The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

SERMON TEXT:  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Therefore, to keep me from becoming arrogant due to the extraordinary nature of these revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me, so that I would not become arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that he would take it away from me. And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will be glad to boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may shelter me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak, then am I strong.

Sermon Audio, Video, & Transcript


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight oh God, our rock and our Redeemer.

Dear brothers and sisters

The word of God for today’s meditation comes from 2 Corinthians 12. St. Paul writes to people of Corinth, “to keep me from becoming arrogant due to the extraordinary nature of these revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me so that I would not become arrogant. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this that he would take it away from me, and he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you because my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will be glad to boast all the more my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may shelter me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, in insults and hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For whenever I am weak then I am strong. This is the word of God.

It is very easy for us to be happy and content on days when things are going well. When we are well fed when we have plenty of money to pay all of our bills. When we are enjoying good relationships with family members and friends. It is very easy for us to be content when our bodies are cooperating and giving us good feelings but, when the opposite of all of these things happen it is difficult to be content. It is difficult to be content when you are hungry, or when you are living in poverty. It is difficult to be content when your body is racked with pain, and when relationships with your family members and friends are strained, or worse. St. Paul however tells us that he had found the secret of being content in any circumstance and he continues that thought by saying I can do all things through Christ who strengthens. In other words, the way to be content no matter what circumstance you’re facing in life is to focus on Jesus. When things are going well for you then you know that you don’t deserve them and you receive all benefits and blessings only by the grace of God. And when things are not going so well in your outward circumstances then you know, one that God means it for your good, and you know too that God will take you to heaven one day where all of the bad things of this earth are going to not even be brought to mind anymore. The glory that will be revealed in us is so much greater, yet how many of us have actually matured as Christians to the point where we can say that that is the case for us. How many of us can really begin the day with a broken shoestring and with a sour carton of milk, and say thank you Lord for this blessing. No, when things go badly for us we very quickly turned to the opposite of blaming God, don’t we? We’re just like little children and that way.

There is a phrase that I think most teachers of younger children have used and you can probably fill in the blank, you get what you get and you don’t throw fit. I saw this in action one time when I was teaching vacation Bible school a few years ago. When the teacher who was leading the crafts that year was passing out little ribbons of paper and everybody had to use the ribbon of paper in a project, and some of them were getting green ribbons, and some of them got blue ribbons, and some of them got purple, and some of them got red but, there was only one yellow ribbon. And of course that one yellow ribbon caused the disruption in the class because it was unique. Everybody wanted that yellow ribbon, not because they love yellow more than other colors but, because they want what they want and that’s when the teacher said you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. One of the children who wasn’t clamoring for it, got the yellow ribbon. You and I have trouble being content sometimes it’s because we want what somebody else has often times. It’s just because of our human nature that we have inherited from Adam and Eve, our first sinful parents. Discontentment is really what led to Eve’s falling into temptation and sin. When Satan had rebelled against God decided that he didn’t want to be alone in rebellion, he tried to tempt Eve and Adam to follow his way instead of God’s righteous way. And Satan came in the guise of a snake and met Eve when she was in the garden, and snake spoke and said to Eve did God really say you can’t eat from any of these trees in the garden? As he looked around at all the beautiful trees and, Eve followed his gaze, Eve looked and all of the trees were good for food and the fruit was beautiful, and she caught herself. She said, while God said we can eat for many of those trees but not this tree in the center of the garden, and we must not touch it, or we will certainly die. Satan grasp hold of that opportunity and he said he will not certainly die, but God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God knowing good and evil. You see that’s why God is trying to withhold you from this tree. He knows he knows that if you eat of it, you’re gonna be like he is. You’re going to experience things that you’ve never experienced before. Your eyes are going to be open to a whole new world. Imagine how foolish that was for Eve to be discontent in the garden of Eden. Where all of the plants and all of the crops cooperated perfectly. When the weather always was beautiful. Where the animals even submitted to the domination of man, and where all things were pleasing to God, including Adam and Eve’s relationship. How could you be discontent in that circumstance?

