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Lenten Reading Challenge: 1 Corinthians 8 to 16

• When and Where
We noted that Paul likely wrote around 53 or 54 yesterday, to a divided church in a diverse urban hub. As you read, note how the concerns of this early church are similar to our own challenges in this time and place. Paul’s statements and standards may or may not be simply applied as eternal rules, but his wrestling with shaping these early communities certainly applies as we wrestle to learn what discipleship is in our day.
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• Key Insights
In this second part of the letter, Paul writes magnificently about spiritual gifts, love and the resurrection. In chapter 8, Paul sets a high, but not absolute, standard about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. On the one hand concerns can be dismissed since idols aren’t real, on the other hand, the effect on one’s neighbor must be considered – so it is not clear cut, black and white – but relational. Note how this same reasoning, subject to Scripture and informed by tradition and experience plays out in other discussions.

• Big Picture
Paul emphasizes that we are in this together. Note how individual spiritual gifts are given for the good of the larger body, the church. While Paul teaches on many subjects here, the letter returns again and again to communal, relational themes. This emphasis makes declaring absolutes difficult, but Paul certainly doesn’t think anything goes. One of the aspects of the United Methodist church that I treasure is our emphasis on connectionalism and commitment to ecumenism and interfaith cooperation. Like Paul, we seek to live in the tensions of faith, running the race to the best of our God-given ability.

I hope our Lenten journey has started well for you. Sunday is not counted as part of Lent, rather being a “little Easter” and so we take a break tomorrow to ponder, reflect, and worship. Monday we jump back in with two very short texts, Philemon and Philippians.

Blessings on your reading!

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