Every Honest Word

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 24, 2012

“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you…” (2 Corinthians 6:11)

Every year United Methodists meet in regional conferences for work and worship. As with most situations where “two or three are gathered in my name,” good Christian folk might will disagree.

One person’s necessary budget cut is another’s lost opportunity to serve Christ. I’ve witnessed clergy squabble during a public Q&A session over whether #6 in Moses’ Top Ten was “shall not kill” or “shall not murder” in the original Hebrew. Another time our then Bishop Kelly (in the mid-1980s Rev. Leontine Kelly became the first female African-American bishop elected by a major denomination) defused a controversy during a business session by declaring, “I don’t follow Paul, I follow Jesus.”

Perhaps the spat between two opposing theological views involved the scriptural basis for women’s role in the church. First century or twenty-first century, we still debate Paul’s views about women.

I relish every honest word he bled onto the parchment...

Perhaps it had to do with same-gender marriage. First century or twenty-first century, we still debate Paul’s rants about homosexuality.

Perhaps the tension had escalated through interpretations of the value of one the lists (i.e. I Corinthians 12:8-10 or Romans 12:6-8) Paul scribed in his missives to Christian communities. First century or twenty-first century, we still debate Paul’s inspired or infuriating lists.

I really don’t recall the specific point of tension . . . other than a knock-down, drag-out, I’m-right-you’re-wrong argument ceased when Bishop Kelly announced her allegiance to Jesus.

I silently cheered. Had I, or another clergy, intervened with the same comment, it likely would’ve been ignored. But she was THE BISHOP. Regardless of her title, I also agreed with her.

I don’t follow Paul!

Isn’t that obvious? Without pausing to review any of my prior 10 (or 100) online lectionary reflections, I’m confident a Gospel reading influenced most of them. Each week the lectionary offers four choices (Gospels, a New Testament book, the Psalms and an Old Testament lesson). Paul’s letters—either written by or attributed to him—is usually one of the New Testament options.

To make my own list to justify ignoring Paul, it’s because he frequently angers, bores, confuses, dumbfounds and embarrasses me. Those are only five relevant feelings, ordered alphabetically, that could easily extend to “Z.” After all, Paul often causes me to zone out.

Then Paul scribbled a few words, launched from his century to mine, that strip away my petty skepticism, and I know my faith can’t live without the guy once knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus.

In his second note to the rascally Corinthians, I sense a lump in his throat and sweat slicking his cheeks as he pressed his metal stylus to parchment to bare his cranky heart about how he served Jesus . . .

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:8b-10)

All is forgiven, Paul! Continue reading →