Posts Tagged ‘1 Corinthians’


When Phil Jackson coached the LA Lakers he would say if there was a negative player they would be housed on away games in another hotel from the team altogether. Why? That negativity would be infested. It was a corrective action, much like in our own bodies if we break a limb and it is casted, or get a cut and use a band aid (or depending on the severity stitches).

This analogy of body healing came to me as I contemplated these words of St. Paul today and the state of churches in pain:

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.

21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

-1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 (New International Readers Version)

The analogy that Paul uses to explain a church is of a body. In more modern times we use the idea of corporation or family. But let’s reflect on these words in times of conflict. In times when deep holy conversations need to happen. There are points when healing needs to happen– ala truth and reconciliation. Think of this as stitches or a caste.  The scarring of the wound is still there, but we have healed and moved forward as one body.

But then there is deeper pains, these are the hates, the prejudices, the bigotries that emerge as a result of fear of change, formation, or simply, deeply held beliefs. The Anglican Church of Canada bishops recently showed these signs with their vote against belonging for the LGBTTQ2+ community within their own church. On a smaller scale, faith healing congregations show this towards persons with disabilities tying their different Image of God to a lack of faith on the part of the person or their family. It can also be an unwelcome, acting passively aggressively or overtly bullying of a person within pews during worship so your lips say welcome, but your actions clearly say you do not belong here and we will remove the safety of the sanctuary until you get the message.

It is a chronic disease. Most notably a fast acting cancer, like negativity on a basketball team (I mean, Phil Jackson should know what he speaks of he did manage to get Shaq better at free throws).

The response in churches I am most used to, is it is ignored, and the leadership refocuses on what is going well for the damage is only beholden to one small segment, usually those that do not give huge amounts of money or is new, so that loss does not matter.

YET, here are the words’ of Paul speaking of the need for every part of the body, and what role they play. What if this person that creates discomfort for better belonging is the agent breaking the artery clog to stave off a stroke or a heart attack? Is the EMDR-ART to heal the PTSD? The CBT that corrects disassociation?

The radiation or chemotherapy or operation that removes the cancer for longer life.

See the toxicity is usually pacified, because good people are also a small portion of the congregation that do a lot of work and are tired. They are also fearful of conflict in this time of shrinking attendance, and fear the time the congregation’s life cycle is at an end. Though by ignoring the cancer, it goes from something small and quickly treatable to, well, cancer left unchecked becomes terminal.

The question for a church, that is a Body of Christ, are what choice are you making when confronted with what could be a terminal illness? Ignore and let it consume you? Take your own life? OR Treatment and healing.

The question is as personal for each Body of Christ, as it is for each patient.

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Paul can be metaphysical in his understanding of faith. He is trained not only in Greek philosophy, but Judaic theology principles. He brings these to his writing and teaching, as a tent maker he is not paid for his scholarly-theological teaching, but rather for his trade. There may be a freedom in that, there may not, for if we reflect back on gifts then one should use their gifts. The example is not that teachers-pastors should not be paid, rather when one has a strong vocational call to use their gifts they may have to have another funding source to pursue it.

We enter into the journey of gifts with something that can be confusing to many. Speaking in tongues and trust me you are not alone in your confusion. I remember years (high school perhaps, or tech school) I was involved with a Charismatic Christian lass who invited me to her church. There was a lot of goobly gook coming out of people’s mouths, and then one dropped and started shaking, I called EMS. My bad, I was informed as paramedics interrupted the service it was not a seizure, but rather she had been “slain in the Spirit”. Okaleedokalee. Now, am I bashing this style of experience? No, what it does show is what Paul enters into discussing as 1 Corinthians draws to a close, that you need to understand the experience and ensure those in the gathering understand it as well.

He bridges nicely from the famous love discourse/poem, into the first verse asking that our first pursuit is love. It is a means to fight against legalism, and to remember that we are functioning as a community, a family first:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their up building and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (English Standard Version)

It appears that either questions or reports were coming to Paul, that this young gathering was lost in the show. That so much was happening within their gatherings no one was too clear on what the intent was. Could it be a case of holy rollers desiring to one up one another to show who was the holiest? It is possible, as Paul really works to put the break on by breaking it down.

Speaking in Tongues is fine, but someone needs to translate. This passage has led some to query is there was two gifts of speaking in tongues, for the first in the book of Acts was tongues of fire that came down on the Apostles and as they spoke all gathered understood regardless of their dialect (ala a universal translator like on Star Trek), while here there seems to be a soul language emerging of the Holy Spirit.