It is a strange thing about human nature isn’t it that that we are so easily discontent. I mean those of you that have dogs in your home you know dogs just act like dogs act. A dog is a dog. He eats what he eats he sleeps when he wants. Goes to the bathroom where he wants. The dog is content being a dog. If you know anything about farm animals, you’ll notice the same thing. Farm animals are content being whatever they are. The sheep eats the grass. The cow. The pig does what a pig does, but then when you look at human beings, the crown of God’s creation. The highest achievement of God’s creation on earth. Human beings are always trying to be something, different something more. How foolish. That foolishness that began with Eve and Adam is part of our hearts and our daily experience as well. It would have been very easy for St. Paul to become puffed up with pride, to become arrogant. Because God had shown him things that he had not shown anyone else. The apostle Paul was able to look into the third heaven. It probably means that the veil was open so that he was able to see the spiritual reality that you and I are not able to see. Paul was able to receive direct revelations from God. Something that we don’t receive today anymore. Paul was told to write down what he saw to write letters to the Christians around the world. Letters that are still read today and still expounded today and still revered today. What an amazing privilege that the apostle Paul had, but God did not want him to be arrogant ,because that would not be good for Paul, and it would not be good for all of the other Christians who are listening to his words. So in order to keep him from becoming arrogant God sent him what is called a thorn in his flesh. We don’t know what that thorn in the flesh was. It’s described also as a messenger from Satan to torment me. The apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh, and we all have some kind of thorn in the flesh. It maybe something mental or emotional. It may be something physical. People have speculated for all of these centuries about what Paul might have been referring to. Bad vision. A speech impediment? Maybe it was a physical deformity or a chronic pain. Maybe it was a guilty conscience. Maybe it was some other kind of sharp temptation that he daily had to fight. We don’t know what the thorn in the flesh was, but what we do know is this, it caused pain and it kept Paul from becoming arrogant, because it highlighted his personal weakness. God sent it to them so that he would trust in God’s strength. So that he would look not to his own goodness, but to the goodness of his good God. It took Paul a little while to understand this and to mature to the point where he could truly rejoice in this weakness. Paul says three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away, and I think that means a lot more than just three times saying God take it away, but he is talking about periods of time of intense prayer where he is wrestling with God.. Paul thought he could be a better friend, a better man, a better pastor. If only God would take this thorn away, but what did God reply? He said my grace is sufficient. So for you and I that struggle with temptations. For you and I that struggle with pain, illnesses, troubled relationships. We might pray all day, many days about those problems, but God’s answer for you is the same as his answer to Paul. My grace is sufficient. It is enough that you know the love that God has for you sent Jesus to become a human being. To live a perfect life of struggling against sin but never falling, never falling into temptation. God sent Jesus to die on the cross as a perfect sacrifice that took away all of your sins, and the sins of the entire world. God raised him from the dead so that your life, your eternal life would also be guaranteed. God’s undeserved love for you is truly all that you really need. It is enough to get you eternal life.

The work of Christ, being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. In the waters of holy baptism. The Holy Spirit coming into your heart to create a faith in your heart, so that you trust in him. The body and blood of Christ that in a few minutes we will share for a personal assurance of forgiveness. All of that, the grace of God is sufficient. You don’t need all of the other things, and in fact, the apostle Paul grew in his understanding of his weakness. So much that he even understood that his weaknesses highlighted God’s power. That’s one of the lessons the pastors always need to learn is that our weaknesses our weaknesses highlight God’s power. So that for me I know that any success, it does not owe to me being a good pastor, but it is God being a good God. And a congregation that sees blessings, it’s not because the congregation is so good, but because God’s word is so good and powerful, and God is so gracious and blessing. Our weaknesses highlight God’s power, because on my own I would only fail and I would only receive damnation from God, because I constantly fall short of God’s requirements. But Jesus has given me eternity, forgiveness, and grace. We even take another step in our maturity when we can actually delight in everything, including our sorrows, including our weaknesses. The apostle Paul concludes this section by saying this is why I delight in weaknesses, because God’s power is highlighted by my weaknesses I delight in them, and in fact I delight Paul says in insult. That’s what Jesus says we should see when when he tells us in the sermon on the mount that we should rejoice and be glad when people mistreat us because of Christ. He says you’re in good company. That’s how they treated the prophets. Delight in insults. Delight in hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. Christians who followed this word of God appear to be very strange to the world. Really, you can find delight and comfort in all of these problems? Yes you can. Whatever difficulty you are facing whatever struggle you have. Whatever bad relationship you’re trying to fix. Whatever thorn in the flesh you encounter for the sake of Christ, and through the work of Christ, you have something much better. You are growing in strength. You are growing in understanding. You are growing unto eternal life. I know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. And so no matter what I face, I can be satisfied with what God gives. No matter whether it’s a yellow ribbon, or blue, or green, because what God gives, is always best.


