Broken and Blessed

by | Sep 4, 2023

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

So the good news is that I tested negative for COVID, last Wednesday and Saturday. Even better, it sounds like I didn’t infect anyone at Filipino Community United in Azusa, which is where I preached the Sunday before I tested positive. However, it sounds like much of their youth group is down with COVID, so I’m guessing it’s moving fast through the schools. It does seem like lots of folks are contracting it, so please be careful.

It’s a funny thing about being a pastor, that these negative reminders of our human condition actually help our ministry, because we are able to experience some of the challenges others are facing.
Sometimes we like to say that God came down to be human in Jesus Christ in order to feel what it’s like to be one of us. I’m Reformed enough to believe God doesn’t need to learn anything; I might contend that it’s comforting to us to know that Jesus walked among us and in our flesh and bones.

For us ordinary people, we need these setbacks to remind us that we are not God, and also to remind us that there are downturns, but with God’s grace, there is nothing we cannot overcome.

I thought about this when Bill Richardson died. I never followed his career very closely; in fact I thought he was Native American (his family had roots in Mexico, but one of his descendants was on the Mayflower). He did work with Native Americans, initially as a congressman and chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. He advocated for Indigenous rights for years.

Most of all, Bill Richardson is known for his work negotiating for the release of Americans held hostage or illegally detained in other countries. When he died, I looked into his life, and was surprised to learn that he faced several scandals and controversies in his life. None of the cases ended his career, but it reminded me how close colleagues have told me that no one is perfect. My first associate pastor said that she learned from me that she had to accept the whole package, and put up with the bad in me in order to allow the good to go forth. And back when I was a reluctant seminary intern, I made a bad mistake and left an elder stranded, and she didn’t let me off the hook for it! My internal message to God was “See? I told you I can’t do this!” And the message that came back was “Making a mistake is no excuse for refusing your ministry.”

I often wonder how much we could do for God’s kin-dom if we allowed ourselves to make mistakes as we take risks—and even stumble—in faith. And what a witness we offer to the world, when we forgive as we have been forgiven. Saints are not perfect beings—saints are faithful humans who seek to do God’s will, just like you, just like me.

This, of course, is not a call for carelessness or indifference. Rather, may we strive to do right by God, and help others on their journey as well, and may we keep striving, even if we mess up sometimes. “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1) Let us continue to pray for each other, and encourage each other, that Christ’s light may continue to shine through us.

Relying on God’s grace,