The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn
A Homily for Sexagesima
February 7, 2021
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: 2 Corinthians 11:30
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen
I remember some time ago, I was spending time with one of my friend’s kids. The oldest two are boys, a couple years apart. For some reason, they decided to challenge me to an arm-wrestling competition.
When they happened, they were at an age that I could have easily beaten both of them, but kids are fun, both fun to humor, and fun to mess with. So, I decided to see what would happen if I let the younger one win, but beat the older one.
So, the younger son, struggled and strained, but finally beat me. Then, the older thought “oh! I’ll be able to win too!”
I didn’t let him win.
Of course, the younger son did some basic logic, he figured that if he could beat me, and I beat his older brother – he must be stronger than his older brother. Then the rest of the night, all we heard about was how he was stronger than Fr. Ian AND his older brother.
And all I heard about, was the older brother wanting a rematch.
We like to show off our strength, whether it be our intellectual prowess, our abilities, and our giftings. We like to know that we are some how special, and while I’m an only child, I think I have seen, especially with brothers, a need to occasionally out do one another within familial things.
We find that we enjoy boasting – but we enjoy boasting in our strengths, in the things that make us look good.
But St. Paul says, “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”
We may pause here and wonder why St. Paul feels this overwhelming urge to boast, this overwhelming desire to point towards something.
It seems from the context of both letters to the Corinthians that St. Paul was writing to a very sick church – a church filled with all kinds of problems.
They dealt with unrepentant sexual immorality.
They dealt with hard heartedness.
They dealt with a lack of desire to then forgive those who were in fact repentant.
They dealt with favoritism.
And it would seem that they dealt with boasting – this need to show off how great the individual is. Boasting could be considered this need to show off pride and self-satisfaction. Now, make note here – of what boasting is – it is showing self-satisfaction, as we move forward, we will want to return to this definition because where we find our satisfaction is important.
I think in a lot of ways – the modern, western church reflects the attitude and behaviors of the Corinth church, and as such, we should pause and listen to what St. Paul has to say to them, we should prayerfully consider his corrections for them.
Have you ever met someone who continually likes to tell you how great they are? They are a never-ending source of witty stories about something vaguely relevant to what you’re talking about and in each story they are the hero?
At first, this might be charming, but eventually it can feel wearisome, or even obnoxious to hear about.
I suspect that this is what the Corinth church was full of – full of people that wanted their glory to show forth.
And sometimes the best reaction to such behavior – isn’t to say “Hey friend! You’re so boastful, it’s reaching the point that it is unattractive!” Rather, sometimes it may be better to model the opposite, it is to show a different way, a better way by our own lives.
And this is what St. Paul does.
He notes that he could boast in all the reasons that they should listen to him for he starts by noting that not only is he fully Hebrew, and a wholehearted follower of Christ, that his theological credentials far out rank anyone who might come up against him.
And here we learn something – St. Paul knows his strengths – and he let’s God use. He isn’t afraid to say that he knows the Torah better than those who would stand against him, he isn’t afraid to recognize that he burns with zeal for Christ.
But instead of using these strengths as his credentials he turns his attention to all of his worldly failures.
He boasts not in the ways that he is self-satisfied but boasts in all His failures.
Remember a few minutes ago I wanted you to remember that definition of boasting as showing self-satisfaction.
If you’re finding your self-satisfaction in your weakness, I suspect that you will not find very much satisfaction, if you’re showing the world, “these are my failures,” I very much doubt they will look to you very long as a haughty person and in fact it will kill haughtiness within yourself.
But there’s something important here, something very practical – as Christians, we are called to find our ultimate satisfaction in Christ.
If we debase ourselves, if we bring low our own self-satisfaction, if we make it impossible for ourselves to be satisfied in ourselves, then we will look elsewhere to find our satisfaction. When we realize that we have failed and we will fail – then we can run to Christ, throw ourselves down on our knees, and cry out to the Lord – then we can find our satisfaction in HIM, and not in ourselves.
And St. Paul takes this even further – he says he will boast in his weakness – he says, quite literally that he will boast in those things that show his debilitating illness – his total inability to do anything of Himself.
Again – if we show off our inability – if we show off the ways in which we have failed – not the ways in which we have succeeded – if we show off how weak we are – we show off something else, we show off our total need, our total dependence upon God.
But why bother with this? What is the point of this? I think there are three basic reasons:
First – have you ever heard of or seen a Kintsugi bowl?
This is a Japanese artistic way of repairing a bowl – they take a broken bowl and fill each and every crack with a golden paste, until the cracks of the bowl glimmer with gold and the bowl is no longer a shattered vessel, but something that can be used again.
They are really quite lovely – and if you are unfamiliar with them, go home and google Japanese golden bowl repair. You will not be disappointed with their beauty.
But – I have often thought one facet of the gospel to be like this – we are all broken bowls, though we are probably bowls that are shattered into a million pieces, and the redeemer takes each piece of us and lovingly and tenderly puts us back together.
But when we recognize, when we own our brokenness, and show that off – as a place that the Lord has redeemed us – then His glory shines through.
