A sermon preached by Patrick H. Wrisley on June 6, 2021
Over the years, I have learned something that they don’t teach you in seminary: There are churches out there where the pastor and the congregation don’t get along. Sometimes the relationship gets so bad they have to part ways. If this is a pattern with a succession of the church’s pastors, then the church becomes known as a Clergy Killer Church. These are churches that have the propensity to run its pastors off.
The church in Corinth could be called a Clergy Killer Church. It has a fierce relationship with its founding pastor, the Apostle Paul; indeed, the church in Corinth put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional. On one hand, it was a church whose members practiced incest, they fought with one another and segregated wealthy Christians from the poor ones during communion. On the other hand, the church openly challenged Paul’s authority, credibility and character. It’s believed that both First and Second Corinthians are really a composite of perhaps five different letters that Paul sent to them in response to various crises. We are picking up today with Paul in the middle of a theological discourse and pastoral pep-talk on how Jesus-followers are to be encouraged when anything and everything around us seems to be falling apart. He’s reminding the church to look beyond the pending crisis to the larger scope of God’s care and future. Listen to the Word of the Lord from 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
13 But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5.1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Paul is writing to say that his ministry has been a challenge and although he may appear to be knocked down, he’s not out. He sends his colleague, Titus, with this letter to the Corinthians reminding them get their business in order because Paul is coming back and is eager to see them. Paul is confident they will be reunited again; if it’s not in this life, then it will be when Jesus brings us all together in his presence in our eternal life. Though our bodies are getting older, slower, heavier, creakier, and achier, our innermost being is getting renewed and strengthened by God day by day. Paul reminds the Corinthians, he’s reminding you and me, that when things seem bigger than we are, it’s going to be okay because God is bigger still! We may get knocked down, suffer set-backs or illness, lose jobs or loved ones but because of Jesus Christ we are never ever out! We cannot out god God. We cannot out god God. God is always bigger, grander, and sovereign!
Say that to yourself! “I cannot out god God.” In other words, friends, Paul reminds the Corinthians that God takes what we have to offer and will turn it, will bend it to His divine purposes. Even when things appear to be going badly, God has a way of turning it to our good!
Note with me verse 16. Paul writes, “So we do not lose heart.” The King James Version poetically says it this way: For which cause we faint not. Eugene Peterson in The Message translates it bluntly, “So we’re not giving up.” What Paul is literally telling us is that followers of Jesus don’t give up because we cannot out god God! When our spirit fails us, Holy Spirit fills us. When we fall down, Jesus reaches out and picks us up. When we are weak, then what? Then He is strong! We may get knocked down, but we are never out!
Have you ever heard of the ancient Japanese art form called, Kintsugi? It’s the art of taking broken pieces of pottery and putting them back together again with gold as the binding agent. Writer Tiffany Ayuda comments that Kintsugi is “built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Every break is unique and instead of repairing an item like new, the 400-year-old technique actually highlights the “scars” as a part of the design.”
Friends, this is what Paul is talking about. We may get knocked down and broken but God delicately takes our broken pieces and binds them back together again through the golden, sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Jesus and makes us more beautiful and stronger than ever before!
The most obvious sign that God practices Kintsugi with members of the Church is our communion supper. Jesus who was beaten, battered, and left for dead by the spiritual and political systems of his day appeared to be down and out. Lest we forget, we are an Easter people and Paul is reminding us not to stay camped out and living in the shadows of Good Friday! Our Lord’s Supper is the tangible way the Son of God is telling you and me, “They thought I was down but I busted out!” The Supper reminds us God practices the art of kintsugi as the Creator God takes what is broken and makes it complete again, stronger and more beautiful than ever. We do not lose heart, beloved. Why? Because we can’t out god God.
Friends, as we come to the Table today let us gather up all the broken pieces of our lives and bring them before the Lord. Whether they are pieces of shattered dreams, jobs, health or relationships, let’s come as brothers and sisters and ask the Spirit to put us back together again stronger than before. Let’s pray.
© 2021 June 6, Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.