This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
PROTESTERS KILLED IN LIBYA
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. 6If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. 7Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.
8 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, 11as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many.
This letter in my view comes as the last part of the “Corinthian correspondence, that is, after the so-called “harsh letter” now found as 2 Corinthians 10-13. Although the letter remains concerned with the “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of knowledge” its tone and content are re-conciliatory. He is concerned here to emphasise the “sufferings of the Messiah” which he and his companions have experienced, in Asia, probably in Ephesus. There is no doubt that Paul put himself at risk time and again so that he could announce the “glad tidings” of Jesus. This insouciance is a challenge to the average timid believer. In the past weeks we’ve been faced with the courage of protesters in Egypt Yemen and Bahrain; now the bravery of the protesters in Libya is shown clearly. Inasmuch as these protesters are working for the lasting justice of their societies, they also share the sufferings of Messiah. The Church of the Messiah in more settled societies should ask itself if its members are capable of as much sacrifice for justice as their soldiery have made for the (largely selfish) policies of their own nations.
5When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for saving justice, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Like Moses at Sinai, Jesus ascends the mountain to give commandments. But unlike Moses (although not so unlike the Moses of Deuteronomy) he begins with blessings. Just as God’s creation began with blessings, so does Jesus inauguration of God’s kingdom. In every case the blessing is “just about to come”, that is, it will become apparent as the rule of God takes hold through the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. The blessings are therefore not merely notional, nor are they simply declarations of God’s approval: they will be found to be real, just as the conditions for them are real. For these are not generalised blessings poured out on all and sundry but are for the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek etc. If we satisfy none of the conditions for Jesus’ blessings that may be the reason we don’t experience any.