We are broken bowls, healed with the golden love of our redeemer.
If we cease to boast in our strength, cease to boast in our own goodness, cease to depend upon ourselves – but depend completely upon Christ – the greater his glory shines through.
A verse that I keep coming back to is from St. Matthew’s gospel – let your light so shine before men that they may see your good work and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
If we humble ourselves – if we let our brokenness show – if we find our satisfaction in Christ – then our lives glorify God, because it is His glory that shines through our broken pieces, it is His glory that is revealed when our weakness is revealed. And to glorify God is the call of the church.
The church does not exist for our pleasure.
The church does not exist so that we can be comfortable.
The church does not exist in order that we can have a neat group of friends.
Of course – if we find our pleasure in Christ – being in a Christ centered church will bring us the truest pleasure.
If we are mourning – the church will be our source comforting.
If we are lonely – we can find friends and community in the church.
But the central purpose of the church is that She glorifies God.
Even in her status as the bride of Christ – this glorifies God.
The relationship between God and his people has always been that of the husband and the bride – the pursuer and the pursued, and in God’s faithfulness to His bride – even when she is unfaithful, has been one that shows his generosity, His kindness, his mercy, his love.
God’s relationship with His people has always been one that shows his incredible glory, and this is what the church does, for ultimately she is weak and any strength she has comes from her total dependance upon God.
Do you realize, when you come to the Lord’s table, when you partake of his bodily bread, and drink of his bloody wine that you are coming to the marriage feast? That every time we break his bread, every time we sip from His cup – He is renewing his marriage to us? His church is being recalled to his self-sacrificial love?
Do you see his glory in this at the table? That in His laying down, in the proclamation of his death and resurrection – it is a glorious promise to His bride the church, that he will return for her, that he will remain faithful to her to the very end?
When we boast in our weakness – when we gather together in humility – when we confess our sins and hear of our forgiveness – when we partake of the bread and the cup – we show off God’s glory.
And we alluded to the second point – boasting in our weakness humbles us.
I think, that we all know this most basic fact – pride kills.
Pride tells us that we can do it all on our own, that we are sufficient in and of ourselves, pride says we do not need any help, that we do not need a savior.
But we know that we are in desperate need of a savior, we are in desperate need of salvation.
Do not give into pride, but instead, find your satisfaction in Christ, find your strength in Christ.
It is no mistake that St. Paul lists all the dangers he fell into – for each of them shows not his strength – but the faithfulness, the goodness, the deliverance of Christ.
If we boast in our failures, in our weakness, we see how small we are and how great God is.
And here’s another thing to consider.
Those who struggle with feeling low often have a narrative that they tell themselves, “I am not worthy, I am no good, I am a crummy human being,” may all be a part of this narrative.
People have learned that you can learn to tell yourself a different story, a little bit of self-talk goes a long way.
But what if you rooted that new story in the incredible love of God, not simply learned to see yourself in another light – but learned to see yourself in the light that is Christ, to see yourself as an incredibly beloved child of God, as one of God’s own beloved, one whom Christ was willing to die for, wanted to die for, so that you could live.
For Christ died for you – not out of pity but out of love – not because you were some worthless creature but because you were incredibly loved – because you are loved more than the sparrows.
My friends – as I wrote these words this morning, I grew worried – what if someone here struggles with emotional hardship – what if they already see themselves as so lowly – and then they can’t find their way out of the darkness of that sorrow.
If this is you – if you struggled with depression or hardship – I want you to hear this – no matter what the reason for your struggle – God loves you so deeply.
Christ came to redeem you.
Christ came because He saw something in you that is beautiful and redeemable.
Do no dismay – do not grow weary but cling all the more tightly to Christ who cries to you “come unto me, you who are weary and heavy ladened, and I will refresh you.”
Christ loves you deeply – cling to Him.
Yes, grow in humility, but not empty humility that just lowers yourself, but a humility that grows in the richness and love of God – a humility that makes you more and more dependent upon Christ, dependent upon your Lord, and savior who loves you.
And this brings us to the final point, boasting in our weakness reminds us of our total dependence upon Christ.
Ultimately, the gospel calls us to be totally dependent upon Christ, we learn that we can do nothing to save ourselves, we learn that not only are we broken in our trespasses, but we are dead in them and a dead man can do nothing.
No, we need Christ to reanimate us, to blow into us the spirit, to make us alive again.
If we find ourselves boasting in our weakness – if we find ourselves boasting in our frailty – if we recognize that we are in desperateness of a savior – we find in Christ such a savior – we find in Christ one who redeems us – one who sees us, loves us, knows all the dark things deep within our heart and says to us, “my beloved, come home to me.”
It is in Christ that we find strength.
It is in Christ that we find hope.
It is in Christ that we find redemption.
It is in Christ that we find salvation, freedom, relief, hope, joy.
It is Christ who calls us to total dependance upon him, that when we boast – we boast in our weakness – that His glory would shine through.
My friends, if you must boast – boast in your frailty, and boast in the strength of Christ, for this glorifies him, humbles you, and reminds you of your totally dependence upon him.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.