Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday Message: Broken & Useful

[This is the first blog post on the topic of spirituality/Christianity. While I am consider myself a devout Christian, I am by no means a capable theologian. It is definitely possible that some of my points are flawed or unsound. The main point is to share what I learned and experienced through this medium...]

The past Sunday's message was on the subject of brokenness and what it means to our lives. Brokenness is defined as the imperfections we see around us, such as houses fallen into disrepair, relationships devoid of care and love, etc. We all have experienced this as brokenness is a central characterization of the post-Fall era for humankind. Perhaps some more than others.

A main biblical passage given is 2 Corinthians 4:1-7, titled as "Present Weakness and Resurrection Life":

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Apostle Paul's point is stated in verse 4, that what we preach to others is the gospel of Jesus and not of ourselves. We can be tempted to think that the effectiveness of our ministry is contingent on our personal qualities like eloquence, charisma, charm, etc. But in reality, whether we are effective in our ministry depends not on our own strivings but on the grace of God. God pours out His Spirit into us, thereby transforming us into vessels of light that obliterate the darkness around us. What is important is not the holder but what the holder is holding (as indicated in verse 7, we are merely jars of clay).

The message giver at my church also noted that Paul juxtaposes the new covenant (New Testament) with the old. For example, the old covenant was recorded on stone tablets, marked by finite glory, veiled, and was essentially a ministry of condemnation. On the other hand, the new covenant is recorded in people's hearts, underscored by eternal glory and is a ministry of the Spirit. However, there is seemingly a paradox as Paul's life was marred by his initial persecution of Christians.

Yet Paul's transformation from a persecutor of the church to an apostle demonstrates God's power to transform lives completely. This is the majestic God we worship, as the psalmist in #8 so rightfully notes. The point is that we are a broken people in need of God's mercy -- and God graciously provides! The ministry of the Spirit comes into us and transforms us utterly...completely.

To me, this message highlights the importance of grace in our daily lives -- in addition to the insignificance of any self-perceived constraints. It's not about well we can recruit, but whether we do so in a manner worthy of the calling we have received. God calls us to be His People and blesses us accordingly. Surely he will equip us to fulfill the plans He has for us.

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