The Parish of Sutton with Seaford

sermon preached stLukes from 2 Cor 12. 

My grace is sufficient for you. That’s today’s take home point. I would like you to memorise this verse – My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I want you to try this this week, perhaps as a prayer, as a mantra, as a creed – My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.


Perhaps over coffee afterwards we could talk some more about it.  When you first say it I think it sounds a bit like a platitude. “Oh well you know, the Bible says ‘My grace is sufficient for you’” you see it does sound like a platitude – but its not a platitude when it is written by someone who endured floggings and ship-wreckings and so on – And add to that as we heard this from this morning’s reading in 2 Cor 12 that Paul has some sort of constant Thorn in his side, some sort of constant pain we presume. So when you hear it from St Paul it doesn’t sound quite so platitudinous, it sounds like a prayer worth trying.


So last week Carole and Stefan and I got to go in to Cradle Hill year 5s (9-10) and then to Seaford head (yr 7s, 11-12) for a Grill-a-vicar. How do you pray? Is there any proof of God? Do miracles really happen? Why is there a devil? What’s your favourite part of the bible? What’s your views on Extraterrestrials!


Some amazingly fabulous questions. Imagine asking St Paul: Do you believe in miracles? Paul could have spoken about the healing power of his handkerchiefs, about Eutychus – that young man who fell asleep in a really long sermon and fell off a window ledge but was restored to life.


The Disciples, from the Gospel reading, they could have talked about what they experienced in seeing demons driven out, and many sick people anointed with oil and healed.


Can you prove that God exists? – that was one of the questions.  I suppose Paul could have talked about some amazing spiritual experiences.

Throughout his correspondence with Corinth, and you find it a bit in Galatians, Paul seems to spend quite a bit of time defending himself as being a bona-fide Apostle.


One of the problems Paul has is that some other people have come along and they too are saying that they are Apostles, and it would seem that they are better looking, and that they preach smoother more eloquent sermons, and frankly puff themselves up to look impressive, and they also charge money for their time. But Paul has always gone down in art and story as being short and not handsome, as being not that good at public speaking, and we know that he worked hard to not be a financial burden to any of his Churches. Paul was the first Self-Supporting Minister – a bit like Lucy or Carole – SSMs.


St Paul is writing to persuade the Church in Corinth that these so-called Super Apostles aren’t that big a deal, and whilst he could compete with them on also being a Super Apostle – after all Paul is a Hebrew of Hebrews, he has learned the OT off by heart

!actually that was one of the questions – from Year 7 pupil – Do you need to learn the bible off by heart – alas we don’t, but in Jesus’ day a good disciple would start by learning the Torah, and then if you were any good the Prophets, the Nevi’im – off by heart, then if you were advancing beyond your years – as we read that Paul did-  the Writings, the Ketuvim. So Paul could beat these so-called Super Apostles at their own game


Can you prove God exists? Paul could have talked about having super spiritual encounters with God, in his conversion, in this moment of being caught up to the third heaven, up to paradise. But Paul does not play them at their game. He refuses to talk boastfully about his amazing spiritual experiences.


And instead, he talks about Weakness.

I’m not sure if the school pupils would have been impressed with this sort of talk.

If Paul had said

‘Well, the great thing about following Jesus as your Lord and Saviour is that you might get shipwrecked, you might get persecuted, flogged, stoned, you might find yourself having sleepless nights and going to bed hungry’.


If Paul was preaching this morning and said “I’m off on a missionary expedition, who’s with me?!” I’m sure that a lot of us would pay good money for Paul to leave as soon as possible! We will pray for you! bye!


Paul’s conclusion is that actually the spiritual experiences don’t matter as much as we think they do.


What matters is that we know God’s grace, we know that His power is at work in us, in our weaknesses, shining through, transforming us into being the people that God has made us to be, and giving us the strength to persist in showing the love of Jesus through our words and our lives.


So today’s mantra: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. This is something that Paul has discovered to be true.


Another question at the Grill-a-vicar was “Do prayers get answered?” So st Paul could have given some examples of wonderful answered prayers – visions to go to Macedonia and all that.

But he could also have said ‘Well, yes they do get answered but sometimes the answer is No’.


Paul has this amazing spiritual moment with God, in the third heaven, in paradise, hearing inexpressible things, wow.

But then Paul tells us that in order for him to stay humble, ‘to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me’.

I do not think that this would have been a good answer for us to have given at School!


But we are familiar with this. Where we have prayed and prayed and prayed and still nothing seems to happen.

Now, Until God tells you otherwise, my advice is to persist in prayer – I think there’s enough from Jesus in the Gospels and from the Book of Revelation and the prayer bowls of incense, to encourage us to persist in praying.


But Paul has been given a way of coping with this Thorn. We don’t know what it was. Some scholars suggest myopia, that Paul was shortsighted. But really we don’t know.

The effect of this Thorn was that it caused Paul to keep constantly relying on God’s grace, and not on his own strength.


Paul describes this Thorn as a messenger from Satan. Very often in the Grill-a-vicar we get asked about Satan and demons, and I have to say that those questions are really hard because we only have about 2-3 mins to give an answer.

One answer that I sometimes give is to remind them that the Hebrew word Satan means Accuser – so perhaps for Paul the effect of this Thorn was that it had the effect of making Paul feel bad about his ministry, inadequate, Call yourself a Christian? You’re rubbish, give it up!

And that’s exhausting and Paul’s solution is to keep relying on the Grace of God.

Yes I am a rubbish Christian, or as I like to put it- I am a practicing Christian –  but I am not doing this in my own strength, I’m not going to heaven because I’m a super apostle, I’m going because the Man on the Cross said I could come.


Rev Carole came up with a different answer which was really very suitable to that moment – She said there’s a bloke in the Bible called Paul who reminded us that Nothing can separate us from the Love of God, not death nor life nor angels nor demons, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Rom 8.38.

That is a passage worth committing to memory.


But this week the passage I want you to learn, take it as a prayer, a creed, a mantra, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”


So Persist in praying about that Thorn in your side, that trouble that you struggle with. And Persist in relying on God’s grace and strength and mercy and kindness.


One of the questions in the Grill a vicar was what do I think about other religions and what I wanted to say  was: All these other religions ask something of us, they require food rituals, obedience, IF you want A god of any particular religion to be pleased with you then this is what you need to do.

But with the God that we meet in Jesus, what Jesus wants us to do is to Receive, to trust, to believe – because in Jesus we find a God who gives to us, not a god who is waiting for us to be good enough.


My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”

We’re coming shortly to take Communion or to receive a Blessing. You will be thinking I am not worthy to receive this. Quite right. You’re not. But Jesus reminds us – My grace is sufficient. Its all you need. Hold on to me, trust me, live in me, let me live in you.

Keep praying this, keep believing it, and may you, like St Paul find that this saying is true – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Amen.

Photo is an irrelevant pic of me painting my daughter Ruth’s house

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