Friday, January 13, 2012

We are stuck in Corinth again. Rats!

Those of us who follow the lectionary are going to be stuck in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians until Lent.  It’s a problem for our parishioners for several reasons.  The controversies in Corinth seem at odds with what the accompanying gospel lessons have to say about Jesus’ teaching.  We have been raised on the sophomoric idea that the early churches were gatherings of loving people sharing one mind about Christ and what it means to be Christian.  It isn’t always clear what Paul had heard by way of rumor and letter about conditions in Corinth.  It certainly isn’t clear how his counsel is to be translated to our benefit in our day given our conditions.  As important at Paul is, he must always take a back seat to Jesus, and that can often be too easy to overlook.  
Some of my local colleagues are going to duck the problem by ignoring it altogether.  They’re going to preach on the Old Testament and Gospel readings as if Paul had not just been heard from.  I’m not sure that’s a good idea because so much of what is written in 1st Corinthians has become bedrock for assumed truth and grounds for doctrinal warfare.  In the meantime, we will all take a moment to wipe sentimental tears from our eyes as we hear again the words of chapter 13 before we get back to the serious business of behaving like Corinthians. 
For my part, I’m going to spend a little bit of time reintroducing the congregation to Corinth and Corinthians and then wade into the quagmire of trying to ferret out what we are to learn from them in our own time and place.  How does big bawdy Corinth speak to a little ranch town in the rural west?  We shall see.  The advantage for this small congregation is that I’m only there twice a month.  Two other retired clergy take the other Sundays, and can correct my errors. 

3 comments:

Dianna Woolley said...

...eagerly awaiting the lesson - see you there! Or maybe I'll come with you:)

Anonymous said...

A Corinthian anecdote: Back in the summer of 1960, I was instructor in New Testament Greek for the freshman entering seminary classes of the Austin Presbyterian Seminary (Southern) and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest
(Liberal, then, founded five years earlier by Bishop John Hines). I was allowed to use the office of the regular New Testament professor, John Hurd (if I recall his name correctly). At the end of the summer, he came back to claim his office, and I got to talk to him before I left for my graduate
scholarship at Princeton. I asked him what was the subject of his dissertation on the Greek New Testament, and he said, "Second Corinthians. I'm trying to reconstruct Paul's second letter to Corinth." I thought to myself that I thought that I already had that in my copy of the New Testament! He then explained that scholars think there was a lost letter between the extant two letters of Paul to Corinth! My innocence! Bishop Hines had wanted to have a really up to date scholarly seminary in Austin; too much so for many of the new seminary students (and their bishops!), who just wanted to learn to preach well to ordinary people in the pews,
(sort of like the members of our study group!). The conservative Presbyterian seminary was in one way more intellectual, requiring both Hebrew and Greek from its students, but much more conservative theologically and thus met with less friction from the expectations of its Southern Presbyterian students! Later on, I heard that the Soutwest Episcopal Seminary had modified its scholarly emphasis and become more of "school of ministry". Dr B

Country Parson said...

Well, Dr. B., you could come to Grace at 9 tomorrow to see how I handle it.