Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 7, 2024)

(The statue honoring John Hus on the Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic)

From Weakness Comes the Power of God
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Assigned Scripture Texts:

  • Ezekiel 2:1-5
  • 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
  • Mark 6:1-13

The Apostle Paul writes:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2: Corinthians 12:9-10

This is an astounding statement from Paul. It goes counter to just about everything our culture tells us about what power is all about. For our culture, power equals an elevation in status; it means financial wealth and being able to get your way when you want it. But looking at the life of Jesus, Paul saw a different form of power being set forth: the power of grace, the power of servanthood, the power of giving, the power of generosity, the power of carrying a burden.   Paul at first persecuted the early church because he saw them as a sadly mistaken group of people following a leader who had been shamed to death through his crucifixion on the cross. There was no more shameful way to die in Jesus’ day. The Romans perfected this process of execution to be the most public and most gruesome form of death to warn all others that if you crossed the arm of power, this was your fate as well. But Jesus knew a greater power.

We Moravians can undoubtedly see this spirit in the life of John Hus. He was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, by the church of his day for carrying the burdens of others. In addition to his teaching at the University of Prague, Hus was the preacher at the Bethlehem Chapel, known for being a place where commoners could hear preaching in their own language.   Hus advocated this as a way to open the door for the good news to be shared with all people through worship services in which the Bible was read and proclaimed in the local language. The Bethlehem Chapel was also known for insisting that forgiveness was not based on the size of one’s payment to the church but on the grace of God. In addition, Hus also taught that the laity should receive both the bread and the cup during the celebration of Holy Communion, advocating a break from the practice in which only the priests would take the cup.   Hus wholeheartedly supported these controversial positions and took stands against the Pope’s authority (of which there were three at the time) and corruption among the priests. These notions threatened the power and control that the church had over the people of Hus’ day, and for these ideas, he, too, received the harsh punishment of death. But again, from weakness came power. I am thankful that Pope Francis has continued a trend of recent church leaders to recognize Hus’s gift to the worldwide church. In an article posted on the Radio Prague International webpage, we read: “The Pope said that Hus’ burning at the stake after refusing to recant his alleged heresy was an injury to the church itself and the church should ask forgiveness for it, like all the acts in history when killings had been committed in the name of God. He referred specifically to the 30-Years War, which, in particular, devastated the Czech lands and much of the rest of Europe in the 16th century.”

Paul’s statement is striking that God’s power often reigns supreme in weakness. John Hus willingly took the burdens of his people and paid the price of his life for it. While the same might not be asked of us, there does come a time when we, too, must take the risk of making a principled stand when injustice is found. Today, this is undoubtedly the case in the discrimination that still occurs against people of color and women,  as well as the lack of civil rights and support for those of the LGBTQ+ community.