Paul said in the reading we heard last week, “We do not lose heart.” This week the congregant will hear Paul assert, “So we are always of good courage.” I took the picture above with my son a few weeks ago at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. This tree is not far from the parking area for the 12th and last overlook to the canyon within the park. This tree, which appears healthy, has clearly seen some stress over its many years. Why does life cling to these difficult places? Biologists will tell you that this is a bit of a mystery.
On Pentecost my parish dedicated a blessing box. Since the pandemic our local food banks have refused to receive individual donations of food. They happily take money, just not your can of vegetables or a package of pasta. Within Portland and other cities a movement has sprung up to establish blessing boxes outside of churches. People can donate and withdraw as they have the ability and need. Shortly after our blessing box was put in, it was vandalized. Someone, we don’t know who, broke the door. A few months prior to that someone smashed several windows in the parish too.
One could get discouraged. That word literally means “lose heart.” Of course one might also look around this silly world and see all sorts of reasons to get discouraged. It does seem sometimes to be spiraling down the cosmic drain. Paul, however, does not lose heart and preachers can hear good news here too. Paul, for all his conflict with the Corinthian congregation, never lost heart. He saw every sin as something for which Jesus had died and risen again. Every broken relationship was possibly stronger for having been restored. “It is all for your sake,” he told the Corinthians. It was for their blessing. Even the bad stuff, the conflict, the harsh letter, the difficult visit, the painful exchanges, they have all been redeemed and turned into blessings.
It is hard to see that when you are in the midst of troubles in a parish. I am not sure Paul saw it before he reconciled with the Corinthians. But he tells them and us, that nothing we are facing today is beyond the ability of Christ to turn a blessing for you and your people. Rest in that truth today.