bible blog 895

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

President Morsi sure only he and Moslem brothers know best

Egyptians protest Morsi’s new powers

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.14If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.15If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?*17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’,
20and again,
‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,    that they are futile.’
21So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours,22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you,23and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

This letter to the Corinthian church is an angry one. Paul is concerned about two things:

1. His own authority as a missionary was being called in question by cliques who favoured other leaders

2. There was a group in the church who made Christian faith a matter of spiritual knowledge, looking down on believers who had neither the taste nor the leisure for such refinements.

As regards the first issue he points out that the task of a missionary is to lay the foundation for faith by introducing people to Jesus Christ who is that foundation. All kinds of fancy superstructure can be erected on a good foundation but only time and weather will show if they are sound. Paul means this metaphor to apply to his own foundational work in Corinth and to those teachers who have succeeded him. He expands the metaphor to include the Corinthian church: they are God’s building,  God’s temple; anyone who destroys their community would be guilty of sacrilege.

This is a coherent critique by Paul of a “sectarian” split in the faith community: there is only one foundation for faith, Jesus Messiah; only one community who are God’s dwelling place, the actual individual Corinthian believers; and only one God whose Spirit comes to dwell in people; so although there should be freedom in church development, the scope for variety is not unlimited. Some kinds of development are wrong, according to Paul.

Opus Dei: veneration of founder

One of these wrong developments was the arrogant and divisive version of Christianity as a kind of special knowledge: a religion for adepts. In this history of Mediterranean religion this view is called “gnostic” referring to a range of religious practices which offered a secret knowledge for the soul’s journey to God after death. Often they despised material and physical life. Paul was very alert to the fundamental difference between such religiosity and a faith based on the human son of God, who had been crucified and raised bodily to new life. Faith in Jesus cherished this world as God’s creation and offered salvation through love rather than knowledge. Paul associated knowledge with what he calls “boasting”- an arrogance towards God and other people which has no time for what Paul calls the “foolishness” of God’s love for human beings, in the crucified Jesus.

Both sectarian and gnostic tendencies can be seen in Christian and other religious movements today especially those which have a strong individualistic and spiritualist tendencies, or whose aim is power.  Paul’s critique of developments in Corinth remains relevant to any form of faith which elevates individual religiosity at the expense of communal life or the spiritual at the expense of the bodily or the special believer at the expense of the ordinary.

Luke 18:31-43

A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon.33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.<!– 35 –>

Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar Near Jericho

35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening.37They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth* is passing by.’38Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him,41‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’42Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

The disciples’ minds were so blinded by the belief that the Messiah would conquer all opposition, that they couldn’t understand Jesus’ teaching about his judicial murder and therefore about his love. A blind beggar “saw” what they couldn’t: that the one who brings healing, the one who won’t bypass suffering, is the Son of David, the true Messiah. Because of his ability to see Jesus and to trust him, he receives back his eyesight. A spurious faith can blind people to the truth about Jesus. Human need can open a person’s eyes to the truth.

I have another approach to this story in bible blog 513.

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