Our Sunday readings through Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians end with chapter 12:1-10. It’s actually a continuation of chapter 11 in which Paul recounts all the beatings and near death experiences which befell him. There he introduces the subject of boasting of his weaknesses. In chapter 12 he believes he could legitimately boast of the experience of being transported into the third heaven where he saw and heard things which words fail in his attempt to convey his experience.
“So,” he writes in verse 7, “to keep me from being too elated…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.” I can imagine what Garrison Keillor would do with this verse when speaking about the people in Lake Wobegon. If anything describes the people of that fabled community, it is striving to not be too elated, because they will pay for their excitement later. It’s best to be on an even keel because then the letdown, which is sure to come, will not be a fall from the heights, but more of a coast down a small hillock.
There is much truth to his depiction of the Norwegian Lutherans which applies to many of us who grew up in the upper Midwest, Scandinavian or not. But that is not quite what Paul is writing about. Not being over elated by spiritual experiences, allows God’s message to come through. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak then I am strong.”
Representative of many of us, the people of Lake Wobegon may resist being too elated, but also resist allowing God’s grace to be enough. One man told me, “Can’t isn’t in my dictionary.” At some point “can’t” will be added to our dictionary. We hope that before that moment arrives, we discover what it means that “My grace is sufficient for you.”