One of the joys of being a pastor is that I get to serve and work with some of the most wonderful folks in the world. Not to brag, but the members of my church are among the most generous, most caring people I know; and every time I get to greet them on Sunday morning or bump into them around town, I find myself thinking, “I am so lucky to be in this place with this church family.” Of course, the love that I feel for them brings with it a unique pain, because they allow me to be a part of their lives — even in some of those moments that bring anxiety and hurt. The seasons of weakness, the impending losses, the life-changing diagnoses — I get to minister to them and serve with them in the midst of those trials; and I am frequently humbled by their faith, their strength, and their willingness to let me be a part of their journey.
Naturally, all of this is as it should be. In today’s New Testament lesson (not to mention several other places in scripture), we get a reminder of the holy “both/and” that characterizes the life of faith and the Body of Christ. We live in both “the now and the not yet.” We are both “blessed and broken.” And as Paul says today (2 Corinthians 4:1-12), we are granted both “treasure and trial.”
The treasure? “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (4:6) And the trial? “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side,but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (4:7-10)
If you’re reading this today, there’s a pretty good chance that you are one of the “treasures” for which I give thanks; because through you, I see the light of God’s glory being put on display. And while I am burdened by the trials that you and some of God’s other treasures are experiencing, I’m grateful — that even in these hardships — God’s glory continues to be revealed, because even these remind us “that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
May we draw strength from these promises today: In Christ, we’ve been given the treasure of the knowledge of God’s glory. And even when we’re aware that this beautiful treasure is all-too-humbly housed in our “jars of clay”; even then, the glory can shine — “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5)