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Bishop Michael Rinehart

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Pentecost 6B – July 1, 2018

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27– David mourns for Saul, the glory of Israel, and for Jonathan: Your love to me surpassed the love of women.

OR 

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24 – God did not make death. God does not delight in death. Death came into the world through the devil.

Psalm 130– I will exalt you, O LORD, because you have lifted me up. (Ps. 30:1)

OR

Psalm 30– God’s anger is for a moment; his favor for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning.

OR

Lamentations 3:23-33– The steadfast love of the lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15– During a severe ordeal of affliction, the Macedonian’s joy and poverty overflow in a wealth of generosity.

Mark 5:21-43 – Inclusio: Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the 12-year hemorrhage.

Week 4: Eager Generosity

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’

We are in a series on 2 Corinthians. (If you would like sermon ideas on the gospel text check out Pastor Don Carlson’s notes here: July 1, 2012.

Texts and Themes

Don’t Lose Heart

Pentecost 2B: June 3, 2018 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

New Creation

Pentecost 3B: June 10, 2018 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

Open Heart

Pentecost 4B: June 17, 2018 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Eager Generosity

Pentecost 5B: June 24, 2018 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Powerful Weakness

Pentecost 6B: July 1, 2018 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

More Information on the Study of 2 Corinthians

for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
—2 Corinthians 8:2

Having concluded his appeal for reconciliation and affirmed his confidence in the Corinthian church, he now risks asking them to show their love, their heart, by taking up a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. Paul reminds them that they made this commitment a year ago. He now exhorts them to make good on this offering that they already began.

Paul begins by boasting about the Macedonian Church, who gave generously in spite of their poverty. In the kingdom of God even the poor give to the poor. They gave beyond their means. Keeping up with the Joneses was clearly a tactic even two thousand years ago.

As our text begins, Paul butters up the Corinthians by telling them how much they excel in faith, speech, knowledge, and eagerness. He says he is not commanding them, but he makes it clear his is a test of their genuineness. One might interpret this as a test of their integrity. In the second part of his argument, chapter 9, Paul even incorporates a veiled threat that he is going to come down and visit in person to check on them.

This appeal also cements Paul’s argument for reconciliation. If the collection happens, it will solidify the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church.

Then in verse nine he appeals to Christ’s poverty. Ben Witherington III, in Conflict and Community in Corinth, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, says this may even be a hymn or a creedal formula:

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

This does indeed sound like the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2.

This offering will create a sense of indebtedness for the Jerusalem church. It will bond the Jewish Christians and Greek Christians together. Witherington points out that patronage is taken very seriously in antiquity.

When Paul says, “… if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have.” He means a gift of any size is acceptable. This should not create a hardship for you. Today we would say, “It’s the thought that counts.” He is calling for fairness. Verse 15 says:

As it is written,

‘The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.’

Compare this to Exodus 16:18 to which Paul is referring: “But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.”

Generosity to the poor is an ongoing theme through the Gospels and the letters of the New Testament. For Paul, generosity is one of the fruits of faith. It is a confirmation that God is at work.

The church always practices generosity. When people say, “The church is always asking for money,” I want to respond, “Yes. Every Sunday. This is who we are.”

What offering is your congregation undertaking on behalf of those in need? How might our generosity test the genuineness of our faith? This might be a good Sunday to launch an appeal for the poor, for world hunger, store for some other cause to benefit others. It is a good week to remember that Christ was rich, but became poor for our sakes.

Tell a story about a time you were surprised or moved by an act of unexpected generosity. Here’s mine.

A few years ago, I booked a flight to Lima, where we work with some partner congregations. I had booked the flight late and ended up having to change planes in Mexico City. I also had a middle seat. I hate the middle seat. I have long legs, but I refuse to foot for a first class seat. I hoped that perhaps one of the folks to my right and left would be absent so I could spread out.