Why audio, video, and a transcript?

Though the video, audio, and transcript are for the same sermon, there are benefits to having all three.
Video has the most obvious benefit in that it gives you the ability to watch and listen as if you were sitting in church on Sunday morning.

The audio gives you the freedom of being able to listen while doing something else, like driving. Also, the audio is much better quality then the audio track on the video. The audio comes from the pastor’s mic, which picks up his voice much more clearly. Another benefit is that most of the longer pauses have been shortened or removed, resulting in the entire length being several minutes shorter. Finally many audio players allow you to slow down or speed up the audio so that you can listen at your own pace.

The transcript has its own advantages in the same way actively reading something is often better than passively listening or watching. Reading a sermon means not wondering off and missing something. In addition, though video and audio are easy enough to keep around, transcripts are are even easier to archive and store. They also make it easy to search for past sermons for content. Even if you’re not able to remember the date or the service, you can still search for words in the sermon. For example, searching for “billboards on this road promise a lot of really good things.” will take you right to this sermon.

Bible Readings

FIRST LESSON:  Deuteronomy 30:1-10

When all these things come upon you, both the blessing and the curse that I have given you, and you take them to heart while you are among all the nations to which the LORD your God has banished you, and when you return to the LORD your God and listen to his voice with all your heart and soul, in every way that I am commanding you today, you and your children, then the LORD your God will restore you from your captivity. He will have compassion on you, and he will gather you together again out of all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. Even if your banished people are at the end of the heavens, the LORD your God will gather you together there and take you away from there. The LORD your God will bring you back to the land that your fathers possessed, and then you will possess it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with the result that you will live. Then the LORD your God will place all these curses on your enemies and on those who hated you and persecuted you. Once again you will listen to the voice of the LORD, and you will carry out all of his commands that I am giving you today. The LORD your God will cause you to be overflowing with good things from all the work of your hands, in the fruit of your womb, in the fruit of your animals, and in the fruit of your soil. For once again he will rejoice over your prosperity, just as he rejoiced over your fathers, when you obey the voice of the LORD your God by keeping his commandments and his statutes written in this Book of the Law, when you return to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

SECOND LESSON:  2 Corinthians 12:7-10

See Sermon Text

VERSE OF THE DAY:  John 6:68 (NIV)

You have the words of eternal life.

GOSPEL: Luke 6:17-26

He went down with them and stood on a level place with a large crowd of his disciples, and a large number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, as well as from the coastal area of Tyre and Sidon. These people came to listen to him and to be healed of their diseases. Those who were troubled by unclean spirits were also cured. The whole crowd kept trying to touch him, because power was going out from him and healing them all. He lifted up his eyes to his disciples and said: Blessed are you who are poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, because you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh. Blessed are you whenever people hate you, and whenever they exclude and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy because of this: Your reward is great in heaven! The fact is, their fathers constantly did the same things to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, because you are receiving your comfort now. Woe to you who are well fed now, because you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, because you will be mourning and weeping. Woe to you when all people speak well of you, because that is how their fathers constantly treated the false prophets.