It’s one of those happy years when eastern and western Christian calendars coincide and Lenten seasons begin and conclude in the same weeks. Last year these movable seasons were five weeks off so that Orthodox Christians were in the heart of their fasts while Catholics and Protestants were feasting and singing the Hallelujahs. (And for anyone attending western services in, say, countries like Greece, that is a big drag, as I discovered in 2005). Even those on the Old Calendar will celebrate Pascha on April 20.
For the Lenten season this year, I plan on running a little weekly series on resources in reading and understanding 1 and 2 Corinthians. As any reader knows, “plan” is a fluid word here at Corinthian Matters since busy semesters and greater priorities frequently disappoint my good intentions. But, if I can stay on my game, I’ll put together a series of posts reviewing scholarship, sites, and studies of the apostle Paul’s Corinthian correspondence directed to broader audiences. Indeed, I’ll be thinking a bit about these issues as I’ve been asked to give a Lenten series at my own church in Harrisburg on 1 Corinthians. My series is titled “Meeting the Corinthians”.
So, today, on this ashen Wednesday, the reading that many Christians in western churches will hear comes from 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10. Here is the New Revised Standard Version from the Lectionary Page (in the Episcopal tradition):
“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”