The other piece Paul touches on is prophecy. Now, this in itself is misunderstood as future events being seen. But as one reflects on the events of the Hebrew Bible prophets, what is seen is it is justice messages. We need to change course here or else x, y, and z will happen.

Now, brothers,[a] if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider[b] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign[c] not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:6-25 (English Standard Version)

It also shows Paul’s Greek philosophical underpinnings as body and soul are separate entities. It is interesting though that he states he needs to pray to interpret so there is a whole experience. One needs to pause and ask is external translators necessary or can one have a moment of tongues, and then be enlightened as to what it means? Is it possible that it is an angelic language as some say? Or is it other dialects and the translation comes from those in attendance that understand it? What becomes a reality is it is the moment when the full self enters into an ecstatic experience? Paul notes that it is important to remember that there is always someone new coming in, and that they will process what is happening.

The touching of prophecy on the heart of the newbie, and oldster alike is about the truth of a just society coming through. The words of John the Baptist, the Apostles, Brother Jesus and other great spiritual teachers in what happens when the world lets love lead.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 (English Standard Version)

Paul attempts to bring order to a chaotic time together. Order in such a fashion that all can still enjoy their equity and equality within the gathering. He points to the rationale being that they are a religion of peace, not one up manship, that it is about ensuring the heart of the message comes through, not the ego of the messenger be stroked. There is a hint of what has been used for misogyny in our times, the concept of women being silent. This is not an eternal commandment because it appears in the Bible; it is a cultural norm of a societal transfiguration already straining at the seams. Families were whole and together in the gathering not separated, quite a bit of new things were being experienced. Now, this is not forgiving this dullery, for it is not the original intention of the movement either for Jesus ensured all were heard and treated equally, I believe it has more to do with Paul’s comfort levels himself.

The fifteenth discourse transitions from orderly gatherings to the underpinnings of the message to get through. Paul is laying out death, resurrection and life. Pointing out that the world of flesh and blood is not the true be all and end all. It can be a future minded text for some, but let’s drill into a little bit for it is more about the here and now I think than some realize. It is speaking of the life of wholeness. When whatever soul sludge was keeping us back is burnt away. Moments, sometimes daily, we do the work to keep the new us going, and the old us in the grave. For you see, the resurrection is not the old you, the one that is held back by saboteurs-gremlins, it is the true you. The complete you. The whole you. The you that was created and holy breath breathed life into, in love.

The closing chapter of this letter is a per functionary business meeting flare to it. Paul writes of a collection being taken up to aid other gatherings in Jerusalem. He gives final greetings from around the plants of Paul and giving his love to this gathering as he signs off one correspondence. This is a closing to a long discourse to allow the gathering to process, and connect back to continue the dialogue. Continue the spiritual formation as leaders and a community in what it means to be a healthy gathering, perhaps not one that makes it to yes on all things, but where all parts can come to maybe in the transformation process from what is normal for their colony.

For is that not what it comes down to in community, a movement to maybe to be able to eventually move forward healthily into the next steps?

 


Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 11:1 (English Standard Version)

Mentorship is a hard path to walk. It is hard for the mentor and the protégé, for the mentor should not give easy answers, but use powerful questions to aid the protégé in critical thinking and holistic growth. This is where Paul takes the discourse on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). He writers of the misogynistic tradition and beliefs surrounding who came from who (man from God, woman from man) and the dishonouring being covered or uncovered brings, but then he moves to the brilliant bridge portion for this is not the life and teachings of Brother Jesus who welcomed all as equals.

Verse 12 puts out that all things are from God, and verse 13 places the judging within ourselves. Too often passages like this have been used to continue religious misogyny and oppression, by pointing out legalism. When in fact it is a philosophical tool of reflection that is reflect back the question, add some power questions and see what emerges from your own reason. As you walk through this part of the discourse, you see that the argument is missing the point for it does not matter about appearance, or rules. It is about the community being together in unity. An earth shattering norm; where each member has their own decision making autonomy.  Yes it is becoming a catch phrase of these reflections, inherent worth just because that is how they are created.

This was the first walk through, for Paul uncovers the head covering discourse as the false flag question sent to him by the gathering. It is the reports of how they celebrate together that he dives into:

 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,[e] 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f]you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[h] 31 But if we judged[i]ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[j] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers,[k] when you come together to eat, wait for[l] one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (English Standard Version)

It is not a communion meal, that is a shared meal within the community to ensure all are cared for spiritually and physically. What has it become? A divisive practice where cliques have emerged (think the Junior High Lunch room, where there are just some tables that are no gos). To add to the strife, there are people in the community starving, and no one cares they are letting it happen. This is a meal given to be done in mystical remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth. Communion is the highlight of worship and study together as a community, as the Body.

