“we were too weak for that”

This has been a good reminder from St. Paul that weakness is not to be lived in shame, even though this is what many in our society have taught us to feel. Instead, Paul demonstrated from his own experiences how one can embrace and rejoice in their weaknesses, knowing that God’s power is perfected there. Here’s a long (edited) section I’ve pulled from the end of 2 Corinthians (starting in chapter 11):

I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

. . . .

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying…But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

. . . .

I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them–since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong–not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.

Paul of Tarsus

The need for forgiveness

This week has been full of grief in the wake of another school shooting. This time the victims were mostly very young children. The incomprehensible reality of such violence. The sadness is almost too much. And it will not quickly subside. Even forgiveness does not seem to promise very much rest.

I remember the radical actions taken by this Amish community when a killer took the lives of their children. NPR reported about Jonas Beiler, an Amish mental health counselor, who reflected these thoughts one year after the attack:

“Tragedy changes you. You can’t stay the same,” Beiler says. “Where that lands you don’t always know. But what I found out in my own experience if you bring what little pieces you have left to God, he somehow helps you make good out of it. And I see that happening in this school shooting as well. One just simple thing that the whole world got to see was this simple message of forgiveness.”

Beiler says that because the Amish can express that forgiveness, and because they hold no grudges, they are better able to concentrate on the work of their own healing.

For all those who said goodbye unwillingly, I want to stand with them and pray for the miracle of rest:

May [God] surround each adult and child, so tragically departed and those still holding to life, with pure and complete light. May pain flee the body and all anguish fly from the soul. May each victim know himself or herself to be fiercely loved, tenderly held, wholly healed.

May you descend in ways and miracles I cannot imagine on the families whose fabric has been ripped, whose security shattered, whose hearts feel burned to ash. Do not ask us to hold in our anger. While we ultimately hope for the redemption only you can bring about, do not let us speak of such too soon. Would each family today experience nothing but compassion. Would the gross tragedy of their loss be matched by the overwhelming kindness of those near and far. Would Peace arrive, however slowly, and descend upon Newtown: each family, each hospital room, each parent, child, student, teacher, brother, sister.

Read the entire prayer here.

Psalm 146

Please make these words come true:

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!