The Common Good

Graduates: Boast Gladly in Your Weaknesses

[Editors' note: This blog post is taken from a commencement address Nadia Bolz-Weber delivered for the graduates of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California.]

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Perhaps, dear graduates, you are sitting here today wondering if you now have what it takes to serve this church. Perhaps you are sitting here having listened to the lectures, defended your dissertation, survived the scrutiny of an internship thinking, "Am I now prepared?" Do you really have what it takes to serve the church as a pastor or lay leader or educator and the answer is: don't be silly. Of course you don't. If you are worried that you have weaknesses and deficiencies and short-comings or as we recovering alcoholics call them, "defects of character" you can stop worrying. You're right. You really don't have what it takes. But fortunately, you do have the God that it takes. And the question is not will your failings and weaknesses and short-comings get in the way; the question is, will your strengths get in the way?

I think this is what we see in the parable of the great feast in Luke 14: 15 to 24. A feast where the A-listers -- the ones who supposedly have their game together, who own land and can buy oxen -- the impressive folks, the totally invite-able ones make really lame excuses for not showing up "Oh wow, a feast, huh? I'd love to be there, but my kids are in the Highly Gifted Soccer league on Sundays." So the host sends his servants to instead call the poor, the lame, and the blind -- and it's this riff-raff, and not the A-listers, who sit at the table gladly partaking of the feast set before them.

See, sometimes it is the strong able-bodied parts of us that fail to heed the invitation. My bishop said the greatest spiritual discipline is not praying the daily office, or leading a vegan lifestyle -- the greatest spiritual discipline is just showing up. See, those in our parable for today who were invited initially were all able to actually come to the feast un-aided. They were wealthy enough for horses and able bodied enough to arrive on their own volition, but they didn't show up. Those who did come were those who could not get there without help. The blind needed guides and the lame needed carrying, if they were to make it to the feast.

The same can be true of us: that the property owning, healthy, secure parts of us can't hear the invitation. Because sometimes we are so busy trying to be strong and self-sufficient and successful that we forget that we actually are hungry. That's what's great about the parts of us that are poor and lame and blind -- at least these parts of us know how much we can use a good meal.

What I wish for you is this: Not that you might be strong and admirable and shiny in your ministries, but that God may use your weaknesses. May you continually die to self-sufficiency and rise to Christ; may your people see in you the work of a God who has always used the most questionable people to do God's work. As you go on from here, both prepared and unprepared for what awaits, may you, like the apostle Paul, boast gladly in your weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in you. Amen.

[This post is adapted from a post at Sarcastic Lutheran.]

Nadia Bolz-WeberNadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor living in Denver, Colorado, where she serves the emerging church, House for all Sinners and Saints. She blogs at www.nadiabolzweber.com and is the author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television.

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