2nd Corinthians, Visions and Thorns

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Paul makes complete sense, and then he doesn’t. In some ways it is easy to understand Peter when he said of Paul in 2 Peter 3:15-16 – “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand…”

The daily readings have been taking us through 2 Corinthians, and I’ve ignored them here by and large. The overwhelming sense of 2nd Corinthians to me has been of unease and unsaid recognition. (The Eastern District convention took its theme from 2 Cor, and we as a church have read it from the lectern this year, but it is still difficult.) Paul took these people to the woodshed in 1 Corinthians, and I wonder if that experience colored their entire communication from that time on. They (or some of them) question Paul’s authority. Paul defends it, but with a desperate mood – like he knows they won’t listen. As a parent you know that when you pull the “because I said so” card out, the child is probably not listening. You’ve lost the argument and now you are hoping against hope that the child still has a healthy fear of you as their parent. And so Paul says – “I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions…” Paul is pulling the becuase I said so card. I’ve seen the surpassing glory of heaven.

But he backs down from there. Instead he points at his troubles. “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamaties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” The authority of a Christian comes not from the glory first, but the glory after the cross. When our lives and our witness take a cruciform shape, then we are strong. The authority of the World will not brook insult. It owns the sword and it uses it. The authority of the Word resides not in power, but in weakness. In our weakness, in what the world says shouldn’t be, it is there that God is able to work – because only the power and grace of God could sustain it though the thorns.