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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, June 6, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 12:11–21                               

I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong! Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced. (NRSV)

Reflection
The early church, you guys. So much more rigorous in its piety, so simple in its devotion to the Way, so uncorrupted by “culture.” If only contemporary Christians could get back the purity of devotion lost to the Institutional Church down the centuries.

Wait. What?

Deceit? Quarreling? Jealousy? Anger? Selfishness? Slander? Gossip? Conceit? Disorder? Impurity? Sexual immorality? Licentiousness?

Licentiousness!

The early church was just as much of a mess as the church that follows it, thanks be to God. If it were not a mess, much of the New Testament—including this passage—would not exist. It wouldn’t need to. All these letters to churches in Corinth and Galatia and Rome and Ephesus address the mess of church: all those vices above, but also disputes about leadership, “super-apostles” who arrive late and make big claims for themselves, confusing people and sowing division.

What a mess (don’t forget about the licentiousness).

The word of instruction here is humility. Paul, the founder of this Corinthian community, puts on this posture—”I am nothing”—as he informs it that he’s coming for another visit. He’s not coming to play the Apostle card and order everything shaped up, but rather to further give himself—”to spend and be spent”—for the sake of his siblings in Christ.

The early church was a mess and so are we. Yet nothing cleans up a church mess like members humbling themselves toward and giving themselves to one another, as Paul did for the Corinthian church, and as Jesus did for the whole church.

Prayer
O God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness, make us humble before you and one another, that we may build up one another in grace. Then may we turn toward the world you love in the strength of Christ’s vulnerability, to build, to heal, and to reconcile. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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