Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

This passage occurs in the RCL Epiphany Season, Year C, most recently January 2013.
Summary:  I looked at Paul's words from 1st Corinthians today.  I am not sure if I have arrived at a sermon, because the words really spoke to me as a leader.  Do I really honor the weaker members of my church?  Do I see myself as brother and sister in Christ to other Christians, especially outside of my congregation?  If there is something worth preaching on though, it is Paul's communal understanding of Baptism, over and against our individual notions of salvation.

εβαπτισθημεν ("baptize" or "dip", from βαπτιζω, 12:13)  Two things are worth pointing out here.  First, that Baptism is in the passive here.  In the Old Testament, cleansing rituals were done by an individual for one's self.  Baptism is a passive experience; it is something that is done to us by God, through the church.

It is also worth noting that Paul here puts a clearly communal understanding of Baptism.  Most of Western reflection on Baptism has noted the individual's relationship to Christ, but here, Paul uses Baptism to speak of the bridge between each of us.

τιμη ("honor"; 12:24) Our society is not an honor - shame society.  The ancient world was.  A modern example of this is in Wii tennis (a product of Japan, still an honor-shame society).  When you lose, you sulk with your head down.  I suppose I should say more about the historical conditions of shame and honor, but the point doesn't get lost in translation.  To give honor to the poor, inept and feeble is what Paul commends to us here.  Do we do this in our churches?  We all honor our star volunteers, but what about the people who consistently don't perform they way we need them to.

σχισμα ("divisions"; literally schism, 12:25)  Paul explains that their should be no schisms in the body.  This is a painful word for me because clearly the church around the world is not united.  Ironically, Baptism is one of the issues about which we most often disagree!

κυβερνησις ("government" or "guidance", 12:28)  Greattreasures.org defines this word as as:  "a steering, piloting, direction, hence, a governing. The idea being that of guidance rather than rule."  I think this really defines well the role of a pastor.  One who steers, but doesn't rule.

Grammar:  συν verbs
In Greek, the prefix συν (syn in English) is often added to verbs to give them a collective meaning.  We can translate this in English, but we add words.  In verse 26, Paul uses most of his verbs (co-suffer; co-rejoice) with συν.