Year A – Second Sunday after Epiphany
January, 15 2017
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Here we go with week two of this lectionary journey and I’m still not exactly on track for publishing my post every Tuesday, because exegeting+writing+life=hard y’all. And hell’s bells, at first glance these texts are a frustrating mess with seemingly no connection. UGH, what are they thinking over at the RCL anyway?
I was just not feeling Isaiah this week (that’s what she said), so I started with reading the Psalm then jumped over Paul (like I tend to do, but we can talk about that spiritual tic some other time), got an initial giggle out of John and then circled back to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Dang it all if I wasn’t surprised to see a light flicker on and connect a few dots,
A beautiful, lyrical song of praise so I’m just gonna leave this right here… #whatwouldbonodo
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Context is king and this is just the beginning of a larger, more complex piece speaking to a very specific audience, living in a specific context with their own set of concerns. Before we dive in, I want to invite you into a little assignment…
Sit down to write a letter, maybe to your family, maybe to your church or perhaps your office or school. Imagine they had just sent you a letter asking for your advice about very specific issues that are troubling their little collective of beautiful and broken people. Start your letter with a kind hello and a few words about what you cherish about them. Keep in mind as you write, that you are about to offer them some requested advice, maybe some words they don’t want to hear, and perhaps a few stern directives. Remember that they love and respect you. Some may even idolize you in ways you are not entirely sure that to do with. Think about how you are going to remind them about all the things you think they need to hear, how much you love them and how all you remain connected to one another and God.
Well, that’s pretty much what this week’s scripture attributed to Paul is. It his salutation and thanksgiving before getting to the meat of his letter. “Hey y’all, I am so happy to be writing to you today. I just love you to pieces for all you do in the world, your crazy love and wild commitments! And damn, I sure am grateful for the way we are all connected in this crazy thing called life. I just can’t do this without you and Jesus holding us all together.”
In this salutation Paul is preparing a particular audience, the congregations of Corinth, for a whole bunch of his own personal wisdom about serious questions they have – what to make of different leaders with different notions about God and Jesus, a whole set of very specific and historically located moral codes, some conflicts over right worship (praise bands or hymns, RCL or free choice, sprinkling or dunking – no wait, that’s us) and core issues around what to believe. For now we don’t need to worry about these, we will have the next few weeks to unpack his responses and figure out what if anything applies to us now.
This week we find ourselves still in the echo of the Epiphany, this time in the Gospel of John revisiting the Baptism and quickly taking a few steps beyond the Jordan when crazy ole John the Baptist hollers, “Hey look! It’s Jesus! He’s like, the REAL deal, not just a bug eatin’ preacher man like me!” Apparently some of John’s disciples got the hint and decided to follow Jesus instead. The passage gets a little weird at the end with Jesus renaming one of the new disciples, but that is not what I came here to tell you.
After I got done giggling at the image of fickle disciples running from one rabbi to another, I spent time really looking at John pointing at Jesus. See, I am a pastor type, sometimes of specious faith, but where I feel my deepest call, is in the voice beckoning me to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. And this can be both wonderful and, truth be told, flat out exhausting – overwhelming in fact. And you know why, because I am in fact, not Jesus.
Many Christians, both preachers in the pulpit and people in the pews, can are indeed called to be the hands and feet of God in the world.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
― Teresa of Ávila
And I think of my friend Hugh Hollowell, leader of Love Wins Ministry, a man I look to with great awe and respect. I have been heard more than once tellin’ folks that he is actually a Christian while I just play one on the interwebs. How the hell does Hugh do it and keep on doin’ it? I mean, he’ll be the first to tell ya, he’s no Jesus. Then I though about my cousin Michael Raburn who is faithfully working with him, and there’s this new new assistant he just hired and a handful of others working at Love Wins and wider a community of caring people that rally around him when crisis strikes and that’s when I really got it. Only together are we best able to be the hands and feet of Jesus feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and freeing the prisoners! We really are all in this together, y’all!
Ohhhh, now I see how Pauls letter might have some clues to help us better be community Because we are human, we also have to work like the dickens to not screw up our communities. So we reach out to folks we admire, people who seem to have their acts together, and ask them to point us in the right direction. And for some, like John the Baptist and Paul, they are going to spin us around and point us directly toward Jesus.