1 Corinthians Overview

I saw it as the practical ways in we we as individuals and communally are transformed by the gospel, to love and to sacrifice, within our own identity. It’s a messy process.

There is a strong theme of resurrection. The ultimate confirmation of God’s power pushes me to be sacrificial of my privilege and my time. Church is serious. Eternities are at stake.

Paul was resurrected as a decent human. From that point in his risk-taking increased and his earthly status became less important than spreading God’s love. Physical death became lower priority than his mission.

The Corinthians were stuck in a bunch of far less glorious selfish patterns. Very familiar to any church going Christian. Paul was in such a different place, yet he’s empathetic. I was struck in lockdown the whole time, church reduced to a weekly zoom meeting. So some of Paul’s descriptions of the failure of the church to be remotely Christ-like made me positively nostalgic!

You can be loving, you can be resurrected to a new life mission, and the promise is that you will be still you, loved by God, and shining that love into the world. As individuals and as churches. It’s a very optimistic book!

But it is an optimism built out of practice not theory. It’s intensely practical, with all the daggyness on display in documentary real time. It’s one letter, just a snapshot, from a long relationship between Paul and these exuberant, terrible, saved, contentious, very typical people. Coping with each other, guided by love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Our weakness, God’s strength

1 the line between personality and vice and the hope that God can love and use a procrastinating train-wreck whimsical dreamer like me.

2 Having the mind of Christ. Whether and if God’s spirit can work with our arrogance to produce godly versions of our personality.

3 I’m in lockdown, Paul’s absent. But he doesn’t let it stop him feeling part of God’s temple, the church, and nor will I

4 Paul flip flops from Saint to sinner, victim to enforcer as he doesn’t hide his own weakness, or his intent to tackle his readers’ weakness.

FAQs (spoiler: love is the answer)

5 The awkward issue of church discipline and the point at which sinful lifestyles of saved people become lines in the sand regarding their membership of the community.

6 Paul’s frustrations with their internal legal disputes and selfish lifestyles when their church could be such a shining light into the world

7 the power of God’s grace to make marriages beautiful, singleness beautiful, to find opportunities for beauty in all sorts of messy and tragic situations.

8 I contemplate the loving work of not eating perfectly good food offered to idols if it’s an issue for others. From lockdown that seems particularly unlikely.

9 Paul applies the principle of being culturally sensitive for the sake of the gospel to himself. Ironic really, because he clearly didn’t fulfill the Corinthian church’s idea of what a proper preacher looked like, and makes no apology for it!

10 love should undermine freedom, not the other way around. It’s called sacrifice.

11 Paul’s passionate argument for women covering their heads in church, which we no longer require in the West. But I see the value of “branding” church as serious, different, holy.

12 we have different gifts, but we are all part of one body of Christ… I look at how this actually works in two tricky cases.

13 Love is the simplest, easiest and most direct way for our actions to be beautiful to eternity, to stand when everything else is gone.

Putting it all together as a church

14 Paul’s practical advice for taming an unruly and vibrant church. From lockdown, it makes me nostalgic!

15 the role resurrection has to play in our faith. About the relational nature of truth, and how a strong theology of resurrection can allow us to surrender our privilege to God.

16 hope for the broken. Even in the practical end of the book, organising for a collection and taking about church discipline, the gospel here is a resurrection gospel, transforming.

2 Corinthians 13

JRR Martin, the game of thrones author, might have called this book “a song of weakness and strength”. Paul weaves it though everything.

Last chapters of epistles are usually chatty greetings, catch-up on plans, and a blessing to end. This has the blessing, but it hammers home the theme of the book to the very end.

What would someone who isn’t a Christian get out of being a leader of a church, I wonder? It’s even clearer here that Paul believes some of the most dominant and eminent members of this church are actually fakes.

Paul wants not to have to resolve it himself. And I can see that’s really important. Future Churches, down the ages, will not be able to have an apostle, someone who has met Jesus, come and straighten them out. But they will always have this problem!

