Devotions for 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
May 16-22, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
“Paul an apostle of Christ by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 1:1a).
Being an apostle of Christ was not in the career path that Paul had mapped out. Paul’s plans were changed, though, when he was traveling to Damascus in order to expand the persecution of the followers of Jesus. Paul met Jesus on that road and he was changed by that encounter. The course of his life was changed, too. By God’s will Paul became an apostle and one of the Church’s greatest missionaries and theologians. We can learn a lot about ourselves from Paul’s perspective on himself.
Many clergy and other church professionals will say that they have been called by God to serve just as Paul was called. A majority of the people of God seldom share this same sense of call, but we should. Martin Luther taught that all believers were priests. As priests we serve God in our various vocations with our gifts and talents. We are also intermediaries between God and our neighbors who seek to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and share God’s love and grace.
Imagine the difference it would make in our lives, in the Church and in the world if we all understood ourselves to be called by God to our careers and our activities. Like Paul we could say, “I am Akihito, a computer engineer by the will of God.” “I am Carlota, a surgeon by the will of God.” I am Ken, a carpenter by the will of God,” or “I am Sarah, a student by the will of God.” Who we are and what we do is not be accident but rather by the will of God.
Mighty Lord you have created us to be who we are and called us to be what we do. Empower us to use our gifts and talents in the manner in which you intend them to be used. Amen.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1b).
On May 1, 2011 Pope John Paul II became a saint. This occurred after a lengthy process of investigation. Such an investigation is still going on for Mother Teresa. She may or may not be designated a saint in the fall of 2016. The criteria that the Roman Catholic Church uses to determine a saint is different from Paul’s criteria. Paul writes his letter to all of the saints throughout Achaia. Paul is inclusive rather than exclusive.
The word, “saint” is usually understood to mean a “person of God.” There is the idea that the person has been “set aside” or “marked” to be used by God. Unfortunately, this isn’t the common use of the word. In the common vernacular a saint is a super holy person–a perfect person, as opposed to a sinner. People often use the disclaimer, “Well, I ain’t no saint,” as an excuse for their behavior.
We may not be perfect, but we are still saints–at least in Paul’s understanding of the term. Martin Luther said that Christians were at the same time sinners and saints. As sinner/saints, we can rejoice that we have been set apart by God to serve God. We can also give thanks for the unconditional forgiveness of God when we become aware of our sinful nature.
Loving Lord, thank you for gathering us into your family, accepting us for who we are and forgiving us. Amen.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
“Who consoles us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:4a).
Amy stood at the graveside of her father. Grief enveloped her. Amy’s father had been her guiding light, her main cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, and a source of steadfast love and unconditional acceptance. His laughter, hugs and even his scent would no longer be a part of her life. Immersed in her grief Amy heard a voice. “I am the resurrection and the life,” was all it said. There was comfort, strength and hope in that voice and they began to seep into Amy’s life.
Juan’s eyes swept around the restaurant. It had been in Juan’s family for fifty years, but it was obvious that it had seen better days. His aging father and mother could no longer run the business. If it was going to remain in the family, Juan would need to breath new life into the business. Juan wasn’t sure that he could do that, but as he walked around the empty restaurant he remembered a Bible verse that he had learned long ago, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Those words stirred up faith and determination at the core of Juan’s being. With budding dedication tinged with doubt Juan stepped into the future.
The Spirit’s presence in our lives gives us the ability to face life. There are times when we feel overwhelmed and unable to stand let alone move forward. The consolation and the encouragement that the Spirit inspires within us, though, enables us to get up and face the challenges of life. In God’s strength we move forward.
Comforting Lord, console us in our grief, overcome our fears, strengthen our resolve and embrace us with your love. Amen.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
“So that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:4b).
Ken and Mary became members of the “Cancer Club” when their seven year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. Suddenly they were immersed in a world of hospital stays, doctor appointments and potent drugs. Ken and Mary rode the roller coaster of advances and set-backs. For many months the disease ruled their lives, but remission and then cure was finally achieved.