What it has become is a grudge match. Instead of mysticism Communion has become a tool of exclusion for those that some view as unworthy.  A meal of holiness now used for the people to continue the old ways of meal time; binge drinking and gluttony (remember it was Romans that invented the Vomitorium so they could continue gluttonous feasting). It is about honouring one another, for each is the imageo dei. It is caring for one another, loving of self and neighbour. Not allowing for a backsliding into the old comfortable ways, but living out loud the new path.

Why is it so important to be a healthy community? To not be divided? Paul works into the realm of spiritual gifts, and how each gift works within the community like different aspects of the party. That is right; the community is a living breathing organism because it is made up of living breathing organisms.

Now concerning[a] spiritual gifts,[b] brothers,[c] I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

-1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (English Standard Version)

Some will look upon the lists of spiritual gifts as the be all and end all for gifts. That is bullocks (1 Corinthians 12:12-34). These are but a few examples, for thinking of the multitude of things that are necessary for a society to bloom. Think and reflect on your skills and talents, what passions in you manifest as the best of you. You can tell when you have tapped into the spiritual gifts on your intrinsic being for they energize you to use, even if there may be weariness after use. They are also gifts seen by others, it can be the arts, medicine, science, philosophy, teaching, compassion, social work, child care, elder care, the list can go on and on. What are your gifts?

What are the passions that the Holy Mystery has laid on your being?

And it may shock some to read this, but I firmly believe your gifts can shift throughout your lifespan as new situations and experiences shape your being. New gifts and wonders emerge for we are not a static creation like a story on a flannel board. Our life is a dynamic story that encompasses all the genres at any given moment. The ultimate outcome is a beautiful discourse Paul shares in chapter 13. It has been used at weddings, and celebrations of life (just think of these words summing up your life lived). It is how we live that matters, and use the gifts given us in love, shared in love:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 13 (English Standard Version)

Will you live into and out of the greatest gift?

 


Change is hard. Especially change from what is acceptable in societal norms. It is why there has always been struggles for equality and social justice. Those in control do not want to lose the power and wealth that comes with control. For those that move into a new living of life it can become easily legalistic and a checkbox of virtue. That is not what Paul was intending with answering questions sent him, and addressing situations brought to him. Sadly, many have not looked at these letters as inspiration for reflection upon one’s organization or community and how to live together better. Embracing a renewed life within a Just Society, sadly it has become the cast of legalism. Remove the context of Corinth, and one can forget what this gathering was trying to shepherd out of.

A place founded on trauma and pain. Yes, you read that. Veterans and Freedman were at the centre of pain of the Empire. Being used and abused. Use and abuse passed on to those seen as less than themselves, or as cattle (property as non-citizens were viewed). Barbarity, pillaging, violence, raping and the list can go on. Might make right. The end goal washed all sins clean if you will. The colony was still the epicentre of these behavioural societal norms.

The opening salvo is in regards to sexual immorality not even tolerated in the Empire (1 Corinthians 5). Now when one reflects on what was allowable that is quite scary. It is incest. Yes you can read the first line that it is wife of his father so possibly still a step-mother not his mother, but still a unique soap opera type conundrum. Though understanding Empire norms, it more than likely was mother and son. One has to wonder if the further isolation and abuse heaped upon the gathering led to mental health issues within the conclave that caused this. Paul wants the person out, but it is because they are unwilling to heal and change what they are doing. That is not making the steps necessary to life recovery, they are in full on relapse for addiction cycles and in that instance distance is needed with the offer of olive branch to come later.

This salvo bounces into as he rambles into lawsuits (1 Corinthians 6:1-11) and talks about accepting being defrauded, but it goes deeper as it stems to the false witness. Paul is reminding the gathering that their yes needs to be yes, and their no needs to be no. As the issue appears to be using the colony’s court system to settle matters that can be settled with honesty and mediation within.

Then Paul stretches in the last bit:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (English Standard Version)

A weaponized text if there ever was one. A mis-translation when it hits the term homosexuality. This concept as we know it did not exist within the Roman Empire. What was being pointed out is the practice of fertility worship that saw you in the temple (Aphrodite’s in Corinth) sexing whomever was on call (male or female); and coupled with the Roman practice of “making men” through anal rape just before puberty, so no, not a passage about loving relationships between consenting adults (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). For today, it is pointing out that sexual abuse cover ups by clergy and elders is bull shit and needs to be called out, and the monsters rooted out. It is pointing out that everything from God is good. It is what we do with it that makes it good or evil. Consensual sexual activity is a beautiful and affirming thing, stalking, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual trafficking are immoral and an affront to the imageo dei.

