The Bible suggests that Paul struggles to exercise authority gently and humbly but also powerfully with the church at Corinth, whose favorite sport seems to consist of serious fighting. The Corinthians are not often experiencing or expressing the love of God toward one another. After much exhortation in the rest of the letter, Paul ends with this advice:
First, try to have an orderly community. All of us, I suspect, have had the awful experience of a group where the bullies were in charge, the timid or poor were forgotten, and nothing could be counted on to happen. It is possible to have order without oppressive rules.
Second, try to agree with one another rather than live in a status quo of arguing. Paul does not say to agree on every point. But we can agree, say, that the ministry of the church is to feed the hungry. We can avoid political disagreement for the sake of encountering the lovable in one another.
Third, remember that if you live like this you will be encountered by God’s peace and love. We don’t need to wait for divine peace and love to hit us like a bolt of lightning. When we make a serious attempt at peace and love, God will help us on our way.
Fourth, “greet each other with a holy kiss.” As most folks who practice the kiss of peace in their congregations know, there is nothing like habitually, ritually, and warmly greeting someone you don’t like to bring you to a point where you begin to care for that person and can feel genuine affection and love for them.
Finally, Paul prays that the three things we need the most—the grace, love, and communion with God the Trinity—be with all of them. Let’s ask for this for our churches too. I suspect we need it as much as the Corinthians.
Help us be your people, loving God, living in love, peace, and affection for one another. Amen.
Our first reading is arguably one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. Even among those who believe that God created the world, there is controversy. For example, should the days be understood as literal or symbolic? Much time and trouble have been spent in arguing about these things. A different approach is found in Psalm 8, where the author simply praises God for the majestic work of creation without needing to work out all the details. Perhaps this approach would lead to more love and peace among the people of God, as Paul hopes for in Second Corinthians. Matthew describes the ascension, where Jesus tells his followers to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, an appropriate passage in preparation for Trinity Sunday.
Read Genesis 1:1–2:4a. When has reading the Bible in a new way or with new knowledge changed your experience of the text?
Read Psalm 8. How do you feel called to care for the earth God has given us?
Read 2 Corinthians 13:11-13. How does your faith community heed Paul’s advice to the Corinthians? How does it fall short?
Read Matthew 28:16-20. Recall a time of doubt. How has that experience made your faith stronger?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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