Summary: Looks at the nature of our witness as seen through the lens of the cross.
The Bible calls each of us to witness for our faith. Yet often I have had people come up to me and say, I can’t witness for Christ, I don’t know enough, I can’t witness for Christ I have too many problems, I can’t witness for Christ, I have made to many mistakes in the past. They are saying a witness is a person who knows all the answers, has a squeky clean past and doesn’t have any problems. For people who make such assumptions, witnessing is the person who has life all put together sharing his wisdom with those who don’t.
Paul with disagree with those assumptions. II Corinthians is a letter where Paul is defending his apostleship to a church who years before he helped start on his 2nd missionary journal. They were saying what have you done for me lately, Paul. The ppr committee of First Church Corinth complained that Paul was too sickly to be effective as an apostle, that he didn’t have the intellectual sharpness of Apollos or the dynamic speaking ability of Peter.
Paul answers his critics by re interpreting what it means to minister for Christ. He reminds the Corinthians in verse one, “through God’s mercy we have this ministry”. Our sharing Christ with others is rooted God’s mergy and grace not our ability. Then in verse 7, Paul reminds them, But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”
Paul is alluding to a custom that took place in the ancient mid east, when a royal guest arrived in town, he was often greeted with a parade. One of the things that was paraded was the jewels of the royal person. It was the custom however not to place those jewels in gold, bronze or ceramic containers, but with cheap, easily broken clay pots. The reason for such a practice was to emphasize the importance of what was inside the containers as opposed the containers themselves.
I almost decided to rename the sermon title “crack pots”. Our witnessing for Christ is not based on who we are, but on the one who lives within us. We are just the fragile, easily broken clay pots, that God has chosen to be the containers for his presence.
Ministry is not we who have it together sharing our wisdom with those who don’t, it is we sharing God’s strength in the midst of our weakness. The late Henri Nouwen describes the witness for Christ as a “Wounded Healer”. In his book of the same title, Nowen writes, “he or she is called to be the wounded, the one who must look after his own wounds, but at the same time prepared to heal the wounds of others.”
As Christ power was exhibited the humility and brokeness of the cross, so Christ takes us in our brokenness and not only uses us in spite of our brokenness, but actually through our brokenness. Vance Havener once wrote, God uses broken things, it takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to produce bread, broken bread to give strength. It is Peter weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.
Nouwen goes on to say, “Therefore ministry is a very confronting service. It does not allow people to live with the illusions of immortality and wholeness. It keeps reminding others that they are mortal and broken, but also that witht the recognition of this condition, liberation starts.”
Over the past year as your pastor I have come to the realization of the importance of our ministry to young families. The graying of our congregation calls points to the need to minister more effectively to under 40 generation in our community. The more I reflected upon that I began to ask, than why in the world am I here, an overweight, over 50 pastor whose hair is falling out and whose bones are filled with arthritis. What this church needs is a young, vibrant pastor who can attract young families.
It was then I realized that Gods sense of humor. You see God likes to take clay pots and use them not because of who they are, but in spite of who they are. In the chapter before our passage, Paul writes in II cor 3:5, “ Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God.”
This morning we come to the table and receive the broken bread, hearing our call to be wounded healers, those who receive the strength through the brokenness of the cross and who allow that cross to minister to others through our own brokenness.