The seventh discourse of 1 Corinthians is another one of those weaponized chapters. Man, the Way of the Labourer of Nazareth has been sex-occupied for a very long time.  There is no prescription for what “married” entails, so that is a societal construct that Paul is leaning on to speak to the faithful to live a fruitful passionate life. One in which they move out of the customs and barbaric norms of the Empire into a new way of being. The greatest point made is living how you are created. If you are single and not desiring physical intimacy then perhaps you are meant to be like Paul and celibate.  If you desire another, then be with them fully not just filling a gap until something better comes around. Sadly, too many have used this discourse to state that husbands have complete control over their wives body, and the wife must always submit. Hogwash. It is a philosophical construct damning the institutions of the time. Paul is basically pointing out in the relationship, like what is to be in the gathering, there is no hierarchy, no power differential, both parties are equal. Both can consent or not as they desire, and the other is to accept it as holy. The relationship is a deeply communal existence that is not to be taken lightly, so too is the life of singlehood. Neither is to be rushed, for it is the time to do your soul work and know who you are truly meant to be in the Holy Mystery.

Then we enter into this weird discourse on eating food offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8). It is a passage that has been used to point out that your behaviours should and can be tempered by the community you are apart of. A teaching that may or may not sit well with a person. The story is simple, Paul sees no issue in where one gets their food what he points out as a problem is that some of the younger on the journey may stumble into old ways if one eats this food. It is like pointing out to an alcoholic not to hang out in a bar. It is also pointing out that everyone’s actions have a ripple effect by touching on one practice to hopefully get community members to become self-reflective on what they are doing that may be causing newer members to fall.

There are two keys in the message: your life has meaning for those you walk with; and that everything is good. Is it the stopping the eating of idol food, or helping the newer person walk into the light more fully first?

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 9:1-3 (English Standard Version)

Paul touches upon a challenge to those in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9). Be who you are meant to be. Meet those as they are. For some in may have a tinge of a Franciscan Charism to it (as much as I may dislike it). For Brother Francis and his group were of the open hand. Letting things flow freely through for their aid, as they were but custodians until the one who truly needed the item came to be. They met those society had cast away where they were at and gave them belonging.

Paul is pointing this out to the gathering in Corinth, you were met where you were at and began the soul work. Now it is your turn to be the mentors and bring your protégés along. Are you open to the challenge? Have a circle of mentors, a circle of peers, and a circle of those you mentor.

The biggest challenge for the stumbling laid out by Paul is idolatry (1 Corinthians 10). Paul is pointing out that it is a recycle, a relapse, a fall back. It is going to what was once comfortable where you knew the outcome. The life in the gathering is mysterious, and the outcome is unknown, but you feel better about yourself. The old life is comfortable and you are not an affirmed imageo dei just a piece of ass (to be crass) in the salvation worship machine of the age chasing after easy fixes, money and power that always fall short in filling the void in your being. The silenced quiet voice,that is speaking into your heart, if you relapse will go mute again for your heart will be deaf to it. Is that what you want?

The saboteur speaking freely to your soul?

 Or the cosmic spark?

Which do you believe you deserve?

Which does your life lived show you in?

 

 

 


The canonical gospels and Acts of the Apostles shows the quick declaration of belief. It is a declaration that comes quickly for those who do not see themselves as complete. For those seeking value, and being seen as a complete human being, citizens wanting to embrace their inherent worth and not be trapped in caste by labels of religiousity, socio-econimics, culture or race to name but a few. The Epistles are like the Prophets and Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible, they shake out the nuts and bolts of the new life recovery journey. One of the key pieces in either harm reduction or abstinence approaches that is missed, is the social transformation that needs to happen. That is the way one lives, and those that are within their social circle changes to keep up the new healthier lifestyle. This is the work found within the Corinthian correspondence (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Paul opens up the conversation reminding of the journey’s beginning, and that they have tools at their disposal for the life challenges ahead. That is the grief cycles they will enter into, even if the life had not been affirming of their inherent self-worth, it would still be missed as the change takes one out of the normal:

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[d]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

-1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (English Standard Version)

Some would call this intangible wisdom the Akashic Records; some as we have seen in Alienbrews believe it is extra-terrestrial; or other understandings of the Holy Spirit (ghost, breath, cosmic dust, within the Holy Mystery and Holy Mystery within you). It is about the journey of wholeness. That is the wisdom that one ties themselves to, allows for the soul work to understand how and why you were created. What is the grander purpose of your being? This is the ongoing soul work of the life, once you have acknowledged the Holy that exists within, and denied the soul sludge that kept the light hidden.

