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Galatians 1:1-10; 2:11-21 What do we consider beyond the pale?  What behaviour or what belief is out of bounds? How does a group or individual prove themselves to be completely unacceptable? In this context we might say that so and so or such and such is “anathema.” It might be as trivial as the way a […]

A thorn in my flesh

2 Corinthians 12:1-21 Difficult people, chronic illness, vocal opposition, disability, bureaucrats in your way – all sorts of long-term problems might be called “a thorn in your flesh.” Ever since the curse was pronounced in Eden, thorns have tormented us: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all […]

Suffer fools gladly

2 Corinthians 11:1-33 “He didn’t suffer fools gladly” reads the obituary… “Cantankerous old grouch” we imagine…  Or at least I do.  I might be wrong in the particulars, but that’s how I read the phrase in general. No-one ever does suffer fools gladly.  We are only told when someone definitely does not.  And since, generally, […]

The letter of the law

2 Corinthians 3:1-18 –  The fat-cat who exploits every tax loop-hole imaginable… –  The hospital which lets pedantic box-ticking get in the way of patient-care… –  The cricketer whose legal ploy is nonetheless “not cricket” (New Zealanders will never forgive Australians for this one! )… In all these cases we’d say they obeyed the letter […]

O death where is thy sting?

1 Corinthians 15:1-58 When Monty Python’s Life of Brian came out 30 years ago it caused a tremendous stir. Now there are definitely reasons to object to the film.  But we should not object simply because the film makes fun of religious people.  Jesus made fun of religious people.  Constantly.  (e.g. The Mote and the […]

In the twinkling of an eye

1 Corinthians 15:1-58 What have been the decisive moments in your life?  Can you pinpoint certain choices or “chance encounters” that have shaped your destiny?  One single piece of news, good or bad, can change everything.  Sometimes our whole world can turn “in the twinkling of an eye.” When the Apostle Paul coined this phrase, […]

Faith, hope and love

1 Corinthians 13:1-14:5 Heaven is a world of love.  So said Jonathan Edwards in a famous sermon by that title.  His text was our verse for today: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13) It’s a trio that Paul uses often in his letters […]

Now we see through a glass darkly

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 How would you compare life now to life when Jesus returns? So often we think of ‘the here and now’ as the concrete reality and Christ’s future as an ephemeral, ‘wafty’ hope.  Paul thought of things precisely the other way around. In the final paragraph of First Corinthians 13, Paul addresses our future […]

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 First Corinthians 13 is dynamite.  It explodes every myth humanity has ever bought about spirituality. As we saw last time, Paul holds out three models of super-spirituality:  the ecstatic worshipper, the profound prophet and the stoic do-gooder.  And he then detonates a bomb under each of them.  None of these super-saints are […]

A faith that can move mountains

1 Corinthians 12:1-13:3 Together with the 23rd Psalm, and perhaps John chapter 1, First Corinthians 13 is among the most popular chapters in the Bible.  It is read at weddings and at funerals, at state ceremonies, hospital bedsides, school assemblies.  It is the go-to Scripture for any and every occasion.  It is often simply known […]