between weakness and strength." I felt the flow of his thoughts needed to be presented in its entirety (which is still an excerpt from his homily!)

Weakness can be perceived as another "bright spot" - when we allow ourselves to experience God's grace, divine love and strength. Enlightenment and compassion are gifts in waiting...

I must be up front with you. I don’t really understand why God created the world in this upside-down way. I do not know why “power is at its best in weakness,” as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9. I cannot pretend to understand God, but this is what I see: People who have moved from one seeming success to another seldom understand success at all—except for their own very limited version. People who fail to do something right, by even their own definition of right, are those who often break through to enlightenment and compassion. Paul can talk in this paradoxical way about power and weakness because he meditated on the mystery of the cross. The one who was a failure became the redeemer. The one who looked naked and weak and like a loser became the ultimate winner. And so Paul sums it up in his beautiful philosophy, ending with the line, “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Let’s honestly admit almost none of us believe that. We think it’s when we’re strong that we’re strong. But no, it’s when we’re weak that we’re strong. It doesn’t make a bit of sense to the rational, logical mind. Only people of the Spirit understand how true it is. The Twelve Step Program made it the first step: We have to experience our powerlessness before we can experience our power. Paul says he experienced God telling him, “My grace is sufficient for you. Power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). But the philosophy of the United States of America is that power is made perfect in more power. Just try to get powerful: more guns, more weapons, more wars, more influence, more billionaires. Everybody’s trying to get higher, trying to get up, up, up. While Jesus, surprise of surprises, is going down. The experience of powerlessness is where we all must begin, and Alcoholics Anonymous is honest and humble enough to state this, just as Jesus himself always went where the pain was. Wherever there was human suffering, Jesus was concerned about it and sought to heal it in the very moment of encounter. It is both rather amazing and very sad that we pushed it all off into a future reward system for those who were “worthy”—as if any of us are. Is it this human pain that we fear? Powerlessness, the state of being shipwrecked, is an experience we all share anyway, if we are sincere, but Bill Wilson (1895–1971), co-founder of AA, discovered we are not very good at that either. He called it “denial.” It seems we are not that free to be honest, or even aware, because most of our wounds are buried in the unconscious. So, it is absolutely essential that we find a spirituality that reaches to that hidden level. If not, nothing really changes. Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Our Weakness Is What Refines the Soul,” homily, July 15, 2015; and Breathing under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2011, 2021), 3, xxiv.

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