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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Series B

Option #1: "How to Understand a Thorn in the Flesh"
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.S., M.Div.

1) God allows it for your good--Deut 8:14; Gal 4:13ff

2) He wants you to pray about it--Ps 77:2-11; Heb 5:7

3) It is a work of God to boast about--2 Cor 1:4, 4:8-10; Rom 5:3-5; James 1:2ff; 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:13-14

Martin Luther wrote:

"He is the Carpenter and we are the wood. His handiwork is the dear, Holy Cross, which is bound to follow upon the teaching of the Gospel. He plies His tools and works on us, planes and carves us, in order to kill the old man within us and in this way completely to prepare us to be His new creation. He must take large axes, saws, wedges, for the Old Adam is a tough scoundrel.

This work of God goes on till death. Through this work Christendom became so great and strong. Through it the beloved martyrs went to heaven. Through it the holy fathers were enlightened in the Scriptures. Through it, Christians became experienced and trained people, good for giving advice and help in all things."

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Children's Message

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:7-9a

I remember when we were school children we used to play a game called "King of the Hill." We often played this game when there were hills of snow we could climb up. The object of the game was to go after the guy who was "King of the Hill" and knock him down so that you could be "King of the Hill." Then someone bigger or stronger would knock you down.

Sometime the guy on top of the hill was bragging too much and then he would go down a lot faster. That’s what it means in the Bible when Paul talks about being "conceited." The guy who is King of the Hill got his strong body from God; he can’t brag about it.

Well, Paul had some very special gifts from God. He was appointed to be God’s special representative to people who were not Jews. We call them "Gentiles." It was his job to help Gentiles believe in Jesus and be saved. One of the things God did to prepare Paul for his work was to let him see heaven. So that Paul wouldn’t get boastful like the "King on the Hill," God gave him a thorn in his flesh; he calls it "a messenger of Satan to torment me."

Paul didn’t say what his "thorn" was, but it probably was poor eyesight. You know how they test your vision at the beginning of each school year. Well, Paul would have failed that test.

Now listen carefully. Paul tells us that he asked God three times to make him better. But each time the Lord said "No." Then he said: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

This may be hard for you to understand, but let’s try. We like to do things ourselves, but some things we will never do without God’s help. So when we are weak, that’s when we rely much more on God. You may not realize this for a long time, but it will be one of the most important things you will ever learn: "When I am weak in myself, then I am strong in God." It worked for Paul. You and I are Christians in no small measure because of Paul, that weak man who became strong in God.

Just remember, when God says "No" to your prayers, He has a good reason for it. He just may want to let his strength work through your weakness for the good of everyone around you. You’ll just have to trust Him, that He can say "No" and still love you. After all, Jesus died for us so that we could be God’s children now and forever. He is our heavenly Father and sometimes fathers have to say "No." So trust Him always.

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Option #2: "Tripped Up But Not Cut Off"
Mark 6:1-6
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.

Goal: that we would recognize and better honor both God's prophets and God's prophecies
Malady: tripping over ourselves and our pre-conceived notions of who God is and what we ought to be like as His followers
Means: Fatherly adoption; Brotherly redemption; Spiritual co-optation
1. skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} ("scandalize"), v3: to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall; metaphorically, to offend; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away; to be offended in one, i.e., to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority; to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another, since one who stumbles or whose foot gets entangled feels annoyed; to cause one displeasure at a thing; to make indignant; to be displeased, indignant. (Strong's)
2. Their [Jesus' followers'] lifestyle was...a statement in itself. It challenged the sedentary bases of power founded on land and family/kin. Jesus promoted a radically alternative set of values. The social dislocation which he challenged some to take upon themselves was a social and a political statement because it called into question the dominant values of society which kept the poor poor. Whether among the travellers or among those who stayed in their community, Jesus called people to be and bear good news for the poor. No wonder the established power structures of family and land and religion saw only madness and did their best to tame him and his followers. The judgment of history is probably that they have at least succeeded with most of his followers to this day. (William Loader)
3. Limited views mean limited lives. That is, if your view of life is so narrow and crabbed, so withered and shrunken as to include nothing but what you can see and feel and taste and smell and hear and reason, then your life is going to be horribly deprived and poverty-stricken. (Ray Stedman)
4. Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you. (The Five Gospels)
5. Jerry Springer a senator? Momma's-Boy-Jesus, the second-class carpenter, a Savior?
6. The issue is the scandal of the incarnation. It hounded Galilean hearts and minds then as it hounds us now. "The word made flesh" is both our only salvation and the greatest bugaboo of modern piety... It is amazing that the first great heresy in the church was not the denial of Christ’s divinity, but the denial of his full humanity... We want a two-fisted God who comes up like thunder, and we are offended by one who puts himself at our mercy and who now and then looks a lot like our Uncle Fred. (Jim Callahan)
7. Miracles do not evoke faith so much as faith evokes miracles. (Frederick Buechner)
8. I'd rather suffer wrongly than be wrong. (Plato)
9. When you throw a stick into a pack of dogs, the one it hits yelps the loudest.

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This page was revised on: Friday, January 20, 2006 12:10:33 PM