My beloved just asked me a while ago if we were going to have an uplifting day at New Hope tomorrow. She wanted to know if we'd leave full of joy. I've been preaching through Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, a biography of sorts for the apostle, who lived a rather... adventurous life.
Looking back through his dayrunner we see that he has to classify just how he was beaten - rods, stones, or fists. He has to remember which shipwreck, and which group was out to kill him and where. There were some things that were constant - pressure, hunger, a sense of weakness. When you look at what the people in Corinth were saying about him - not much to look at, poor communicator, somewhat of a failure - you'd have the tendency to close this biography and go find one of someone more successful.
And yet, Paul was a winner.
Oh sure there were people better suited to the job.
Jesus Christ passed over all of them.
Because Paul was totally willing to be used to accomplish God's purpose.
He all but admitted he wasn't much.
Ah, but Jesus?
Jesus was the treasure Paul carried around with him in his plain and uninteresting "jar of clay" and before you get to thinking about Aunt Martha's china vase, the word there is for a vessel used for a specific purpose. Could have been anything.
But then it wasn't about Paul at all.
It was about the power of Almighty God released through Paul's willing spirit.
THE SAME SPIRIT THAT EVERY BELIEVER IN CHRIST HAS RIGHT NOW.
Think about it. Annie Dillard has.
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake some day and take offense, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never return. (Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982)
So yes, I will be bringing the joy tomorrow. Like diamonds on black velvet. Grace just shines.