So he’s pressuring them to examine themselves and learn to fix themselves up. And the key is weakeness. That why he refuses to use his apostolic strength.

Christians are all sinners. The only difference between fake and real Christians is an awareness of their weakness, of their broken sinful selves, which the real Christians gratefully throw onto Jesus, weeping with gratitude and joy. (Not actual tears of course, if you are Anglican, but an awareness that, if you were someone who cried, now would be the moment) (joking of course, you should see the tears flow in our church sometimes!)

So Paul says he’s coming, and he will act in the power of Christ to “not spare” the toxic leaders. Which could mean calling them out and using his influence to discipline them. He hasn’t actually named them here, has he?

He plays it for grim irony. They say they want to see me display god’s power, do they? They certainly will when I get there….

But he hopes they will sort it out themselves by examining themselves and thinking about all he has said about Christ being made strong in our weakness.

I left two churches in a row because I didn’t respect the leadership. The first, I’ve no doubt he was a sincere Christian, but he was in a bad place. His marriage eventually fell apart and he went a different direction. The job was not for him. I regret, in a way, that I was not more supportive. But I think the outcome for him would have been the same even if I hadn’t left.

The second church, if the guy is a Christian, there is so much influence of dysfunctional personality traits, particularly narcissism, that others absolutely need to prevent him from being in a leadership position. The church haven’t done that. But I think he could well not be a Christian at all (only God actually knows of course).

Either way, shouldn’t be in leadership, which is a “Judgement” call we can and must make sometimes!

The limitations of the Anglican system became very apparent in both instances. I left, and many others did. Not Paul’s solution. But the accountability structure of my denomination didn’t easily support the kind of self examination and fixing Paul recommends here. The church rule-makers need to think carefully about this book!

What do fake Christians get from being in a church?

For leaders it can be a career: financial security, somewhere to live. I work with a guy who is a Mormon “bishop”, leader of his church. Unpaid. No one is paid, and neither was Paul! Changes the dynamic quite a bit!

If you’ve been bought up in a church, it can be your comfort zone, your culture. It turns up regularly in interviews of pop stars from the US who were bought up in the church. They often throw out Christianity with the rest of it when they form their own identity in adolescence. I feel a little pang of empathetic prayer for them. Imagine having Christianity enmeshed with that suffocatingly dull conformist middle American culture? What chance would it have?

If you are a narcisist, I suppose your psychology depends on constant affirmation and being able to remove any reality checks, which actually is something Christian leadership can be pretty good at delivering. I did the second minister a favour by leaving rather than hanging round and being a thorn in his flesh. Indeed he virtually told most of us to leave, confident that the hierarchy would support him. And they did.

If course it is all a tragedy for the church and Christ’s presence in communities. In our weakness is he made strong.

A functional church, full of obvious failure and weakness, of flawed people motivated by gratitude to God, sincerely working to be more loving, more forgiving, more humble and focused on others…. a church like that is incredibly powerful and appealing. A place of spiritual solace in a harsh world. A place to get your act together. A place from which God’s grace pours out.

It’s worth working at, even if the organisational structures pull you in the opposite direction. Of course, the dynamic of sinful people putting aside their selfishness and strengthening each other from their shared excitement about god’s love and grace plays out in less dramatic ways in most church interactions we have. And absolutely everyone you meet has some light, some common ground of vulnerability and spiritual need.

In our weakness the love of God shines powerfully, as it did in Christ.

A day for the mundane end of my to-do list. Praying for discipline. First up: updating the bleedin’ thing.

2 Corinthians 12

It’s all been for the strengthening of the Corinthians. In our weakness is Gods strength most seen.

This chapter in Paul’s epic take down of false apostles looks at theatricality, and his own lack thereof.

No gospel show is complete without visions and ecstacy. I think naturally of the mega churches that have taken over. When they fail, they fail from the core. The leaders have placed themselves at the centre of them, and no human can occupy that place. They collapse under the weight of their hypocrisy and human weakness… For sex, money, status…

Paul refuses theatricality, which lets Jesus be at the centre. Jesus can take it.

