The Letter in the Envelope

2021-06-06 – Year B – Proper 5 – The Rev. Canon Christopher Klukas
Genesis 3:1-21; Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; Mark 3:20-35

  • Trials challenges and suffering – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
    • Context of Paul’s ministry. The “super apostles”

Jars of Clay

  • Why suffer? Because of our weakness and our trials, our lives point to the work of God instead of our own power and might.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:7
  • A clay pot was the most common of vessels in the ancient world. Pottery was used for all kinds of household purposes, especially for storing, cooking, and eating food. It had to be broken if something unclean fell into it (Leviticus 11:33).
    • Pottery “…was not a costly material. The well-to-do turned to materials such as ivory, glass, marble, brass and costly wood. Pottery, on the other hand, was the material of the common person. It was used to make everything from pitchers, oil jars and bowls to griddles, washbasins and pots.”
  • Paul says that he (and we!) are like these common clay vessels.
    • Reflection on the gathering of Apostles in The Chosen
  • Why would God choose the weak and unimpressive (you and me) to be bearers of his message?
    • Because the power is his not ours. He doesn’t want the letter to be lost in the envelope.
  • The message is all about Jesus, another person who faced significant trials.

The Persistence of Jesus

  • The Gospel of Mark moves quickly and is full of action.
    • Only three chapters in, Jesus has already gotten on the bad side of the Pharisees through multiple encounters to the point where they are plotting to “destroy him” (3:6).
    • He has also attracted the attention of large crowds because of his ministry of healing, casting out demons, and teaching (3:10-11).
    • In the Gospel today, he has just returned from a trip up a mountain where he called his 12 Apostles, and a crowd gathers around him to the point where he can’t even eat, and his own family thinks he is “out of his mind” (3:20-21).
  • Jesus is persistent in his ministry. There are lots of challenges, lots of people out to get him, limitless numbers of people coming to be healed, little time to get away by himself to pray, and he continues on.
    • Jesus also knows what will eventually happen to him. That his friends will deny and abandon him, he will be mocked, beaten, whipped, and crucified. And he continues on.
    • In his conversation with the Pharisees today, he knows that whatever he says will be used against him, but he challenges their wrong thinking anyway.
  • Persistance can work against you as well.
    • Mark 3:29 – Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
    • A person who persists in hardening their heart to the work of God through the Holy Spirit in their lives has cut themselves off from salvation. Like cutting the fuel line in your car, or the electrical cord of your lamp.
    • “This is the sin of the wilfully blind, who persistently refuse the illumination of the Spirit, oppose the Spirit’s work, and justify themselves in doing so by deliberately misrepresenting him. For such, there can be no forgiveness, for they have refused the only way of forgiveness that God has provided: indeed, they have slammed the door.” This is a death that leads to death.

Life from Death

  • But, there is also a death that leads to life.
  • Paul gives a second reason why the trials we face are actually a blessing. The trials we face help us to die to our old selves so that we can be renewed in the life that Christ gives us.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 – Lizard shedding skin
    • When we face trials, we have the opportunity to deny ourselves and identify with Jesus who suffered for us. We get to become more like Jesus.


  • For Jesus, glory came through suffering, and the same holds true for us when we face trials, conflict, and suffering like he did – 2 Corinthians 16-17.

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