When I got on the plane, there were two huge guys in the window and aisle seats, and they were together. As I made my way down the aisle, I saw that they had soul patches, tats, and piercings. When I arrived at the seat and looked down, they had their arms on the arm rests, and gave me a look that said, “Don’t even think about it.”

I put my stuff in the overhead compartment and squeezed into the middle seat with my hands in my lap. Stuffed between these two big guys I thought, “What would Jesus do?”

So I asked the guy to my left, “Where are you going?” He said, “Me and my buddy work in the Medical Center.” He patted a wad of bills in his pocket. “We’ve been saving up all year to go to Aruba. We’re going to lay on the beach, drink beer, and hunt for women.” Then he asked, “What are you going to do?”

I thought to myself, boy am I going to ruin his day. I said, “Well, I’m going to Lima, Peru with a group of Lutheran Churches from the Houston area. Lima is one of the poorest countries in South America. Half of the people live under the poverty level. We’re going down to visit with these churches and do a Vacation Bible School for 500 children in the heart of Lima. We’ve been saving up too, and this is one of the best weeks of my year.”

I went on, because I’m passionate about it. You don’t want to sit next to me on an airplane. I’m an extrovert. He didn’t say much. He probably got tired of listening and regretted not purchasing the middle seat.

We finally landed in Mexico City. As I got up to leave, he grabbed my elbow and said, “Wait a minute.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wad of bills. One by one, he started putting large bills into my palm. Then he closed my hand and said, with a sober look on his face, “Please use that for those children in Lima.” I did.

Over the years I have reflected on that brief experience. I don’t recall the guy’s name. I’ll most likely never meet him again. I’ll never know what happened in Aruba. I have landed on two conclusions that have stuck with me.

First, never judge people based on how they look. We tend to group people into two groups: good or bad, nice or not nice. Life is more complex than that of course. We’re all full of mixed motives and conflicting choices. Here is this guy going down to Aruba to do God-knows-what, and yet, something inside him has a heart for the things God cares about: the poor, the children, and the vulnerable. He sensed that this was something that was important, something that mattered. Something touched his heart, the stirrings of the Spirit? Where might this lead?

Second, whenever God touches your heart, God also touches your wallet. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The two often track one another. Once this guy’s heart was touched, he instinctively responded with his wallet. No one had to teach him the ten principles of stewardship. He knew what to do. When something matters, you want to be a part of it. Giving is one way we can participate. When the Spirit begins to stir, there is always generosity. Alternately, when there is extravagant generosity, you can be pretty sure the Spirit is as work.

 

 

 

Pentecost 5B – June 24, 2018

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 – David and Goliath: The Lord who saved me from the lion and the bear will deliver me from this Philistine.

OR 

I Samuel 17:57 – 18:5, 10-16 – Jonathan loved David. Saul tries to kill David.

OR

Job 38:1-11– The Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Psalm 9:9-20 – The Lord judges the nations.

OR 

Psalm 133– How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.

OR 

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 – God stilled the storm and quieted the waves of the sea. (Ps. 107:29)

2 Corinthians 6:1-13– Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Mark 4:35-41– Jesus asleep in the boat, wakes and calms the sea: Peace. Be still.

Open Your Heart
2 Corinthians 6:1-13

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. 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.

We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Paul and the Corinthians

So far in our series, we have had Sunday morning texts on 2 Corinthians 4 and 5. This week we read from chapter 6.

In chapter 4 Paul said to not lose heart. In chapter 5 Paul said if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation. Now Paul will put a full-court press on the Corinthians to open their hearts and be reconciled to God and to him.

Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation. Paul sees that salvation is at hand, so now followers of Christ must act like it; we must live into this salvation that is now. If now we are reconciled to God, how much more should we now be reconciled to one another?

Paul points out there are no obstacles left to block the way. What could possibly stop them from patching things up? Nothing is left to keep them from reconciliation. No one has found fault with Paul’s ministry. “Let’s mend these fences, for the sake of the gospel,” Paul seems to be saying.