Paul talks intriguingly about having had the most amazing visions and revelations directly from God. It explains Romans really. The confidence with which he makes up theology certainly seems like someone who’s looked behind the veil deep into god’s mind.

But he won’t connect himself to that person. He won’t own the visionary. He owns his thorn in the flesh, his message from Satan.

He doesn’t specify what that is, which lets everyone consider what theirs may be. But it’s a weakeness that pushes Paul out of the way. He’s no Messiah, Christ is.

It puts the reader’s relationship with Christ in the centre. Paul can guide them away from mistakes, but he’s enough of a walking mistake himself that he doesn’t guide them towards him. The hard work of Christianity, especially in this broken world, is helping each other through struggles with that brokenness both around us and inside us.

Jesus didn’t stay on the transfiguration mountain, he went onto the cross. Churches can’t freeze a moment of ecstatic joy and recycle it every Sunday.

I launched my album yesterday, it was a good experience. Certainly plenty of weakness on display, as I learned how to use the streaming software in real time on air! Glad it’s done, and I felt I got across what it was about despite everything. I really appreciated the connection and encouragement from a wonderfully random and patient group of friends.

Now to some hard, serious stuff. I got 99 problems and my album ain’t one…

(though the next EP is, of course 🙂

2 Corinthians 11

Paul gets really down and dirty here and in the next chapter, defending himself against these “super apostles” who have started teaching in the Corinthian church.

He throws everything at it.

He warns them he is going to be silly and I agree, it does seem a bit silly when he compares the church to a bride, and himself to their father delivering the bride to her intended, Jesus, protecting her virginity while she’s flirting with others. He compares them to eve in the garden.

Then he gets genuinely sarcastic about them thinking they are so wise but being so besotted with these false teachers. Since they clearly love being slapped around by fools, he says he’ll be a fool, and slap them with all his worldly credentials.

It’s one of the times he lists all his shipwrecks, misadventures and etc., plus his pedigree as a Roman citizen and ex Pharisee.

But I think it gets to the heart of what is happening here when he comments towards the end of his suffering list that his burden for their souls, worrying daily about all the churches, is the hardest suffering of all.

He really really cares about them. He’s seen God plant a seed in them, but now like the parable of the sower, the devil may swoop down like a bird and snatch that seed away, and he’s in a panic for them.

I like thinking about how Paul’s idea of good bible teaching is an overflow of excitement about being loved by God.

My cliched image of people who are obsessed with heresy is of zealots with hard-line theological purity tests. That used to be Paul, he’s been there and done it.

But now he’s spirit-filled and emotional, overflowing with gratitude at being loved by Christ despite having been a truly terrible human being.

For sure, there is a strain of criticism in these letters, of Paul picking through error and telling the churches where they are wrong. But I’m finding the general vibe is way more positive than that.

It’s more someone enthusiastic to share the good stuff. He dismisses bad teaching not because it’s inaccurate as much as it’s inadequate. A second-rate vision of God. The true gospel is so much richer. Bigger, not smaller.

That’s who I want to be. I’ve approached the letters warily because I don’t want to get bogged down in arguments about the role of women, homosexuality, the manifestation of the holy spirit, hats in church, how Christians should vote, whatever. But here is Paul living this crazy life because Christ turned him around. In pain because he so dearly wants others to have the same joy that he has found.

Give me that vision father, in Jesus’ name.

Feeling a little happier today, a little more positively rather than negatively disturbed. Maybe it’s the imminent end of lockdown, which will be particularly great for Kelly.

I scheduled my online album launch for next Wednesday, and got some nice flattery from the responses to my sneak peek song. A little bit of that goes a long way!

Getting out there makes connection. And after, what is it, over 13 weeks pretty much stuck in our houses unless we have a pragmatic, legally prescribed, excuse to walk out the front door… connection is not to be underrated!