It is this search you need to hold to as you enter into the exploration of the divisions in the church. Human divisions that are seen in many organizations (1 Corinthians 3), such as in academia we are this faculty or that, in religion this denomination or that, this career or that, within organizations and institutions this department or this level of hierarchy; all of them false divisions and ones that Paul was pointing out as folly as stating if they were of Apollos or Paul. The true wisdom is knowing to set aside the labels, and the positional leadership or prestige. It is entering into the journey of growth and discovery, like an infant to a toddler, moving from formula to solid food, and the slow addition of solid foods so one’s system can figure out likes and dislikes, tastes, digestions and allergies.

It is taking the emerging soul work on the grief journey and understanding it transcends outward labels to the most important inward labels of the transcendent Holy Mystery of Love (God); that it intertwines one’s love of self and neighbour. Once this becomes centered the petty squabbles begin to evaporate for the ego is removed, and the living falsity of only desiring money and power is gone.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (English Standard Version)

Soul Work. Some call it spiritual direction or life coaching or therapy. Perhaps all three, that bring daily practice into our lives that allows us to hear the still small quiet voice within. The Holy Mystery’s voice of guidance to true identity; as Paul writes to Corinth- purpose of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:6-21).

How different would our communities be if we truly knew our heart purpose?

And lived it?


What is Corinth? It is a renewed Greek city as a Roman Colony that was colonized by Roman Citizens made up of Freedman and Veterans. Around 51-52 CE Paul and company visited, and a gathering of the Way grew. By somewhere between 53-57 CE Paul had received some letters asking for guidance from the local leaders, and some of the gossip of what was going down had reached him.

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 (English Standard Version)

 Corinth’s gathering, like any one of the era did not happen in isolation. It was a mega-economy for the Empire, the big money maker. It also had worship communities around the Roman Pantheons (which were essentially the Emperor plus any other gods). The three main gods of worship were Poseidon, Corinth’s Patron God (obviously as a coastal city); Demeter, goddess of earth fertility and the harvest, her daughter Persephone is a wee bit more famous due to the kidnapping and marriage to Hades that kicked off the seasons. Finally, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, her spiraling temple could be seen from the coast, rumour had it there was always a 1000 “priestess’” within to service the faithful (yes you read that right). Aphrodite worship was akin to ancient Babylonian/Assyrian temple worship that created the sexual laws of Leviticus upon the return from Exile for the Jews. For the unknown reader, the practice of salvation/communion/prayer is essentially showing up and intercourse with whomever is there (in the short hand). One Bible college prof made the joke that is why Corinthian Leather is used for such, he did not like a smart mouthed Bible College student-pastor (me) asking how such a “pure professor” knew of such things in sex shops.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (English Standard Version)

Remember the shift to the Way was not simple act. Where Judaism had a history, and the religious authorities and the Herod family had created a false-harmony of existence within the Emperor Cult, and they were an old enough religion to be accepted, the Way was new. It was still apart of synagogues, but you needed synagogues to attach to in this time (pre-85 CE expulsion). Otherwise it was a seditious belief system that was the antithesis of the Empire. A religion founded on hope, faith, joy, peace and love of neighbour, not exactly a war mongering power hungry bunch. Then there was rumours about cannibalism around Communion, and the complete loss of aiding those who had less and treating them as equals. Creating distrusts economically that sidelined many in businesses, and dependent on the family structures shaming.

I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (English Standard Version)

My way of religion is better than yours. We used the right magic words. An age old debate that goes back to ancient times of war, whose god is more powerful or today on the playground- my parent can beat up your parent. Or into the realm of denominations in a multiplicity of religions- focusing on the minute that separates rather than the core that unites all. Paul calls the gathering out, they are all each have in this situation and as such need to focus on what unites. Yes, there is beauty in the diversity of the body of Christ. It needs to be diverse, time, talent and treasures of each person and each denomination brings forth something new. It is knowing where you rest, knowing what you believe, and knowing why you move forward.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

-Epistle of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (English Standard Version)

What a reminder. You were the cast aways, the one the world looked down upon. You found home and love here. Why are you taking that feeling of belonging away from others?

It is about that.

Belonging.

That is where the root of the Corinthian correspondence begins. Paul is writing to get a gathering back on track so it can be the courageous safe place for that society deems not valid.

Do you remember a time when you lost a place of belonging?

What caused it?

What would have corrected it?