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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, July 9, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 12:2–10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (NRSV)

I lost a very dear friend to cancer a few years ago, someone who dedicated his life to writers, helping people find their way and giving them a place to be heard. He did this in relative obscurity—living alone—until late in his life he began to receive the recognition that he richly deserved.

And then he got sick, and he was no longer able to do that job that had been the center of his life for more than thirty-five years—no longer able to go and be with the people who mattered so much to him.

Paul talks about thorns in the flesh. Well, there are thorns and there are thorns. There are things that hurt, that jab you and bring you up short, and then there are things that stab and twist and take everything away, bit by bit.

For the last two years of his life, my friend bounced between his home and the hospital. Side effects from medication left him unable to do things as simple as laundry or shopping. And the people whom he had helped, whom he had lifted up and encouraged and nurtured? What did they do?

They showed up. They helped with shopping and cooking and laundry. They gave rides to treatment. They navigated insurance bureaucracy. They sat and talked and watched movies. And finally when he was in hospice, someone was with him 24/7, while others filled the waiting room and held each other up. Someone asked him during this what he did to get this kind of response, and he said, “I loved them and believed in their art.”

We all gathered in his room the morning he died and, in the midst of the loss, that love was there around us, and there was grace and peace. And every year, when the care team gets together on the anniversary of his passing, there is that love and grace and peace. And that’s enough.

For grace is sufficient, and love’s power is made perfect in weakness.

Lord, we thank you for your greatest gift: the grace you give us in our weakest moments. May we always find the ways to see it. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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