2 Corinthians 10

Paul has dealt with giving and a whole bunch of practical issues, now this chapter returns to the theme the letter started with. Paul speaking to a troubled church who have partly stopped listening to him because of more glamorous leaders.

The impression he gave in person was very mild. He’s an academic, I suppose.

But proof’s in the pudding he says, it’s all about what the lord wants to do with you, and he claims a part in that.

He writes much more powerfully than he speaks, but he assures them he is the same guy in person as in letters. And he can and will be tough if he needs to.

He uses a military metaphor for spiritual warfare. Christians are the most devastating force on the planet, capturing thoughts and demolishing strongholds of resistance to God.

It’s all about how effective God is through someone, not how impressive a person is.

He knows it sounds self justifying at first blush, but he’s actually refusing to play a self recommending game. Let God recommend people by what God wants to do, and look only at what God is doing.

It’s a principle that will make some unlikely alliances in practice. You’d find yourself working with some people you’d normally have no respect for.

I had an appalling shift yesterday, and I was twitchy after the fear of the hostage-type situation work put me into on Friday. The boy ran amok doing all sorts of uncontrolled things that drove everyone crazy.

I’m already worried about my motives and my wisdom in my work choices. It didn’t help, and I’m falling, probably appropriately, into a time of uncertainty, self doubt and change. I feel like I live in something of a fantasy world.

The time is right to finally release my album. I’ve pivoted to a streaming/online approach, because of lockdown. But Sydney is pivoting to post-lockdown freedoms within weeks. Too much pivoting, no more. I wanna stop working in the bloody thing and move on. It’s now or never for online release.

It’s an embarrassment to show people. And it’s symbolic of me being in my fantasy world, which I happen to be majorly counting the cost of right now. I could just shelve it, but that would take the steam out of my whole hobby, and it’s important to me. Or is it? Aargh.

Sunk cost fallacy, I’ve already written heaps more songs, and some of them are pretty good! I wanna finnish them. The pleasure of sharing them isn’t all showing off, is it?

At heart it is a sincere reaction by myself to god’s word, so I’ll just do it. I’m taking today’s passage as a magical sign that it doesn’t matter how unimpressive you look in the worlds judgement if you are serious about God. And, laced as it is with overlays of my ego, fantasy world, foolishness, time wasting etc, there is a serious level in there. The dagginess of it, of my weird workman-like voice, and poor taste choices, shining though all effort to be pretentious, is the proof of my purity.

But also a message to keep this hobby in check. I’m so intense! Sleepless night worrying about work. It’s all too much.

Balance. Listen to God. Chill.

2 Corinthians 9

Oh there’s two chapters about giving. I really should read ahead sometimes. I wrapped up my thoughts on chapter eight so neatly.

Here it’s tempting to accuse Paul of cynicism, because he sort of speaks with forked tongue.

He says how they should just give what they feel like giving, only what is in their hearts. The lord loves a cheerful giver.

But then he anticipates how wonderfully generous they will be, how much joy and blessing will flow from them giving so much. He even sends two “brothers” in advance of the collection to “finish the arrangements” so he’s not “embarrassed”. How cheerful! An offer they can’t refuse!

Maybe Paul’s a bit on the spectrum… trouble with empathy and can’t see the bind he’s put them in? Who knows, but he’s for real, not cynical, I’m sure. For me the last verse clinches it: “thanks to God for his indescribable gift”

When Paul thinks about the explosion of blessing, of powerful grace, released by Christian giving: to the recipients, to the givers, to all the saints and to the world who see what God can do, words fail him.

Paul stuck for words. Truly amazing Grace!

I’ve been struggling a bit with this Christian selflessness, this beautiful generous idea that you simply live for others and God has you in his hands.

My family is freaking out about the risk of the disability support work I’ve been doing.

I had a really scary experience last Friday with a new client my agency said would be much easier than the young boy I usually support.

