This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
2 Corinthians 13:1-14
13This is the third time I am coming to you. ‘Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’ 2I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient— 3since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. 4For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test! 6I hope you will find out that we have not failed. 7But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have passed the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. 10So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
It’s hard to read this as other than a slightly confused rant. As often with Paul, there is repetition and variation of a single idea rather than one clear statement of it; and the connections between sentences and clauses are loose. Still, even here, Paul is saying good things, namely:
- The crucified Christ is weak in worldly terms and so are his apostles. Only worldly people will criticise an apostle’s human frailty, as the Corinthians have done to him.
- Although an apostle shares Christ’s weakness, that does not mean he will back off from declaring the truth, in the power of the risen Christ.
- Nevertheless, an apostle’s power is given for building up the believing community, not tearing it down; for strengthening it even at the cost of becoming vulnerable himself.
The blessing in verse 13 is even more relevant if we translate it more sharply:
“the kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the shared life of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.”
Postscript: The kindness of the Lord probably rules out being a tart for the arms trade as Prime Minister Cameron has been this week
22On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” 23Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
24 ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’
28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Jesus uses a traditional comparison to distinguish those who hear and do his word from those who merely here it. “Walking in the commandments” is fundamental to Judaism as is the distinction between wise and foolish. If we allow our minds to shift from the text to the brave and battered citizens of Christchurch, we can see better the brutality of Jesus’ wisdom: he compares faith without obedience to building a house in a place that may look safe but will be dangerous in the long term. The contemporary comparison allows us to see clearly the temptation to “build on sand.” It may seem the smart option; but it’s not wise. Jesus is hard on fake faith.