This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
2 Corinthians 1:12-22
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Our dealings with you have always been straightforward
12-14 Now it is a matter of pride to us—endorsed by our conscience—that our activities in this world, particularly our dealings with you, have been absolutely above-board and sincere before God. They have not been marked by any worldly wisdom, but by the grace of God. Our letters to you have no double meaning—they mean just what you understand them to mean when you read them. We hope you will always understand these letters (as we believe you have already understood the purpose of our lives), and realise that you can be as honestly proud of us as we shall be of you on the day when Christ reveals all secrets.
15-18 Trusting you, and believing that you trusted us, our original plan was to pay you a visit first, and give you a double “treat”. We meant to come here to Macedonia after first visiting you, and then to visit you again on leaving here. You could thus have helped us on our way towards Judea. Because we had to change this plan, does it mean that we are fickle? Do you think I plan with my tongue in my cheek, saying “yes” and meaning “no”? We solemnly assure you that as certainly as God is faithful so we have never given you a message meaning “yes” and “no”.
19-22 Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom Silvanus, Timothy and I have preached to you, is himself no doubtful quantity, he is the divine “yes”. Every promise of God finds its affirmative in him, and through him can be said the final amen, to the glory of God. We owe our position in Christ to this God of positive promise: it is he who has consecrated us to this special work, he who has given us the living guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts. Are we then the men to say one thing and mean another?
I judge that the order of the Corinthian letters as we have it is jumbled and that 2nd Corinthians 1-9 is in fact the last letter Paul sent to Corinth. Preceded by letters which passionately denounce certain aspects of life and faith in Corinth, this one brings words of reconciliation and calm counsel.
Paul first of all excuses himself for not visiting Corinth. His plans have changed and he finds himself in Macedonia to meet up with Titus who ( probably) brings him news that the Corinthians have submitted themselves to his authority. He judges that a personal visit at this point is not desirable, and (probably) makes his way back to his HQ in Ephesus. My guess therefore is that he’s being a little disingenuous about his “inability” to visit Corinth. Nevertheless, the modern reader is reminded by Paul’s discussion of itineraries just what an extraordinary traveller he was. Most of all his travelling had to be done on foot, on poor roads at best, on hill-tracks at worst, exposed to weather and bandits.
Paul is engaged in his great project of collecting money for the poor Christians in Judaea from the richer, Gentile brothers in Asia and Greece, both as aid and as a sign of unity. His ability to see the emergence of a multinational community and faith and friendship is a sign of his exceptional grasp of the meaning of Jesus Messiah.
The wonderful thing here is how he moves from a slightly suspect defence of his own promises to a proclamation of the faithfulness of God to his promises. Jesus, he says, is no mixture of yes and no, he is the “yes and amen to all the promises of God.” God has promised through his Torah and his prophets, that he will forgive sins, place his law in the hearts of humanity, send his Messiah into the world, gather the Gentiles into his fold, establish his rule of love in the universe. Has he kept these promises? Yes, says Paul, in Jesus Messiah all these promises are kept. Jesus himself is the joyful “Yes!” of fulfillment and the confirming “Amen!” (Let is be so!) of response to that fulfillment.
Paul never pretends that the life of faith is easy. He specifically calls his converts to share in the sufferings of Jesus Messiah. But the note of joy is never far away in Paul’s letters. It comes from the past life of Jesus Messiah, especially his cross and resurrection, and it draws strength from the approaching reality of God’s kingdom, but it is primarily here and now in the shared life of believing people that this indestructible joy is experienced and expressed. This life he now lives is Jesus Messiah, the yes and amen to all the promises of God.