It became a pretty terrifying 4 hours alone with this 35 year old guy who was having a paranoid delusion that he was on the verge of being arrested by the police. He barricaded the door of his government-supplied house, got a bit drunk and kept taking my phone from me (he didn’t have one himself). Things we’re going ok-ish but got dark when I reminded him that my shift ended at 7. How could I abandon him! He broke my glasses and hit me in the ear, perforating the drum.

I was eventually rescued by his boxing teacher who knows him better. He took him off to a psych ward. I don’t know if I just encountered a bad day or I made it a bad day by my inexperience, but it wasn’t great.

For good measure he is a religious fanatic, we connected over Christianity. Though he ended up looking at the skies and asking God why I had been sent to him.

So my family have some reason for concern. My company made a major blunder sending me there. I need to think about my choices carefully, and work with people i can trust.

That’s the rational bit I must hold onto. To process the event last Friday coolly. It’s helpful for my family to remind me how valuable I am to them. I may be happy to court risk on my behalf, but it effects them too.

But for me this bible passage also confronts the spiritual and emotional aftermath of that traumatising event.

My last redundancy was also traumatising, as these blog entries testify! I remember making a choice, a different one for me, when it happened. I chose to nurse it, to feel sorry for myself.

I felt unfairly treated, actually attacked. But I knew the process was sewn up. Protesting it would only sound banal. If course I wouldn’t like losing my job, who doesn’t? But that’s life, move on.

So I protested by refusing to play the game any more. If you are gaslighted, if you feel you are the only sane person in an insane world, you and reality go different paths. Well, not as dramatically for me as that sounds. But to an extent.

That choice not to trust God in moving on from trauma, but to nurture a victim status is personal, and often justified. It’s a tricky thing say for yourself when or if it turns into disobedience to God. You can almost never say it for others, in my opinion.

An aspect of obedience for me may even be a self destructive element to accepting risk. Perhaps subconsciously I’m making some sort of stupid statement? Announcing to the universe, as if it cares, that the vulnerability I feel trying to participate in the corporate white collar world is more risky for me than being beaten up by a crazy person.

I wrote to work after Friday and cancelled my scheduled Saturday shift, saying I was too traumatised. Then I told them, no, I don’t see him as a long term client. Fair enough.

But I don’t want to be emotionally overwhelmed by trauma, so it becomes a thing. I feel I did that with the redundancy, and it’s not good.

I do feel a bit like my optimism, my generosity, keeps being pummelled. Where’s the bit where if I do right by God, God does right by me?

But that’s a mindset, there is choice as to whether you count your blessings or you count your grievances.

The Lord loves a cheerful giver!

2 Corinthians 8

The hustle. I’ve been here! In my role as warden in our local church, I get up in a service every now and then and encourage people to give money.

I do it at tax time, because we have a tax deductible trust fund used to finance our charitable work in the community.

The Corinthians are one of the richer churches, and there is a collection for the church in Jerusalem, which is very poor.

Ah the irony, the city which David captured for the Lord to dwell in, the centre of the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Now just another church, and an impoverished one.

Paul starts tangentially. He says, let me update you about how our trip to Macedonia went. They are in a great place spiritually, we could tell because they gave so generously to the Jerusalem fund, which shows how sincere they really are, don’t you think? BTW, speaking of the collection…

Go you sales guy! Rolled gold pitch!

His appeal is different to mine. I usually emphasise the need, the good the giving will do. Paul doesn’t refer to Jerusalem’s need particularly, but emphasises the good it will do the Corinthians.

He does a few comparisons, which seems like a bit of a guilt-trip at first. There’s the Macedonians, who have much less means than the Corinthians. And also Jesus … who was rich beyond compare, but became poor for us, that we might be rich.

It’s not a total guilt trip though. The Macedonians have been giving more than they could afford, but he doesn’t tell them to copy that. He tells them to aim for equality… To aim for a state where they and the poorer Christians all have sufficient.