This is the final part of Paul’s argument for reconciliation. He will make a very personal appeal, in three parts: hardships, virtues and treatment.

In verses 4-10, Paul lists the hardships he and his colleagues have endured. As we learned last week:

Hardships: in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…

Have they given as much? Suffered as much for the sake of the gospel? Does not their willingness to endure so much for the gospel prove their authenticity?

Then Paul continues by naming the virtues with which he has endured the aforementioned hardships:

Virtues: …by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.

There can be no mistake here. For Paul, holiness has to do with how one responds to one’s sufferings. Jesus is our model. He prayed for those who were torturing him: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Finally, Paul shares the unfairness of how they have been treated:

Treatment: 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.

This is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and curse you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…”

These lists are not unlike the virtue lists of the stoic philosophers. They are designed to set an example and commend the speaker to the listener. They also garner some sympathy and credibility. The Corinthians should listen to Paul because of what he has endured and how he has come through it. He has paid his dues. He has earned their respect.

He will repeat and amplify this argument in 11:23-27. Both of these passages mimic stoic virtue lists, but his virtues are more Christian. They do not explore the qualities of greatness as much as the qualities of humility, the qualities of a servant of God. As Christ endured suffering, he and his coworkers have also. Their greatness is not in conquering. It is in enduring. If they have endured so much, perhaps he hopes the Corinthians will cut them a little slack and let bygones be bygones.

Ben Witherington III, in Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthianssays the point is not just that Paul has endured, but that he has endured with integrity and character. The virtues show how he handled the hardships. Paul has pure motives and authenticity as an apostle. Therefore, the Corinthians should listen to him.

His ministry has been characterized by love and purity, so theirs should be too. He has been expansive in his heart toward them. They should be the same.

This phrase in the last part of the reading is telling: “Our hearts are wide open to you.” Would that this described every church.

Paul goes on to say there is no restriction to his affection, only in theirs. He grieves this. He stands ready for reconciliation. This allows him to speak as an adult to a child, in words that may still be directed to us today: “Open your hearts wide open also.”

With whom do you need reconciliation? Is your heart open wide?

Heart Passages in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:22
By putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

2 Corinthians 2:4
For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

2 Corinthians 3:2
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;

2 Corinthians 3:3
And you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:16
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 5:12
We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart.

2 Corinthians 6:11
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.

2 Corinthians 6:13
In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 7:2
Make room in your hearts for us; we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

2 Corinthians 7:3
I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together.

2 Corinthians 7:15
And his heart goes out all the more to you, as he remembers the obedience of all of you, and how you welcomed him with fear and trembling.

2 Corinthians 8:16
But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have.

Texts and Themes

Don’t Lose Heart
Pentecost 2B: June 3 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

New Creation
Pentecost 3B: June 10 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

Open Heart
Pentecost 4B: June 17 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Eager Generosity
Pentecost 5B: June 24 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Powerful Weakness
Pentecost 6B: July 1 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

 

More Information on the Study of 2 Corinthians

Pentecost 4B – June 17, 2018

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13– Samuel anoints David and the Spirit falls mightily upon him.

OR

Ezekiel 17:22-24– I will dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. The high tree will be brought low, and the low high.

Psalm 20– Some take pride in horses and chariots, but our pride is in the name of the Lord God.

OR

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15– The righteous shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. (Ps. 92:11)

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17– We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord

Mark 4:26-34– The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which so small, yet grows and provides branches for the birds to make nests. For an earlier post on this text by Pastor Don Carlson, check out June 17, 2012 (DC).

New Creation

Last week’s text ended with 5:1: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This week’s text begins five verses later, continuing the theme, “So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (5:6-7)

While we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. It is this view beyond the temporal world that gives Paul the freedom to walk by faith, and not by sight. He would rather be home with the Lord. This may be a perspective borne of his sufferings. Next week we will hear (6:4-10) of some of Paul’s sufferings:

…as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. 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.

Later, in 11:23-29, Paul will spell out more of the things he has endured in his missionary work:

Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?

