COVID-19 Briefing 03/11
We have this treasure … in jars of clay
Since attending the ordinations a few weeks ago, I have been reflecting further on 2 Corinthians 4:1-11, one of the passages that was read seven times! This letter is the product of a stressed and even distressed minister of the Gospel. Three times in chapters 4 and 5 the apostle Paul says ‘we do not lose heart…’ which is another way of saying that he was probably pretty close most of the time to doing exactly that!
I wonder how many of us have resonated recently with the words in verses 8 and 9: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not dismayed’? I know that I certainly have from time to time, not least on Saturday evening having heard Boris announce yet another lockdown. And yet there is also the other side of the story, for in v.6 Paul writes, ‘For God who said ‘let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’. It is at this point, and in relation to both sides of the experience of the disciple, that Paul says, ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay’.
We are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure. I guess that for many of us, the ministry we came into is not the ministry that seems to stretch ahead of us, not least in these ever-changing days of Covid, and that can be very unnerving. I am sure that we are all very aware of being fragile like the clay pots to which St. Paul referred.
And yet, we have this treasure, which I find is quite amazing! Paul does not write ‘we know about this treasure’… he says we have it… we own it… we are vessels that contain it. We are on the receiving end of the treasure and we have the great privilege to be on the dispensing end of the treasure. We have it and we share it. Despite the pressures, the uncertainties, and the current context of another impending lockdown, I hope that we can still cling on to an excitement in the gospel.
The apostle was blessed in many ways to live in a world that pressed his face against the cold window of reality. There were no low interest rates incentives to buy a car for his journeys, there was no pension scheme, indeed he knew that there was little likelihood that he would see old age, there were no police to rescue him from the mobs and stonings and no helicopters to pluck him out of the sea when he was shipwrecked…
But he had this treasure! The treasure of the good news. He had seen ‘the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ’. As a sinner he knew he was forgiven. When he was frail in temperament, he knew he had the Spirit of God to sustain him. When he was lonely and isolated, he knew that he belonged to the family of God. Even though he was mortal he knew that he had eternal life and that the God who raised Jesus Christ would give life also to his mortal body.
And for all his frailties, faults and fears he was a man of purpose, joy and blessing to others. You and I today are made of the same stuff and we face the same pressures and we have the same treasure – to have and to share.
So, even though we are about to enter another lockdown, let us encourage one another not to lose heart.