He gives the example of mana in the wilderness, which I always dismissed as a curio, a one off phenomenon of God’s travelling provision, but of course is a perfect lesson about how to think about material possessions.

It is all transient, mana only lasted a day, so you only collect enough for yourself. No point hoarding it. At a deep level you have to think that way if you acknowledge that it’s all the lord’s provision anyway.

Compare that to the situation with COVID vaccines. The rich half of the world is speeding towards 70-80% vaccination. The poorer half, not so much.

And going back to the wilderness years between Egypt and the promised land is a reminder that I, and Australia, fail miserably if tested against the Torah, god’s law, a social pattern of Jubilee years, where all debts are forgiven, sacrificial welcome for refugees, misfits and outcasts, and etc.

Giving is not really a separate subject from loving God, which is not entirely separate from loving your fellow humans. Paul’s hustle might start a bit cheesy, but he goes classier than me in the end!

2 Corinthians 7

This chapter is a great example of the advantages of having letters rather than sermons collected in the bible. For me this is about the risks and rewards of being brutal with other Christians. And we’ve all had these moments in Christian relationships where things get cathartic.

Paul is taking to a subset of the Corinthians. Last chapter he’s told them not to be yoked with unbelievers, and follows it up here with encouragement to purify themselves to claim the promises he mentions in the last chapter, which are all about group purity.

So I think the purifying is not personal, purifying your heart, as much as corporate, purifying your group. Ignoring a few bad apples in the congregation who are clearly not even Christians.

This subset Paul is trusting to address here is far more praiseworthy than the church as whole from chapter one, which clearly had big problems.

But he’s still in this super awkward place of having hurt them with his missing letter, the brutal one where he told them all the ways they were pathetic.

Titus is the link here, because he has visited them since the mean letter, and now he is with Paul. And he’s reported that for this large chunk of the church they took it just the right way. They heard Gods voice, not just Paul in it. They repented.

It’s very risky pointing out to someone spiritual flaws which have hurt you personally. Trying to both teacher/truth telling prophet AND hurt puppy who needs more love.

And Paul was in struggle street in Macedonia when Titus arrived from his visit to the Corinthians. I loved his pithy summary of how badly it was going “harassed at every turn, conflicts on the outside, fears within”.

So the report that the letter has been taken in the right spirit filled Paul with joy and encouragement. He is so happy with the core of Corinthians who saw God, and accepted god’s voice, past the personal conflict.

You wouldn’t get all that from a sermon. I’ve know lots of people who have a hesitancy towards st Paul. I do too, like yesterday when I was thinking he was a bit much. But I suppose that partly reflects this exposed awkward relational dynamic. Other than Acts, we only know him though letters.

But it’s grace-building stuff, this struggle. It’s like the church’s super power. I know the grace that come from the risk of being real, it is wonderful!

Lockdown has given me, and many others I’m sure, permission to avoid a lot of that conflict for a while. But I’ve been swept over by an ennui that has come from avoiding this risk. Yesterday I caught up with Colin from church, who has been actually more active than me, but admitted to just letting some things slide himself, too.

So be risky, be real, tell your story even if you seem pathetic or demanding. Paul talks about godly sorrow verses worldly sorrow here. His letter caused godly sorrow, and he’s so relieved. And comforted in a tough time.

you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. … See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.

V 9 and 11

Be brave. Maybe that’s a title for a song about Corinthians 2. Lockdown is easing a little as vaccination rates increase. Our youth group will restart Friday week. Back into the fray, with this word to inspire me!

Also Kelly’s birthday today, but maybe this is NOT a moment for brutality. She’s very down, and I’m hopeless at birthdays. Praying for some simple silly joy!

2 Corinthians 6

Maybe Paul is a bit too much for the Corinthians?

I recall a classic guy in the public service who’s come to mind a few times recently when I try to pin down Paul’s character. The Chief Inspector of Pressure Vessels. It was when I was writing work safety regulations, and I had to consult with this terrifying guy. He knew everything, and was a natural born zealot.