Have you suffered? So did Paul, and Christ for that matter. You are not alone. The words of our Scriptures are not naïve with regards to suffering. So Paul can yearn for the day he is at home with the Lord.

holding hands

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. (4:8-10)

Pastors have the privilege of being with people at the point of death. It is a sacred privilege. In over a quarter century of ordained ministry, I have heard many words uttered on death beds. Joy and sorrow. Hope and regret. Not everyone is ready to let go of this mortal coil. To them, Paul’s words probably seem strange, surreal even. Sometimes death comes too soon, like a thief in the night. The hardest thing most pastors will ever have to do is bury a child.

Other people, however, are quite ready for death. Some pray for death to come with joy. Some even express frustration when it doesn’t come. After 65 years of marriage, Margaret’s husband died. Up in years herself, she had no desire to live. At 94, JoAnne had lived a long time. Her body was giving out on her little by little. She had aches and pains that she knew would never go away. “I’ve had a long life. I’ve experienced more love and joy than I had a right to expect. I’ve had hardships, but the Lord has seen me through. It’s time.”

Brian Gigee, a pastor in Pearland, a suburb of Houston, recently shared a letter written by his mother entitled, “To Be Read at My Funeral.” He crafted it in song. https://youtu.be/wQ6wcXtIZmc

Refrain
Don’t cry for me now, now that I’m gone
I’m not far away in God’s heavenly home
Any tears you may shed will just water the seas
As God blesses and grows our family tree

They said we were poor, my family and me
Nine brothers and sisters, I know they’ll agree
Through hardship and troubles, not silver and gold
God made us all conquerors with riches untold

Your father and I, we’re together again.
We’ll sit side-by-side. He’s still my best friend.
And we’ll watch over you with each night and day.
The bright torch you have carried will light your pathway

Each generations, babies new cry
We enter life’s mystery and often ask why
And soon you’ll discover, faith makes you strong
In the arms of our Savior we’re never alone

Final Refrain
Don’t cry for me now, now that I’m gone
I’m not far away in God’s heavenly home
And the story of God’s love, won’t end with this song
Don’t cry for me now, kids, God’s grace keeps us strong
In the presence of Jesus, we’re already home

Our lesson concludes with verses 14-17:

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Not nearly enough is made of Paul’s understanding of the love of Christ. It is this “love of Christ” (v. 14) that drove Jesus to endure the cross. It is this love that reshapes Paul’s understanding of faith and community. The law of Moses, written on tablets is now the law of love, written on our hearts. Without this love (1 Corinthians 13) nothing else really matters. Without this love, our preaching is just noise, faith is nothing, and even sacrifice means nothing.

Paul lives in the mystery of the crucifixion. Because Christ has died, we have all died. In Romans he said all who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death. We all die in Christ, so that we may no longer live for ourselves. We live to love one another and serve God. This is not an eschatological “pie in the sky when you die” theology. We die to ourselves to live for Christ in this world. This death means we are called to love one another and serve the Lord, whether we are away in the body or at home with the Lord. In life and in death, for Paul, all is Christ.

Following Christ, then, means nothing less than a shift in consciousness. It is a way of seeing the world, not through the lens of the moment, the lens of wealth or the lens of power, but through the lens of love, that transcends life and death. We walk by faith and not by sight. We live in love, seeing beyond our current circumstances to the bigger picture.

The lectionary does not appoint the last part of chapter 5 for our reading, but it may be worth including. In fact, I would consider reading the entire chapter. Here’s why. The last verses form the implications for what Paul has said. As N.T. Wright says (in his book 2  Corinthians), a new creation means a new ministry. The new creation means nothing less than a ministry of reconciliation, with us as ambassadors. In Christ we are reconciled to God and to one another. This returns us to love of God and neighbor as the heart of Christianity.

