The liturgy presents us with the final section (26-31) of chapter one of First Corinthians today, which means we have jumped over verses 18-25 which provides the essential context of the passage. Paul speaks in a powerful rhetoric about the cross – ironically telling us that God will destroy the wisdom of the wise. It is a little like the scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where Marc Antony attempts – as a friend of the recently assassinated Caesar to speak without the rhetoric of Marcus Brutus – when Antony actually speaks in beautiful and compelling poetry in comparison to the pedestrian and uninspired prose of Brutus. Paul uses some of his finest rhetoric in this passage to convince us of the power and wisdom of the cross. None of this makes any sense according to the human wisdom that was so highly regarded by Corinthian society (as in our own) but God can transform what is weak and foolish into that which will shame the strong and the wise.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am. (12 mins)
Sunday 4, Year A. I Corinthians 1:26-31.
Corinth was located at the end of a neck of land attaching the Peloponnese peninsula to mainland Greece and having a port facing east (Cenchreae) and another with access to the west (Lechaion), Corinth was geographically predestined to be a corridor of commerce and a potpourri of cultures. Ships could be hauled across the isthmus on chariots on the 6km paved railroad-like diolkos, whose grooves can still be seen on a surviving strip. This saved mariners sailing 300km from Athens to the Adriatic, and 160km to Naples or Rome. It also spared them sailing around Cape Maleae, proverbially treacherous for seafaring.
Ships with cargo too heavy for the diolkos would unload at one port and either haul the empty boat over the diolkos or load the cargo into a different boat at the other port. For various reasons, much cargo passed through Corinth itself. Being able to excise duty on the shipping, and celebrated for its shipbuilding and its production of bronze, ceramics, and textiles, Corinth was a wealthy city. It was also one of the ancient world’s largest. Its 10km encircling wall locked into the Acrocorinth, a rocky hill rising to a height of 600m like an impregnable fortress.
It also had a reputation of being one of the most sensual cities of the ancient world.
Montague, First Corinthians (2011, p15).
Paul first went to Corinth as part of his second missionary journey, travelling there after an unsuccessful visit to the nearby city of Athens, arriving there around the year 50. Given the melting pot that Corinth was, having been re-established and re-built as a city by Julius Caesar in 44 BCE with people from all over the world, with the top of the Acrocorinth crowned by a temple dedicated to Aphrodite that was served by one thousand sacred temple prostitutes (known as Corinthian ladies) – it would not seem to be a natural setting for a thriving Christian community. Yet this becomes Paul’s home for the next eighteen months (Acts 18). It was not without its problems, which so much of this letter is dedicated to after Paul hears from Chloe about some of the problems that have unfolded.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (12 mins)
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Each liturgical year, the second readings for the first eight weeks of the Season of the Year are taken from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians. In Year A we read sections from chapters 1-4; in Year B from chapters 6-10; and in Year C from chapters 12-15. The letter is also read at key points in each of the seasons and feast days.
Like in every one of the 13 letters that are found in the New Testament that bear the name of Paul as author, this first letter to the church in Corinth begins with a greeting:
May God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ send
you grace and peace.
Every time that Paul wrote a letter to either a whole community or to an individual, he began with this declaration that he wanted the people he wrote to know. He wanted them to know that the gift of God that was revealed in the person of Jesus, through the unity of the Holy Spirit was all about grace – “The absolutely free expression of the love of God finding its only motive in the abundance of God” – and peace – “the creative and life-giving gift of everything that is good and harmonious in this present moment.” Which sounds rather good to me.
Recorded at Ignite Summer Camp, Mapleton (14 mins)
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Although there is nothing in the Gospel of Matthew about camels, kings or even how many of the strange magi visited the child Jesus and his mother Mary – there are enough details to provide much pondering. The first chapter of Matthew’s gospel – although we are given a full (stylised) rendering of the genealogy of Jesus and then the announcement of the pending birth of Jesus from Joseph’s perspective – no information is given to provide any clue about the exact location in time or space of the events (beyond the genealogy) and no human has actually spoken a single word – only angels have spoken so far. So when the second chapter opens with a brief mention of the name of Jesus, we are told where and when he was born and we are then introduced to the central characters of this part of the story – the magoi. In fact, they are given the right and privilege to be the first humans to speak, as they ask their question: “where is the child to be born?” It is interesting that in this most Jewish of all the Gospels, that the first words are allowed to be spoken by people who are not only non-Jewish, but so totally removed from the whole Jewish story of creation, salvation and prophecy. Which leads to the question of what role strangers like this are going to have in the whole of the story, and why they are here if not at least in part to provide something like the first-fruits of the great Gospel commission that will conclude this same Gospel of Matthew in chapter 28.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 8am (8 mins)
Epiphany Sunday. Matthew 2:1-12
The understanding that Mary – a seemingly ordinary teenager growing up in Judea or Galilee who happened to be visited by the archangel Gabriel to hear the announcement that she would become the virgin mother of the saviour, who would be called Jesus – thereby becoming the mother of this unique person who was both human and divine, and therefore she also receives the title of mother of God. Not a bad title for a resume. (Although it was not uncommon in the Roman world, where the Caesar’s following on from Julius all adopted the title of ‘son of God’ for themselves, which also gave a boost to their mothers as well.) In our Diocese one of my brother priests has been struggling with this question, prompting our bishop to send a pastoral letter reminding the people of God what the church teaches on this point. So, let us take a moment to consider why this title for Mary came about, and what it might mean for us today.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am Mass (10min)
01 January – Solemnity of Mary, the holy Mother of God.
Numbers 6:22-27; Ps 66; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21