Last Sunday, we began the long series of green Sundays known as the Second through the Last Sunday after Pentecost. This series of green Sundays lasts this year until Advent Sunday on December 2. This series of green Sundays gives us a choice for the Old Testament readings and Psalms.
We may choose either Track 1 or Track 2. Track 1 follows major stories and themes. Year A begins with Genesis; Year B draws from the history of the kings; and Year C presents the later prophets. Track 2, on the other hand, finds an Old Testament parallel to the continuous proclamation of the Gospel associated with each of the three years in the cycle of readings. The Old Testament parallel thematically foreshadows Jesus Christ’s teachings and ministry. In Tracks 1 and 2, the Psalm underscores or amplifies the Old Testament reading. We use the Track 2 readings.
We have, then, three readings, two of which are thematically related, and one of which stands out on its own and apart from the thematic emphasis. The Old Testament and the Gospel are the ones related, and the Epistle only coincidentally compares with the other two. Preachers find themselves accordingly of addressing the Epistle by forming an unwarranted connection to the Gospel. Che sera, sera.
Having the conviction that preachers have an obligation to preach the Gospel, I usually preach about it and use the thematic parallel in the Old Testament and Psalm to buttress the idea drawn from the Gospel. This approach neglects the Epistle, and so from time to time, though especially on the Sundays after Pentecost, I address the Epistle in A Priestly Word, my weekly email to the parish and its friends.
As we begin the long series of green Sundays, we find ourselves reading Second Corinthians, and we shall continue to read it for the next five Sundays, through July 8.
Second Corinthians requires St Paul to deal with one or more crises that have arisen in the Corinthian church. We lack any information about these crises except what is contained in the letter itself, and the letter supposes that the readers are already familiar with what those matters are. Constructing the background of the Epistle, therefore, is an uncertain enterprise, though we can draw from it three major topics:
1. a crisis between Paul and the Corinthians occasioned partially by changes to his travel plans (1:12–2:13) and the successful resolution to that crisis (7:5-16)
2. additional instructions and encouragement about the collection for the church in Jerusalem (8:1–9:15)
3. Paul’s definition and defense of his ministry as an apostle (2:14–7:4 and 10:1–13:10). This matter is brought to the fore by visitors from other churches who passed through Corinth who differ from Paul in a number of ways.
Sunday’s reading (4:13–5:1) declares Paul’s sense of eternal life within himself (“we have a building from God”) and his belief that God who raised Jesus from the dead “will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.” Paul envisions and foresees God presenting him (Paul) and the Corinthians to Jesus on the last day at the last judgment. This vision accords with the final statement of the Nicene Creed: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 359).