For a great video on seeing the world with new eyes, through a new lens, check out this $15 video at sermonspice.com: http://www.sermonspice.com/product/14972/get-service

Discussion Questions:

What might it mean to walk by faith, or live by faith? What do you think it means to walk by sight? What is the opposite of faith, doubt, fear, despair?

What might it mean for you to live your life with a ministry of reconciliation?

What might it mean for your church to carry out a ministry of reconciliation in your community?

Peru 2018

More photos to come.

We in the ELCA have created a network of global partnerships. Every synod has one or more companion synods. One of our companion synods is the Lutheran Church of Peru. We have been so blessed by our friends in Peru.

Our group came in June, from congregations in Columbus, Houston, Katy, Conroe and LaGrange. First we visited with church leaders form the Lutheran Church of Peru. Lima is a city with 12 million people in the metro area, twice the size of Houston.

Friday we had orientation and Bible study with leaders of the Peruvian church. We learned about the history of the church in Peru and planned for the festival the next day. As always, our friends showed great hospitality.

Saturday we held the festival for children and youth at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Breña, a suburb of Lima, Peru.

In the phot below, next to me is Scoly Palencia, who will be joining us for the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston soon. Patricia and David Ehler of St. Paul LaGrange, Texas lead a group in an activity, below.

Wendy and Kevin Page led games, relays and obstacle courses.

Duane and Joen Larson lovingly applied (temporary) Luther rose tatoos, which were very popular. The kids we’re excited to show off their tattoos.

Paul Schmidt and I led parachute games and gave out red clown noses donated by Yuliana Rinehart.

the group gathered for songs, Scripture, a message by Presidente Bullón and prayer. Jorge began with an interaction song.

It was a great honor to see my old friend David Turibio. The second photo is the first time we met, nearly two decades ago, in 1999.

Sunday morning – Cristo Salvador, San Juan de Miraflores, Lima

Our translators, Dina Anton and her sister Shoni Regina.

Sunday afternoon – Emanuél, Collique, Lima

Pastora Ute Ihrke-Buchroth

Sunday afternoon – El Buen Pastor, Lima

Wendy and Kevin Page, Duane Larson and Regina Anton visited Misión El Buen Pastor. Here’s what Duane has to say:

“Worship this evening was at a mission church in an area of deep poverty, El Buen Pastor, one of three congregations served by Pedro Bullón, the Lutheran Church in Peru President. Worship included interactive sermon (like a base community), confirmation of 5 adults, and my presiding en Español with a preface I’d not seen until 5 seconds before its time. Much going with the flow, and the Spirit was powerful in that place, with lots of children. Pics include sample of the community water source and flat area that is children’s only play space.”

Sunday evening – Emaús, Carabayillo, Lima

Street preacher. Pastor Andrés Palencia set up for worship in the neighborhood. All are welcome. Lots of youth sang like crazy. The oldest is Ernesto at 81 years old. We laid hands on Scoly Palencia, to send her to the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston. David and Patricia Ehler, Paul Schmidt, Dina Anton and I attended.

Monday – Lima

In the morning we met with Peruvian leaders to discuss the past and the future of our partnership. Then a visit tot he Catacombs and the Cathedral in Lima.

Ele Clay’s Ordination

Today, June 3, 2018, I had the privilege of presiding over the ordination of Ele Clay to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, at Covenant Lutheran Church in Houston. Thank you Evangeline Dai, Chris Markert and Jeanne Anderson for your photos.

Pentecost 3B – June 10, 2018

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) – The people ask for a king to succeed Samuel, despite his warnings.

OR

Genesis 3:8-15 – The curse of Adam and Eve.

Psalm 138 – I will give thanks to you O Lord with my whole heart.

OR

Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice.

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

Mark 3:20-35 – The crowd was so large, they couldn’t eat. His family came out to restrain him, for the people said he was out of his mind. Can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided cannot stand. All sins forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who do God’s will are my brother, sister and mother.

