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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, June 14, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Corinthians 13:1–13                                       

This is the third time I am coming to you. “Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient—since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed.

But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (NRSV)
There is something amiss in the Corinthian community. They are a cantankerous bunch. And the Apostle Paul is at his wit’s end. They are calling his authority into question. They are testing the limits of their own relationships. And he is warning them that if things don’t shape up he may need to be “severe” in his use of authority.

As a university chaplain I often found myself dealing with cantankerous communities! I recall an experience where four seniors, who had moved into a rental across the street from our home, had what started off as a little gathering of a few friends. One sent what he thought was a note to another couple of friends, but in his intoxicated state, he wound up unintentionally sending the note to a ‘“Reply All”‘ list of 100 or more. Suddenly a small party wound up with well over 100 beer-carrying students converging on this house in our residential neighborhood. Things got loud, our neighbors with sleeping children called the police, and a couple students were arrested.

On Monday, when I was walking to work, one of the students came out of the house. She recognized me from the college and asked if I lived in the neighborhood. I pointed to our house. She went pale and simply said, “Oh.” I then said, “I was home on Saturday when the party happened at your house. I know the police were called.” That is all I said, and then she apologized to me and peeled away to class.

A couple days later our doorbell rang. When I opened it there was no one there, but there was a basket with a note and some baked goods. The note said, “We are so sorry for disturbing the neighborhood. It won’t happen again, we promise.” A holy kiss, as St. Paul says to that Corinthian community. Yes, a holy kiss, I’d say.

We all have sinned and fallen short of your glory, O God. We know the challenges of living in community, and we know the joy of abiding love that awakens as well. Help us to hold forth your holy kiss for others and especially for ourselves, as we stumble along through life. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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