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Was Paul Crucified for You?

Was Paul Crucified for You?

Monday, March 10, 2014 – Week of 1 Lent, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Genesis 37:1-11

1 Corinthians 1:1-19

Mark 1:1-13

I love moments when we read our ancient Scriptures and can almost hear the vivid tone and personality of its human author. In today’s second reading, that distinct and lively voice belongs to Paul. I can almost hear his exasperation. I can almost see him roll his eyes in frustration. I almost shiver at his sarcasm.

Paul has heard about divisions and quarrels among the Christians in Corinth, where people are forming their factions and identities around different figures who influenced their faith. Some say they belong to Paul, others to Apollos, still others to Cephas, and yet others to Christ. So Paul asks them facetiously, “Was PAUL crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of PAUL?” (I should hope not!)

There are moments when that witty rhetorical question might come in handy . . . perhaps the next time someone brings up a “gotcha” verse from one of the epistles. Imagine responding, “Maybe so, but was PAUL crucified for us?”

Paul is, of course, tremendously responsible for the spread of the gospel and for our understanding of conversion, of cultural inclusion, and of mission. But I believe that we misuse Paul’s legacy when we elevate his teaching—or anyone’s teaching—above what we learn directly from the love of God that took the form of death on a cross.

Was Paul crucified for us? Was John the Evangelist crucified for us? Was St. Benedict crucified for us? Was Queen Elizabeth I? Was John Wesley? Was Pastor So-and-So? Of course not.

Paul tells us in his letter that he does not want his own teaching to take the place of what Christ’s cross has to teach us. Paul says that he was sent by Christ “to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.”

I hope that for Christians, no governmental or ecclesiastical or textual authority holds more power than the cross of Christ, with its outstretched arms, its invitation to live in the kingdom of God, and its honesty about the potential consequences. Not even Paul himself would wish otherwise. So through this day, and throughout this season of Lent, let us learn all that we can as directly as possible from the cross of Christ.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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