Proper 9

July 9, 2000
See Also: 
Reading 1: 
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Reading 2: 
Psalm 48
Reading 3: 
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Reading 4: 
Mark 6:1-13
Alt Reading 2: 
Psalm 123
Alt Reading 1: 
Ezekiel 2:1-5
By Marjorie Suchocki

The Texts
David has been made king; the text recounts his success: “David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him.” Psalm 48 celebrates the beauty and strength of Jerusalem. 2 Corinthians recounts Paul's visionary experience, and his “thorn in the flesh.” Mark 6 tells of the incredulity of Jesus' former neighbors when Jesus goes back to his home town. Following this, Jesus sends his twelve disciples throughout the land.

Process Themes: 2 Corninthians 12:2-10
How are we to understand Paul's account of being “caught up into Paradise” and hearing “inexpressible words?” How does this relate to his “thorn in the flesh?” God's aims to us usually direct us toward our being in the world; they give guidance toward our best responses in light of our full situation. But these aims come from God, and as such they also reflect, to whatever extent our situation makes possible, God's own self. It is possible to focus not so much on the gift of God's aims for us, but on the giver of those aims. In a sense, we can trace them back to God, and experience God's presence. When a life is lived prayerfully, so that one's orientation is always toward conformity with God's will, it is possible in prayer to experience conformity not just with God's will, but with God. Such an experience is mystical, lifting one into a different sense of time and a wider view of the importance of all things in and through God. But one cannot dwell in such a vision too long-God pushes us back to our work in the world. Yet the vision transforms our whole attitude and approach to our work. Even though the vision transforms us, its translation is more attitudinal than verbal. We cannot “say” the fullness of the experience of God. Paul was certainly a man of prayer, and the indication of the text is that he experienced God in a way something like this. But he also experienced an unnamed “thorn in the flesh,” which he considered sent in order to keep him humble. And humble he was: “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake. . .” To experience God is to gain the confidence and power to endure whatever difficulties we encounter. To experience God is to know there is a depth to things that springs from the pervasive love that is God.

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki is Professor Emerita, Claremont School of Theology, co-director of Process Studies, and the author of several books, including Divinity and Diversity, God Christ Church, and In God's Presence. She is the director of the annual Whitehead International Film Festival, held in Mudd Theatre during Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend and also teaches a Faith & Film class during this event.