January 14, 2018

See the Power of One


2nd Sunday of Epiphany
KML Sunday

First Lesson:  2 Chronicles 20:15-22

Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Gospel Lesson: John 2:1-10

Sermon Text:  2 Corinthians 12:9
 

Preacher:  Pastor Phil Malchow

The portion of God’s Word for our meditation on this KML service is recorded in the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Christians living in Corinth, chapter 12, verse 9:  "But he 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."  This is God’s Word.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, who rely on the Power of One,
He was no different than the other boys in the town located in the southern part of Galatia which we now call Turkey. He did the things that boys normally did. There was nothing to draw attention to him. His father was a Roman citizen which bestowed Roman citizenship on the boy but that wasn't all that out of the ordinary. His mother raised him in her Jewish faith. Again, not all that out of the ordinary. Mothers often bestow their religious beliefs on their children. Nothing out of the ordinary.

They began to notice that he was more intelligent than the other boys his age. He showed a remarkable ability to grasp difficult concepts. It was his mother who saw to it that he travel to Jerusalem so that he might learn at the feet of a great Jewish scholar by the name of Gamaliel. He pursued his studies with extraordinary vigor. He showed an aptitude for leadership, more than the other young men his age. He was especially vigilant in guarding the faith of his fathers.

Yet for all this, we probably wouldn't know him today. With all his intelligence, his energetic leadership we probably wouldn't have known him. Even when he led a violent defense of his faith against a perceived heresy, we will would not have known who he was. It was only after God took hold of this young man and chose him to be his missionary that we were assured to know this man's name. I'm talking about the Apostle Paul. We know Paul because of the Power of One, the one who appointed Paul to be his missionary.
Today we're going to see the Power of One in the life of the Apostle Paul. We will also see that same power active among us today and active at our Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School. As we look at Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, see the Power of One. The Power of one by grace and from God.

In this section of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he is defending his ministry.  Some people had challenged Paul's apostleship – the fact that he was an apostle sent by God. So Paul begins chapter 12 by talking about a fantastic vision that God had given to Paul. As he explains it, he was “caught up to the third heaven.”  He was “caught up to Paradise.”  That's pretty amazing, isn't it?  I don't know of anyone else that was given such a vision that the Apostle Paul experienced.

But then he writes, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.”  We don't know what that “thorn in the flesh” was.  Some think that it was a speech impediment which hindered his speaking ability. Others think that it was a problem walking which would have impeded his travels. We don't know. All we know is that Paul pleaded with God three times to take that thorn away.

Put yourself in Paul's shoes. You are a missionary. You are an apostle of God. You are traveling throughout the Mediterranean world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ but you have this thorn in the flesh which is hindering your mission. You are broken. Wouldn't it make sense for God to heal you?  Wouldn't it help your ministry if God would remove that thorn in the flesh? 

However, God's response is, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  Grace is undeserved love. Undeserved love. If we are out doing great and fantastic things, then we deserve God's love. Paul had been given these fantastic visions, he was an apostle of God but to keep him from becoming conceited, to keep him “undeserved,” God blessed him with that thorn in the flesh to remind Paul of God's grace, God's undeserved love.

There are thorns at KML.  There are struggles that the students at KML face every day. I'm in my third year at KML now and during that time, three students have said goodbye to their mothers. God called their mothers to heaven. Some students struggle with the subjects to learn because they have learning challenges which make it difficult for them to learn their subjects. There are some students who struggle with emotional challenges which make it hard to get through the day. They try out for a sport but don't make the team. That can't get into the social circles they want to get into. You remember what it was like in high school. They are the same challenges that our KML students struggle with today. And they all struggle with the temptation to sin. They all have that thorn in the flesh.

To these struggle students, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  Pastor Phil Merten spoke to our KML students recently. Pastor Merten serves institutional ministries so he will go into jails and prisons to share the gospel with inmates. In his devotion Pastor Merten reminded the students that God loves us as we are. Pastor Merten deals with inmates who obviously have problems but God loves them as they are. God loves our KML students as they are will all the struggles and challenges that they have.

That's the message of grace that we have to share with our KML students on a daily basis. God's grace is his undeserved love. It is the love that God showers on us as his children. It doesn't matter how many friends you have, it doesn't matter what grades you get, it doesn't matter if you make the team or not, God's grace is there. Every day we remind the students at KML of God's grace.
It was God who reminded Paul that his grace was sufficient. His grace was enough. By allowing that thorn to stay in Paul's flesh, it was reminding Paul that it was all by grace, by undeserved love. But it also empowered Paul. It connected Paul to the Power of One. The power that comes from God.

God told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”  If Paul didn't have that thorn in the flesh, he would be fine. He would think that he could handle things on his own. It was the weakness that forced Paul to go to God. It forced him to rely on God's power instead of relying on his own power. That's why God said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” God's power does what it's supposed to do when someone is weak, when that power is needed.

That caused Paul to respond, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." Paul boasted about his weakness. He was glad that he was weak because it was a constant reminder that he needed to rely on God. It forced Paul to go to God for strength.  That constant reliance on God's power brought Christ's power on Paul. The power of Christ “set up a tent” on Paul. The power of Christ made a home in Paul's life.

We see that power in Paul's life. The book of Acts records the missionary trips the Apostle Paul made. It wasn't easy. In almost every town that Paul visited to share the gospel, he was thrown out. Enemies followed Paul to disrupt his ministry. He was beaten, thrown in jail, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead. Yet he kept going. Daily he looked to God for strength. God's power enabled Paul to keep going and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Some of us don't like to ask for help. We want to be self-sufficient. We want to do things on our own. There are times when God allows us to run into that brick wall. We can't do it on our own. We are forced to go to God for strength. God is always there. He is ready and willing to give us his strength to enable us to overcome that challenges that face us. God himself promises that he will never give us more than we can handle.  He will always give us the strength that we need to persevere.

That isn't an easy lesson to learn when you're a teenager. You're young. You're strong. You're healthy. Yet it often happens during those teenage years that challenges come up that are too great. That's one reason why our theme at KML this year is “The Power of One.”  Those critical times will come. The problems will be overwhelming so we direct our students to the one who can help them overcome those challenges. God invites us to come to him when we need help. “Call upon me the day of trouble. I will deliver you.”  That's a promise of God.

As I look at the students at KML and compare their lives to when I was their age, it's different. Technology has some great benefits for education but it also exposes are young people to some much more. The devil is a master at taking that technology and exposing our students to temptations for abuse. They need God's power to resist temptation. They need God's power to keep them on the path of life. They need God's power help them overcome the challenges they face as young Christians in today's world.

While our lives change and our situations change, God remains constant. The same power that enabled Paul to travel the Mediterranean world and preach the gospel is the same power God has for us. Paul preached Christ crucified. Christ crucified is the Power of One. Christ died for our sins so that we might have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in his same.  He died so that we might have the Power of One, the power that will bring us to eternal life with God.

Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School has an enrollment of 453 students. God has blessed us with growth and it looks like he will continue to bless us with a growing enrollment. I teach 121 of those students. While we appreciate the growth God has given us, it's important to remember that each student is precious. Each student is a child of God. As each student has their challenges, their thorns in the flesh, we direct them to the Power of One. The power that comes by grace. The power that comes from God. Amen.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.