Have you ever walked away from a tense conversation won-dering what caused you to get so worked up? Something was at stake for you that surprised you and caused a defensive reaction. You felt unprepared.
Throughout First Corinthians, Paul addresses issues that arise and create barriers to the gospel of Christ. Paul makes clear what he has chosen and what has chosen him. Because he has been chosen, he feels compelled to address what stands in the way of the message being made clear.
In today’s passage, Paul points directly to the question of his financial support as an apostle and revisits the question about food sacrificed to idols. He abdicates his own life patterns; his relationship to the law has been reoriented by the law of Christ. There is in him this unrelenting defense of the law of Christ. He did not choose this, and he is not getting paid for this.
Because Paul has been claimed by the gospel of Christ, he is now an athlete building stamina to address whatever stands in the way of the message so that all may come to Christ. His defense also points us toward a way to take pleasure in our calling, the proclamation of coming wholeness. He feels the strength of being entrusted with this obligation and wants to be in on it.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?” (Isa. 40:21). Just as the voice in Isaiah 40 calls us to remember our foundation, Paul calls us to remember why none of the window dressing matters. An important issue is at stake: becoming whole or stalling out.
Grant us the stamina of the athlete, the vision of the mystic and the soul of one who lives to please you, the praiseworthy God of creation and imagination. Amen.
What is the ultimate source of our strength? All the authors for this week come to the same conclusion: True strength comes from the Lord. Isaiah asks his audience: Who is like God? God never grows weary and provides unfailing strength to those who wait for God. The psalmist praises God as the one who lifts up those who are beaten down. It is not those with human strength who are truly mighty but those empowered by God. In Corinthians, Paul states that he has laid down any form of his own strength so that the gospel may advance. Jesus heals many in Mark as a demonstration of his power over the physical world. Thus, God’s power is not just a metaphor but a reality.
• Read Isaiah 40:21-31. When has your focus on past events or ones yet to come caused an inability to perceive God’s work in the present?
• Read Psalm 147:1-11, 20c. What part of your life bears witness to humanity’s desire for winners and losers? How can you help others see God’s desire for wholeness?
• Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. What behaviors are you willing to take on or give up “for the sake of the gospel”?
• Read Mark 1:29-39. What intrigues you about the pattern of concealment and revelation in Jesus’ life that Mark’s Gospel portrays?
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