West Point Grey United Church
Jun 02, 2024

Rev. Andres Rebane’s sermon at Point Gray United Church on June 2, 2024.

2Cor. 4:5-12

2Cor. 4:5-12

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.


Apostle Paul wrote his Second Letter to the Corinthians in Macedonia around 55 AD. It was after his visit to Corinth when there were some disturbance among the Christians there and Paul’s apostolic authority was challenged. He writes to them that he is not proclaiming himself, but he proclaims Jesus as the Lord and himself as their servant for Christ’s sake.

Paul does not lose heart in his ministry because he knows he is called by God to share the Gospel of Christ and that he has experienced God’s mercy in his life. 

Paul points out that God is the one who initiated this by illuminating our darkness with his great light and as Eugene Peterson in his Bible translation says: “If you only look at us, you might miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message in the simple clay pots of our ordinary lives to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do;…”

Paul preaches Jesus Christ and emphasizes that our lives are vessels for God’s light to shine through us to others.

Paul’s understanding of spirituality integrates body, mind, and spirit together in our earthly life experience. Spiritual life is not only about having inner wisdom, visions, but also about one’s conduct in all aspects of life, encompassing thoughts, words, and deeds. For Paul, spirit and body together form an essential package. (Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23)

He reminds his readers that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the choir’s rendition Rudolf Tobias song “Eks teie tea” – “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

Our body is the temple of God’s Spirit.

No building on earth can be, by itself, the temple of God of heavens and earth to contain Godself. Still, the Scripture reminds us that the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – choose to come and indwell in a believer. Jesus said “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” (John 14:23)

God’s presence is not only experienced in special sacraments but also in our soul-heart as believers, in our mortal bodies. God came and lived among us through the incarnation and identified with us and said to his disciples: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20).

Paul is accepting the fragility of his bodily existence. He is not even pointing out his achievements in his life, his acquired knowledge through rabbinical studies, or the status of his race, religion, or culture. He points to God’s work in him and through him. In contrast, Paul’s critics among Corinthian’s claimed to have more wisdom and elegance of presence in the body and a better ability to express themselves in words. It seems that they claimed to be more spiritual, have visions and spiritual power. Paul is pointing out that he does not want to boast about anything else than Jesus Christ.

When this Scripture was written, clay vessels were everywhere. They were widely used as containers for food and water. Common lamps were also clay pitchers containing olive oil and a floating wick. Clay jars were also used to hold valuables like money, jewels, or even parchment scrolls.

Maybe you have heard that The Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran community were found in clay jars! Among them were found the oldest manuscripts we have of some of the Old Testament books like the book of Isaiah.

These different pottery vessels were plentiful but very fragile. Fragments of pottery are prevalent throughout ancient ruins today.

Apostle Paul is using the same image of a clay vessel as a metaphor for us, our bodies, and our lives. He speaks about himself as an earthy vessel. God chose him, cleansed him, and filled him with his Spirit. The Lord showed him grace and entrusted him with the gospel message to share with Jews and pagans alike.

Let us think for a moment of a clay vessel:

A vessel is something that is carried and used by someone. It implies that there is a master who owns and uses the vessel.

The vessel needs to be cleaned before it can be used. The master will not use a vessel that has not been cleaned first.

The vessel must be set aside (anointed) for a certain purpose. The master can choose the purpose for which she uses the vessel.

The vessel needs to be filled by the master. To be filled, it needs to have space in it. It needs to be emptied from what was there before. It needs to be open and available to receive.

Some vessels have holes and cracks in them, and even those may have a special purpose and can become a work of art in the master’s hand. God can use us even when we seem to have flaws and brokenness, we just need to be available. For example, for light to shine through the vessel, it needs to have holes and cracks. And, maybe you have seen the Kitsugi art where broken pottery is mended with gold and become a valuable pieces of art.

God has given the light that has driven away the darkness in Apostle Paul with the Light of Christ. It says in the book of Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” The Gospel of John talks about Jesus, who is the true light of the world which gives light to everyone (John 1:9)

Paul himself had a mystical conversion experience in which Christ himself appeared to him (in a bright light) on the Damascus Road, as we can read from the book of Acts, chapter 9. 

A gift’s value depends on its contents, similar to a clay pot found in Turkey with a treasure inside. In 1984 three Turks with a metal detector discovered a clay jar buried in a muddy field. This pot contained 1900 silver coins, including rare, medallion-sized decadrahmi produced by Athens. 

Paul talks about the treasure he is entrusted with. He believes that the gospel message of Christ Crucified he carries in his body is more valuable than himself. Paul refers to the treasure as “the knowledge of God” and “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” He emphasizes the importance of understanding and learning from Jesus, his life, suffering, and death. He treasures the power of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord (Philippians 3:8).

Paul points out that God’s presence is the source of comfort and strength in our lives. He reminds us that God’s Spirit testifies that we are God’s children. When filled with God’s presence, our lives become temples of the Holy Spirit.

Paul valued the surpassing power of God’s presence that helped him to endure in his sufferings, not to give up when life got challenging. He was reminded that he is not forgotten nor forsaken. The Good Shepard, Jesus, was with him thought-out his life journey. 

Do we appreciate the hidden treasures of given by the Lord, in our ordinary everyday lives, which are entrusted to us by the Creator of Heaven and Earth?

Have you invited Jesus to come into your life and heart? Are you open to saying, “Jesus, you are welcome into my life. I welcome you into my heart”? Dear Holy Spirit, you are welcome to dwell in my life. I open my heart to you. May my life, body, mind, and soul be a temple of God’s Holy Spirit.