Monday, July 9, 2018

Wisdom and weakness

(I've used the quote that Louise Penny puts in the mouth of her character, Armand Gamache, in an earlier post and in a sermon at St. James, Higganum. I used it again this past Sunday at Emmanuel, Killingworth. I'll use it again at St. Ann's, Northford because it has caused me to ponder so much in life since I read it.)

July 9, 2018--Emmanuel, Killingworth

Today's gospel from Mark tells us about Jesus' visit to his home town. The people there were suspicious of his--'he's Joseph's son, isn't he? We know his brothers and sisters. Where does he come off with all this stuff?'

Jesus tells his disciples, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his neighbors and his kin."

That's true, you know. To brag a bit, my son is the youngest partner in one of Baltimore's largest law firms and Cathy Chen, his wife, has just be named a judge. They are doing very well in their lives.

But their three daughters, my granddaughters, think of them as their goofy parents who don't have a clue.

And when I grew up in southern West Virginia, there was a college student home for the summer who ran and ran down the valleys and hollows. This was long before the running and jogging craze and the people who knew him thought he was a little crazy and unhinged though he was the town's doctor's son.

Later I learned he was a star on the Villenova University track team and almost made the Olympic team.

A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, among his people and his kin.

You've probably experienced something like that among 'your people and your kin'. Not without honor except....

Then Jesus sends his disciples out two by two to proclaim the 'good news' and to heal and restore.

That's what we are called to do as well--as Christ's Body in this world--proclaim the good news and heal and restore.

I remember once asking 175 people or so at St. John's, "who among you invited someone to church this week?" And no one raised their hand.

"In the last two weeks? the last month? the last two months?" I went on.

When I got to 'six months' a few people raised their hands.

I won't ask you that question. But I will ask, 'why not? Why not invite those you know and meet to be a part of God's Body here in this open, welcoming, embracing community? Why not?"

That's enough for Mark's Gospel. Now to the Gospel of Louise Penny.

Louise Penny is a Canadian mystery writer. Her primary character is Armand Gamache, a detective in Quebec. Gamache has something he tells every young policeman who works with him. He calls it 'the four things you need to learn to say and mean to lead to wisdom." (I've used this at St. James and will later this month at St. Andrew's because it has given me so much to ponder and wonder about.)

Gamache tells the young police officers, "Learn to say and mean this four things, 'I don't know.' 'I'm sorry.' 'I need your help.' And, 'I was wrong.'

That, Gamache tells them, is the road to wisdom.

Ponder that for just a moment. "I don't know." We all want to 'know' everything and even if we don't, we pretend we do. To admit you don't know is a weakness.

"I'm sorry." A genuine apology leads to a deepened relationship with the one you hurt, intentionally or unintentionally. But saying your sorry is hard to do and harder to mean. It seems like a weakness to us.

"I need your help" goes against all we're taught growing up about 'self-reliance' and 'pulling yourself up by  your bootstraps'. We want to be able to make it on our own. That's what we're suppose to do, right? Asking for help is a weakness.

"I was wrong" is the hardest of all to say and mean. Being wrong diminishes us in our own eyes and, we think, in the eyes of others. 'Being right' is what we want to be, against all evidence to the contrary.

The road to wisdom, it seems, leads through weakness.

But what did God say to Paul in today's Epistle? "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

And Paul reflects on that and writes, "So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

Imagine that--power made perfect when we admit our weaknesses!

Imagine a world where we all--All of us--including our leaders, learned to say: I don't know. I'm sorry. I need your help. I was wrong.

Imagine how wisdom would flow among us and what a better world it would be where 'weakness' leads to power and wisdom and hope and wonder.....



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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.