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Message Supplement (5 July 2015)

Mysterious, marvelous, weird describe Paul’s other-worldly adventure in 2 Corinthians 12:2-10. More than elsewhere in his writings, these verses reveal an intensely personal situation in that he shares what is most likely an out-of-body experience (maybe a near-death situation).

Some of Paul’s language is stilted, indirect, and confusing. The manner Paul writes about going to heaven (i.e., paradise) is disturbing and leaves us guessing. Once in this “third heaven,” Paul received some sort of fantastic revelation that he was unwilling or unable to share with the rest of us.

What are we to do with Paul’s trip and what is the unshared secret? And why didn’t an angel just visit Paul on earth as opposed to his traveling to a so-called third heaven of paradise? As usual, there are more questions than satisfying answers. One last question is whether Paul was privileged above the rest of us and, if so, perhaps that accounts for why we revere his writings as holy. You’re not alone if you feel a bit perturbed by the lack of disclosure. I suppose one of the saving graces in this story—pun intended—is that even Paul couldn’t put into words what he experienced. Many folks who have had a near death encounter share that the sense of love is overwhelming and virtually beyond description.

Mystical states aside, a more practical issue is Paul’s acceptance of his illness. As special as Paul may have been, he was afflicted by some disease or malady. In a way, this is comforting to us because as inspired as he may have been he wasn’t spared suffering (neither was Jesus). Paul tried to get God to cure him but God responded by saying that the grace was sufficient and that in effect nothing more would be done.

The second part of today’s message is Mark 6:1-13, the familiar tale of Jesus not being honored in the place where he had grown up. One the one hand, Nazareth was Jesus’ hometown. It was where his relatives lived in an extended family network. Nazareth is where Jesus was socialized and where, presumably, he resided as he matured and learned a trade. On the other hand—and precisely because Jesus was so familiar to the people of Nazareth—it was a town that took Jesus and his mission for

granted. This is one of the problems of trying to be a prophet among those who supposedly know you too well.

The old Nazareth crowd thought that they had Jesus completely figured out. So much so that they could not believe he was anything other than that normal young man they had known before his unfolding mission. And yet, when Jesus returned in the full power of his ministry, the people of Nazareth refused to change their perception. They had already made up their minds about who and what Jesus was. Have you ever had this happen to you? Do you feel trapped inside other’s static opinions? To the folks in Nazareth, Jesus would always be too familiar and natural, not the miracle-working Son of God. The result was that Jesus’ miracles were neither fully nor properly recognized.

It is a pity that Jesus was rejected by his former neighbors. Consequently, Jesus had to go elsewhere, to a place more accepting of his ministry. Sometimes, this same thing happens to us when we try to open ourselves to God’s transforming power. Friends and family may resent that we are becoming something different than what we have been. Persons close to us may not take us seriously because they have already become used to our “old self.” Some of our friends and family may also react with fear, not knowing what to expect from the “new you.” Yet, people who refuse to change their minds miss the blessing of the new life God is developing within us.

Let us pray that others’ faulty, unjust thinking will not limit the way God’s power can flow through us. Let us be ready and able to reinvent ourselves and to be open to God’s transformation. With determination, we can resist the way in which familiarity breeds contempt.

 

–Reverend Larry Hoxey