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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, February 19, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (NRSV)

Sometimes I worry about Paul’s ego—not that it was too small but that perhaps it was too big. One way to read this text is to hear it with an emotional undertone of braggadocio. He and his colleagues are so faithful that they almost can do no wrong. “We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way”—and yet when we remember the totality of Paul’s witness, that undertone of superiority quickly dissipates. Perhaps Paul had felt spiritually superior when he was Saul, the great persecutor of the church, but after his conversion, he shed that skin and put on the clothing of humility handed to him by his Lord.

When humility becomes the emotional undertone of the text, it reads quite differently. Instead of hearing Paul bragging about all the trials he has endured, we hear Paul proclaiming, “Look, I have been through the wringer, but God has not let me down.” Indeed, what Paul is testifying to is not his own faithfulness but God’s faithfulness. “No matter what,” I hear Paul declaring, “God has been with me every step of the way and has given me far more than I could have ever asked for or imagined on my own. And that can be true for you, too.”

That constant accompanying presence of God through all of life is nothing but pure grace. Paul knew it. May we know it as well.

God of grace and glory, I thank you for the myriad of ways you make yourself known in my life. I thank you for your love, for the gift of your courage, for the breath of your spirit, for the foundation of your mercy. May I live this day trusting that no matter what comes you are with me. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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