2 Corinthians 4

The next five Sundays we are in 2 Corinthians. This series consists of three things:

  1. Daily devotional readings
  2. Weekly Bible studies
  3. Weekly sermon helps

Invite people to do a daily devotion for the next five weeks, attend worship and join a study group. Recruit a group of hosts, so that there are a lot of groups at different times of the week and places in your community. All hosts have to do is open their homes and read the questions. You’ll be surprised at how much people grow, and what gets stirred up in the life of your congregation.

The devotional readings and Bible studies can be found in the book A Heart for Reconciliation which can be found at Amazon. Sermon helps can be found at  https://bishopmike.com/books-2/2-corinthians/. Many thanks to Megan Dosher Hanson for working with me to put this together.

The texts for the next few weeks fall out as follows:

Don’t Lose Heart
Pentecost 2B: June 3 – 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed daily.

New Creation
Pentecost 3B: June 10 – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 – If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. We walk by faith and not by sight, at home in the body and away from the Lord.

Open Heart
Pentecost 4B: June 17 – 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 – Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation. We have endured beatings, riots, hunger, imprisonment…

Eager Generosity
Pentecost 5B: June 24 – 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 – The offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

Powerful Weakness
Pentecost 6B: July 1 – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 – Paul’s out of body experience, and his thorn in the flesh. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Corinth

Corinth was a city about half way between Sparta and Athens, on the isthmus between northern and southern Greece. Ships could be dragged across the isthmus, if one had ancient Corinthenough slaves. It was at one time the second city of Greece, and one of the major Roman centers, along with Ephesus.

Here stood the temple to Poseidon, god of the Mediterranean, whose anger kept Odysseus from returning to Ithaca from the Trojan wars. Here were held the Isthmian games, which happened biennially and attracted huge crowds. Nero attended on November 28, 66, and he proclaimed freedom to all Greeks.

Corinth probably had a population of 130,000, though some estimate at a lower population of 90,000. It was perched 1800 feet above the harbor on a mountain called the Acrocorinth. It was a worldly city. The verb “to Corinth” (Korinthiazesthai) meant to fornicate. Aphrodites’s (the goddess of love) temple crowned the high mountain on which the city stood. The temple was staffed by a thousand female slaves, which probably lended to its great popularity with the sailors (according to Strabo).

It should come as no surprise to us that Paul’s letters to the Corinthians deal extensively with issues of marriage, misconduct and sexual morality. Shortly after Paul left, one of the church members had an affair with his stepmother. Paul is offended: even the Gentiles don’t even speak of such things. It was against Roman law, and against Jewish law as well.

Paul is suspicious of carnal relations, though not the prude that his contemporary Seneca is. “You and I who are still far from wise, must not commit the error of falling into a stormy passion which enslaves us to someone else.” —Seneca. Many chose celibacy as a “higher calling.” Paul probably would have agreed, but said it’s better to marry than be afire with lust. Paul would say, though, that it would be better to remain single so as to do the Lord’s work. (I Cor. 7:32). He did not, however, advocate divorce, saying that couples should never refuse one another sexually.

Priscilla and Aquila

In Corinth, Paul meets up with two business associates, also tentmakers, Priscilla (a diminutive for Prisca, “ancient”) and Aquila (“eagle”), who have been expelled from Rome in Claudius’ purge of the Jews. In Priscilla we encounter another tradeswoman, like Lydia. Tradespeople belonged to business associations. If Paul was making and selling tents to earn his way, it would have been natural for him to link up with others similarly engaged. Think of the freemason’s lodge or Kiwanis Club, which provide business contacts and support as well as a shared social fellowship. The words, club, association, and church are all the same word in Greek: ecclesia. It is quite possible the church started this way, as it did with Lydia in Philippi. Juvenal blamed much of the immorality and superstition of the age on the fact that women had found emancipation through these clubs. Paul said Priscilla and Aquila had “risked their necks” for his life. (Romans 16:3-4)

Titius Justus

After living with Prisca and Aquila for a couple of years, Paul moves in with Titius Justus, who, perhaps significantly, lived next door to the synagogue. There is a white marble lintel inscribed SYNAGOGE HEBRAION and an impost decorated with the seven-branched candlesticks on Lechaeum Road there. Paul reminds the Corinthians after moving on to Ephesus, that rich men supported their ministry and provided them with a meeting place.

Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I passed on to you,” this is my body, this is my blood of the new covenant…  In those days, when the number of followers of Christ were so small they could fit in one house, communion was a piece of cake (if you’ll pardon the pun) — clearly a social meal, held at the home of the person with the most square-footage. But shortly after Paul leaves, he hears of problems: divisions among believers, and drunkenness and gluttony. Here’s the problem. Most Roman dining rooms would only have space for a few diners. The rich would probably eat first, as was the custom. The poor would arrive after work, and wait around in the atrium until there was space. In addition, while waiting for the plebes to arrive, the rich were getting drunk. Paul saw this as an affront to the gospel. It is not, in his view, the Lord’s Supper at all. In addition, it could be that there would be manifestations of the Spirit that could be taken for drunkenness (e.g. tongues as in Acts 2), further clouding the issue. Which raised another divisive issue: those who spoke in tongues and those who didn’t.

Eating food sacrificed to idols.

In most ancient cities, the butchers were the priests and the priests were the butchers. Should one be a vegetarian to avoid eating meat dedicated or sacrificed to some pagan idol? Many believed that the gods were devils. Is it proper to eat food that has been sacrificed to a devil?

Paul takes a liberal approach. Just because some priest mumbled some mumbo-jumbo over the animal does not make it evil. These gods are not Gods anyway. For Paul, the important thing is that Christ made us free. Some practiced vegetarianism to avoid eating pagan meat. Others didn’t. Paul’s message: Live with one another. There were those who practiced celibacy and those who didn’t. Respect one another. There were those who were Jewish Christians and those who were Pagan Christians. Many divisions. One faith, one Lord, one baptism.

All their spirituality is worth nothing if there is not love, according to Paul in I Corinthians 13. Love is the subject of Paul’s most famous hymn, “words which, if he had written nothing else, would have guaranteed that subsequent generations would have revered Paul, seeing him as one the most stupendous religious poets and visionaries whom the world has ever known.” (A. N. Wilson, Paul, p. 173)

How many letters?

While there is little doubt among scholars that Paul is the author of 2 Corinthians, there is quite a bit of discussion over whether the Epistle was originally one letter or whether it is a composite of two or more of Paul’s letters.

Although the New Testament only contains two letters to the Corinthians, the evidence from the letters themselves is that he wrote four, at the very least:

  1. The Early Letter. 1 Corinthians 5:9 says, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons”. Paul is clearly referring to an earlier letter that predates 1 Corinthians. This is sometimes called the “warning letter”.
  2. 1 Corinthians
  3. The Severe Letter. Paul refers to an earlier “letter of tears” in 2 Corinthians 2:3–4 and 7:8. 1 Corinthians clearly does not match that description; so this “letter of tears” may have been written between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians.
  4. 2 Corinthians

The tone of the first part (chapters 1-9) of 2 Corinthians is harmonious. Then there is an abrupt change of tone. 2 Corinthians 10–13 has a bitter tone. This has led some to speculate that chapters 10–13 form part of the “letter of tears” referenced in 1 Corinthians 5:9. Those who disagree with this assessment usually say that the “letter of tears” no longer exists. It may be lost to history, as are most of Paul’s letters.

Outline

There are several ways to outline 2 Corinthians. Here is one possible way:

  1. 1:1-11 Greeting
  2. 1:12-7:16 Paul defends his actions and apostleship, affirming his affection for the Corinthians. (Our first three readings.)
  3. 8:1-9:14 Instructions for the collection for the poor in the Jerusalem church.
  4. 10:1-13:10 A polemic defense of his apostleship
  5. 13:11-13 Closing greetings

Reading schedule

It is our recommendation that participants in this study read one half of a chapter of 2 Corinthians each day. At this rate, you will progress through 2 Corinthians in less than a month. It may be advisable to read the entire letter in one sitting at first, to get a feel for the whole of the letter.

2 Corinthians 4

This week’s text comes from 2 Corinthians 4. Chapter 1 proceeds like a typical Pauline letter. He identifies himself as the author, along with his travelling companion, Timothy, who with Silvanus helped Paul to proclaim the gospel to the Corinthians. Paul gives his standard greeting, and then a blessing that evokes images of his own suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Chapter 2 begins with the words, “I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit.” And “I wrote as I did…” Paul must have written a scathing letter to them, the “Severe Letter” mentioned above. With a hint of defensiveness, Paul insists on his sincerity, saying, “We are not peddlers of God’s word like so many.” (2:17)

In chapter 3, Paul goes on to share his love for the Corinthians. They are Paul’s letter of recommendation, written on his heart, not on stone tablets, like the law. Here he hints at what may be part of the conflict. As in Galatians, the Judaizers may also be working with the Corinthians, demanding they be circumcised, follow Jewish customs and abstain from eating meat and anything not kosher. “We are ministers of a new covenant, not chiseled on stone. Paul rehearses a common theme of frustration that his Jewish colleagues do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They are “veiled” as Moses was on the mountain.

When we arrive at our chapter for today, Paul says, “we do not lose heart.” The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this world has blinded them. Paul says he and his colleagues proclaim “Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” The God who said “Let there be light,” has shined in our hearts. We have this gospel in clay jars, to show the glory is from God, not us.

Our text begins at verse 13. We have the same Spirit. And God, who raised Jesus will also raise us, and bring us all into God’s presence. Here we arrive at the heart of Paul’s faith. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (4:16) The suffering of this world is a “slight momentary affliction” in light of eternity. It is preparing us for something greater. We look beyond what can be seen to what cannot be seen. We look beyond the temporal to the eternal. The punch line comes in the first verse of chapter 5: If this earthly tent in which we live is destroyed, we know we have a house not made with hands in heaven.

One possible theme for the preaching might be perspective. Paul puts his momentary suffering in perspective. He takes the long view. In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey says to “begin with the end in mind.” Perhaps this is a Sunday to have people write their obituaries. There is something about this practice that puts things in perspective. It helps people get out of the tunnel vision of the moment and think about the broad arc of life. Our lives are atomized. What is the sum of the parts? What do our current priorities say about who we are? How will they be perceived by those who come after us?

Another theme might be spiritual growth – the outer nature and inner nature. Is your outer nature wasting away? If you’re over 25, probably so. It begins slowly at first, and becomes pronounced after 50. More importantly, is your inner nature being renewed daily? As our bodies deteriorate, is our spirit becoming more rich? Are you growing spiritually? How would you know?

Galatians 5:22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Are you growing in these fruits of the spirit? Are you a more loving person than you were at this time last year? Do you have more joy? More peace? Are you becoming more kind, generous and faithful? As our bodies wear out, the Spirit grows our inner nature.

As we become more loving and patient, more Christ-centered, we find we have more resources for the momentary sufferings we encounter. They don’t go away, but we put them in perspective and find that joy helps us in our sorrow.

Invite people to make a commitment to their spiritual lives. Take time for prayer this week, and trust that the Spirit will grow their inner nature. Take time each day to read a little Scripture (half  a chapter of 2 Corinthians). Make time for prayer, worship and study, then trust that the Holy Spirit will grow their spiritual lives.

A third approach might be found in the phrase, “So we do not lose heart…” In the midst of all the ups and downs, Christ is our hope. We might draw upon a couple of verses earlier in chapter 4, prior to our reading (4:8-10):

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

It is faith that gives us hope in the midst of any trials that come our way. Our joy does not come from our circumstances, but from our ability to see beyond our circumstances. As Nehemiah said (8:10), “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

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