I recall he went on holidays and I just couldn’t imagine him having leisure, so I had to ask him what he had done on vacation. He’d been pursuing his passion for long distance solo skiing. Camping overnight in the snow. I asked him how he spent the evenings. He said he took Asterix comic books to read, Latin translations. Of course he read Latin for fun! In a tent. In the snow.

Paul commends himself to the Corinthians by his fruit, which I have noted previously, to avoid judging one another, is the best test for whether we can be yoked with someone in our Christian walk.

He lists the most overwhelming credentials of experience:

“we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;”

V4-5

He commends how misunderstood he has been: “regarded as an imposter… given bad reports… dishonored”. I wish I could bring up how wrong people have tended to get me at my next job interview! I’d blitz it too, I reckon!

He mentions beatings, scrapes with death, making the best of being poor and having nothing.

He says he was open hearted to them, why can’t they be open hearted to him?

He goes on to talk about weeding out unbelievers from their shared undertakings, which could be the problem. Churches can collect insincere people. And Paul has aggressively argued his sincerity. He’s walked the walk.

I wonder: did the Corinthians reading with the same sense of inadequacy that I feel reading this? Jesus said we need to take up our cross. He died. Paul did everything else but. Tough leadership! High bar.

All my peers are at or heading to retirement. There is a strong drift towards taking it easy, creating a little earthly heaven cocoon and disappearing into it. Our bodies will slow down.

I don’t want beatings and poverty to characterise my final years. Poverty might, because I forgot to be successful in a career. But surely not beatings at least?

Anyway, interesting to contemplate the spectrum between too much zeal and complete insincerity. I’ve certainly been slacking off in community relationships the last little while.

Colin, who I co-lead my youth group with, called me at an inconvenient moment, and I said I’d call back but forgot! I’ve been very spacey.

I feel the boys at home really need me too, but it’s so hard to connect with them, I really need God’s help. So easy not to.

Work day, gotta go. I’ll keep processing whether Paul is a bit too much for me! Pray for wisdom.

2 Corinthians 5

Paul struggling with the intangibility of Christianity in a material world again. And articulating it for the ages.

The flow of thought is still against the background question of Paul’s credibility as a Christian leader.

He is aware that his readers, by and large, will understand and share the eternal perspective, the longing just to be in heaven with Christ, that makes Paul compare badly to preachers who are designing their persona for earthly success. He going on about it so passionately to give them the words and ideas to persuade others.

It’s do or die for Paul. He’s seen their church so quickly threaten to be just another worldly organisation that loses the whole point of the Jesus’ mission of reconciling the world to God, one human heart at a time.

So this is not just about who-the-hell-Paul-thinks-he-is, these are words by which the focus and purpose of churches, and Christians, can be measured down the course of history. As indeed they have proven.

This chapter has so many beautiful encapsulations of what Christianity is all about, that are much easier to grab than the flow of argument:

1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

7 For we live by faith, not by sight.

14-15 Christ’s love compels us … he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

(“The love of Christ compels us” is on the wall of every Salvo church, staring down at the multitude of weird and wonderful events those halls witness…)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I mean just wow. They work stand-alone as hooks straight to the heart of the good news about Christ. But if you’re coming off reading the old testament… so rich.

That opening verse! “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God“. Recalling the tabernacle that the Israelites dragged through the desert from Egypt to Canaan. And God’s command to king David that he had to leave Solomon the job of building the brick and mortar temple. And the matching promise that God was building David a spiritual house, now realised. All on the theme of things that appear transient and permanent switching places in eternal significance… a wry reference to Paul ‘merely’ being a tent maker, perhaps?

And so it goes. What am I taking from it? Clarity. These are familiar verses, but not to be dismissed. It measures me, as it is intended to, and it inspires me to love God and tune out to worldly values.

Praying for Afghan women, I read another story yesterday. Thinking about truth, facing truth is the only way forward towards justice. Praying for the nieces getting married this weekend, and the mental health of the community.