Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, Ruth 3:1-18, 2 Corinthians 4:1-12, Matthew 5:38-48
Where do you store your valuables? A safe? A vault? A storage unit? A coffee can buried in the back yard? Maybe what you value isn’t material, but you probably lock the door to your home or car to keep your family safe. Our instinct is to protect the things we find precious.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians of a different type of treasure: the extraordinary power of the light of the Gospel, a gift from God which we carry within ourselves. Other treasures might be locked behind heavy doors or surrounded by guards, but Paul says we keep ours in vulnerable clay jars – that is, our own fragile bodies that come from and return to the dust. No matter what happens to the jars, the treasure inside continues to “let shine light out of darkness.”
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
Clay jars aren’t much for security. They are relatively easy to break, cart away, or pour out. It’s almost as if … this treasure isn’t meant to be protected. As if those would break us to seize or destroy it are the ones most in need of experiencing its full glory revealed. As if turning the extra cheek or walking the extra mile, as Christ tells us to do, isn’t about saving ourselves at all, but about revealing that glory – that absolute love – to those who can’t imagine it is free to all, a gift and not an acquisition.
Jesus says “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” after he warns we may need to part with eyes and limbs, respond to abuse with patience, and generally fall into what the world sees as foolishness and ruin. But if we are filled with that divine and inexhaustible treasure, every chip and crack in our vessel is an opportunity to let it flow into the world.
Comfort: You can’t run out of love by sharing it.
Challenge: Christians are not protected from bad things; but through them we may help reveal the glory of God.
Prayer: God of light and clay, shape me into a worthy vessel for your glory. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever had a chance to demonstrate God’s grace through hardsheip?
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