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By Rev. Jim Innes

I asked a retired friend to preach.

He had been educated theologically and was experienced in the pulpit. However, it had been a long time, and the thought of it made him uncomfortable. So, attempting to ease his mind, I proposed that he might share a story about his faith journey instead of preparing a formal sermon. With notable unease, he asked, "What if I cry."

As I unashamedly impose my own situation, it would be a good bet that my retired friend was challenged by his waning ability to keep up appearances, unsettled by his evolving and unprotected vulnerability. And not just on a professional level but as a person whose youthful bravado and unflinching (often unwarranted) confidence were slowly fading, giving way to a softer and more exposed sincerity.

Age has a way of doing that. Not only do we fear the creeping erosion of our memory and focus, but the years bring a physical uncertainty that can betray any illusion of unstoppable energy and boundless pursuits. In short, time eats away at the ego's almighty power, leaving behind a new person, perhaps unfamiliar and strange, and most certainly humbler and self-conscious.

Yes, what if my retired preacher friend cried while sharing his story? What if he sobbed throughout his entire homily? How would those
in the pews react? Would they be triggered positively or negatively? What would they say? And, perhaps more frighteningly, would he be able to look them in the eye afterward?

The answer to all these questions (aside from the last one) is that it doesn't matter! Our vulnerability does not come with a choice. We must live with it, liking it or not. And, at our best, we continue to believe God has a purpose for our lives. 

The shortest, arguably one of the most poignant, sentence in scripture is "Jesus wept." He cried with grief over a friend who died. This weighty display of vulnerability has been purposefully woven into history. It has intentionality, both personally and corporately. Yes, what if my retired preacher friend cried while sharing his story? Would the tears redeem both the hearer and the giver?

As I see it, below the scary surface of increased vulnerability is a grace that defies logic. Our core has been touched with a redemptive authenticity that elevates our hearts and minds beyond what we can accomplish. And in that sacred, soulful space, we discover the profoundly purposeful powers of Humility and Compassion.

Vulnerability is a creative art, a virtue, a power we live into as we mature and age. It is as impactful as any miracle and more to the point than any long-winded sermon. How many hearts would be freed by a preacher who shed his pain and grief on the pulpit? How many minds would be freed as listeners witnessed, instead of heard, a genuine testimony to the human condition?

Vulnerability is an honorable witness to a life lived with authenticity. It draws upon the courage and resiliency those long in the tooth have earned.

Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of St. John's, Grand Bend with St. Anne's, Port Franks.