“…but (The Lord) he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

This amazing testimony from Paul in his Second Letter to the Church in Corinth is a piece of scripture that I love dearly, need reminding of constantly, and believe with all my heart. 

Back in my early days of sobriety I struggled mightily with many things.  I was trying to negotiate all sorts of things including the whole concept of a higher power.  It was that struggle in particular that eventually led me to the Episcopal church.  At the time, I was pretty sure I couldn’t continue to be a Roman Catholic, and I was looking at different churches and feeling a bit lost.  I heard about the Church of England in a history class where it was linked to the Episcopal Church here, and my professor said, “Sort of Catholic, but no Pope.”  I said, “Where do I sign??”  Then, a chaplain was assigned to the Navy Psychiatric unit I worked on, and he was an Episcopal priest.  My main AA meeting met in an Episcopal Church.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Anyway, at the time I was in my twenties, and still thought I was invincible.  I also thought that I could handle whatever life threw at me by myself.  Well, in AA, in the Church, and even in the world, that doesn’t tend to work out too well.  Apparently I had not been paying enough attention to Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers when I was little.  What can I say.  Sometimes it takes me a while.

As I grew in faith and sobriety, I had to learn that I was not completely independent, and that my weaknesses, of which there are many, were the very things that the Holy Spirit helped me to use in spreading the work of sobriety and the Good News of the Gospel.  I learned that in all those years when I thought I was alone and unloved that Jesus was right beside me, loving me and giving me the strength I needed to not just survive but to flourish.  When I was finally still enough to listen to the “still small voice” of the Spirit, I had to really change how I viewed myself and the world around me.  It certainly didn’t happen overnight, and thankfully it continues to happen.  Our life’s work is to continue to see ourselves and the world as God sees it… loved, redeemed, precious in his sight.  All of it.  Other weaknesses in my life have been difficult, but again, it is those very things, being a special needs parent, having a chronic illness, all of those things that have helped me to connect with others, and be part of the kingdom that God is continually creating here on earth as it is in heaven.  And, I, like Paul, know that none of it is my doing.  In all of the situations where I am weak, if I don’t know it at first, I come to know that I am completely dependent upon God for my entire life.  For all of us, we need to place our lives, all of our life, into the hands of Jesus.  We look to him for our healing, to be “raised up” from the situations that threaten to do spiritual violence to us and to others.  

The catch is, it isn’t just our healing that he gives us.  When we look to Jesus, his Holy Spirit will guide and COMPEL us to help others in the same ways that we were.  That is a cornerstone, not just of AA where we take the message of hope to those who still drink, but it is the cornerstone of the kingdom of God.  In our psalm today we hear: “So our eyes look to the Lord our God, *
until he “show us his mercy.
4 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.”

Beloved, there is so much in our world in our own town that is filled with contempt.  All kinds of violence is being committed against God’s own people.  Everyone is shouting over the other and no one is being heard; the peace of God appears to be absent within us and around us.  In society the rights of God’s children that our ancestors fought so hard for are daily being threatened by people who have decided that taking care of others takes away from their bottom line.  There is no bottom line in the kingdom of God.  We are all equal in his sight, we are all totally dependent upon God for our spiritual health and well being.  

It’s a mess out there.  A huge, awful mess that threatens to get worse each day.  Fear and greed are trying to get the upper hand; it’s evil and temptation trying to lure us away from what is good and what is right.  If I stood here and told you that I was no longer ever tempted by alcohol, I would be a liar.  Each day I have to recognize just how weak I am and depend upon Jesus for every moment of sobriety and peace that I have.  None of us can be free of the temptations that invade our society without Jesus and without each other.  May we see him in everyone we encounter, and may we give our weaknesses over to him so that in him, we may be made strong; strong enough to help even one of God’s children to freedom and peace.

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen