I am currently interning at St Peter's in the City in Tauranga. We've just started a series on 1 Corinthians and here is a wee soliloquy I wrote for the congregation here from the perspective of a woman in the Corinthian church and how she may have responded to Paul's letter to them. It's written to be read aloud with all sorts of emphasis, exaggeration and dramatic pauses. For those biblical scholars among you, I may not have got all the history quite right, but don't let that get in the way of a good story.
It was good to see young Timothy yesterday, bearing a letter from our brother Paul. While his letter was read, I could hear Paul’s voice in my head. It was as if he was right here with us again. I wish he was right here with us again.
He’d stayed in Corinth 18 months, stitching tents and speaking the truth and teaching us about Jesus the Christ. That was three years ago though. He’s been gone for twice as long as he was here.
I’ve been missing him, and I’m not the only one. Yet there are others who have said, ‘good riddance’, they say they’re glad he’s gone. They speak of him badly behind his back and belittle the gospel he brought.
But despite all the backstabbing and backsliding, despite all the disgrace, Paul refuses to turn his face from us. In fact, he said he thanked God for us. I am grateful for our God is faithful. Paul is like a prophet, a mouthpiece for God, with words ringing true, “you are my children and I love you.”
How on earth did we forget? When did we stop understanding? Did we ever understand? Even with all this wisdom and knowledge at hand? But what is wisdom without love? What is sophia without sacrifice?
Sophia: the wisdom of God, the Spirit of God, the power of God. That’s what Paul talked about. I wish he would come and sort this out; this mess we’ve made of our lives of faith. But his letter is better than nothing.
I couldn’t understand it all though, trust Paul to trail off. I could hear the love of Christ in his words, and I could hear his love for us. I don’t remember all that was said, if only I could read that letter over and over so Paul’s words to us about our God of love could be etched into my body and written all over my heart. If only I could read.
I’ll have to ask Andre when he gets home; hopefully he’ll remember more of the letter than I do. I do remember that bit, though, the bit about the wives not calling out in the ecclesia, and if they have any questions to ask their own husbands at home.
No doubt these words will kick up a fuss amongst some of the woman around here. But that’s no different; they’re used to causing a ruckus, some of our dear women are. Frankly, it can be embarrassing and I’m grateful for Paul’s boldness. It’s better if they keep quiet and control their tongues – we woman are not exempt from order either. It’s no different for the women than it is for the men; Paul’s right, we all encounter freedom in Christ but not in a way that brings disorder.
All things ought to be done decently and order. But there hasn’t been much of that lately – there has been a distinct lack of decency. Maybe it’s just the Corinthian way, but it’s certainly not the Christian way. This church has become a mirror image of the city of Corinth.
This seaport city is busy and bustling, cliquey and cultish. Our city is a melting pot of Jews and Greeks, soldiers and sailors and slaves, philosophers and freedmen, prostitutes and peddlers and trades-people. And this Church is no different; made up of all and sundry, a sure sign that the Spirit of God is not concerned with status. Diverse: yes. Yet, divisive. Our people scrabble and squabble, dead set to defend their social standing. We are not so different from the rest of the Corinth, and we ought to be. Just like Corinth, we too are large and licentious; full of sexual immorality, idolatry, lawsuits, and a complete lack of unity. But we ought to be different because we are a body, we are his body – that’s another of the brilliant things Paul wrote about. He said Christ is the head and we are like a body with many parts, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free, male or female – by God’s Spirit we experience unity even in the midst of our diversity. In this body, all belong, all are blessed, all are loved.
Love. Paul had a lot to say about that in his letter too. I remember it well:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
Love; the greatest gift of all. “Follow the way of love,” Paul said, and I’m certain he doesn’t mean the way of prostitution at Aphrodite’s temple – the goddess of love, she’s called, but her way is reckless and disrespectful. The kind of love Paul is talking about, the love of God in Christ, that’s ... indispensable. And I wouldn’t exchange that for the world, not for wealth nor wisdom.
But some of my brothers and sisters take pride in precisely those things; so called wealth and so called wisdom. They’ve secured a high standing for themselves and are desperate to defend their independence. They won’t let anyone hold them up or hold them down, they think their honour is at stake. And at the Table they won’t even wait, everything is a race to the top. Even in worship. Words that were once spoken to God alone have become a resounding gong and an endless drone.
I’m glad Paul wrote to remind us of who we were when we were called; without wisdom and without honour, weak and wounded, foolish and frail. And Christ our Lord has born our weaknesses and our foolishness; he has become for us our strength, our righteousness, and our redemption. That’s what Paul wanted us all to remember. Sophia: the wisdom of God, the Spirit of God, the power of God.
I praise you our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.