Since those horrible days, Ken and Mary have met many people with cancer. Being members of the Cancer Club there is an immediate connection with the people. Ken and Mary have been able to lend their comfort, support, advice and hope to those who had been fighting the disease. Their presence and the fact that they and their daughter have survived, was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Spirit moves within our life experiences to mold us into God’s image and produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Like everything else in our lives, though, our experiences are not to be hoarded but rather shared. We can be consolers and encouragers to those who are going through what we have experienced. God can use us to help others through their difficult times.
Divine Presence, you have walked with us through the storms of our lives. Now empower us to walk through those storms with others. Amen.
Friday, May 20, 2016
“If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6).
Maria Ramos enlisted in the Marines because she felt called to serve her country. After several months of training she was deployed to Afghanistan. One day on a routine patrol her squad was ambushed. Maria was seriously wounded and lost her leg below the knee as a result of her wounds. Maria paid a price in order to serve the people of her country. Sam Jenkins defended a new student at his school when a couple of jocks harassed the student and called him gay. The jocks threatened to get back at Sam for stopping their fun and they began to spread the rumor that Sam was gay. Sam paid a price for getting involved but Sam knew it was worth it.
Paul endured many great hardships as he and his companions traveled to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was jailed, beaten and shipwrecked. He would not have done what he did simply because he had a hunger for adventure. Paul was willing to pay a price because he loved God and he loved the people who had yet to hear the gospel.
Love is not easy and it isn’t cheap. Often we experience hardships because of our love for others. We are willing to pay the price, however, because of our love. When we pay the price of love others are blessed–and we are too.
Loving Lord, you willingly paid the price for your love of humankind. Enable us to follow your example and willingly pay the price for loving the people around us. Amen.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
“Our hope for you is not unshaken” (2 Corinthians 1:7).
The church at Corinth was a basket case. Some of the members were sexually immoral. They had received the Holy Spirit, but they used the gifts of the Spirit selfishly in order
to build themselves up rather than serve others. There were divisions and arguments among them and they were in constant turmoil. It would have been easy for Paul to have turned his back on the Corinthians and given up on them. Paul didn’t do this. He writes in his letter that he did not lose hope him them.
Paul’s hope was not in intelligence or faith of the Corinthians. Neither was Paul’s hope in his preaching abilities and his power of persuasion. Paul’s hope was in the power of the Holy Spirit. He trusted that the Holy Spirit would be able to move in the lives of the Corinthians and bring them new life. Even when it didn’t appear that positive change was occurring in the Corinthian church Paul did not give up hope.
There are probably some people who gave up hope on us for one reason or another. At least one or two people, though, hung in their and didn’t lose faith. We will undoubtedly encounter people who we think are beyond hope. We can learn a lesson from Paul and never give up hope in God’s powerful work in the lives of people.
Steadfast Lord, you never gave up hoping in us. Move within us that we never give up hope on others. Amen.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
“For we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
These words catch us by surprise. It is difficult for us to imagine that Paul was ever in such dire straits. We know that Paul experienced hardships but they always seemed to turn out okay. He was thrown in jail, but was freed by an earthquake. Many people objected to Paul’s message and opposed him, but Paul was still able to heal people and cast out demons. Obviously Paul had greater struggles than we might first think.
We can identify with Paul, though. There have been times when we have felt that we have been unbearably crushed. We know what it means to despair of life itself. There are times when all hope is gone and life is a breath away from overwhelming us. Like Paul we survived, though. God did not forsake us. God moved in some way to bring hope and life back into our situations.
The horrible stuff that happens to us and the humongous obstacles that we face may overwhelm us and be beyond our capability to overcome. God is with us, though, and where God is, there is hope and life.
O Mighty Fortress, you are our hope and we cling to you. Keep us from fear and despair. Amen.