With One Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons  They weren’t drunk. Although to most it sounded as if they were. They seemed to have been under the influence of some kind of spirits. And they were.

Jesus has appeared to the women, to Peter and the other disciples who came on shore to have breakfast with Peter and Jesus. Along with all the others he has been a presence to all those he loved in the world. Even Thomas who was not with the others, was given a chance to touch him in his wounded place. For like us, it is often in our wounded places that we touch and are touched by the presence of Christ.

It’s this presence that comes breaking through the walled barriers of the upper room on Pentecost. It is one of Jesus’ final manifestations after he came back from death. But it is not his physical presence but his Spirit that comes as fire upon the disciples. No closed doors, no walls, and not even their fears and doubts could keep the promised Spirit of Christ away from them. And it is Peter who realizes what is going on. Peter, who has gone through so much, been tested in his own fire, and the call to care for those he has been given, that is able to see that what has come upon them is the intoxication of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. In that same Spirit, the disciple who once ran away, now stands up. Peter has finally got it. He will keep the Lord in his sights for the remainder of his days. He knows now the way of life. Their fear and sorrow has turned to joy in the presence of the living Christ.

Jesus has stood on the hill just outside Bethany, blessing them and then appears to have arisen into the heavens, departing them this one last time.

Everyone in Jerusalem is overtaken by the sending of the Spirit, and they began to hear what the disciples were saying in their native tongues. It is the first convening of the United Nations. No translation or translator was needed. The disciples of Jesus would leave the upper room and the day of Pentecost and go out to live together with one heart. The heart of Christ.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the language of the soul was given voice. St. Paul talks about being in Christ. Being in Christ for him is about living in his Spirit. And when we live in the Spirit of Christ, who can come like fire, or like a gentle wind, or tug at your heart, as Paul says in Romans, the Spirit of Christ, has made a home in us. And abides with us in the absolute freedom of the Spirit which knows no barriers, no obstacles, no walls or door, not even death. Paul tells us we no longer live under the shadow of death. We now live in the unending time of Easter and of Pentecost. In the fire of the Spirit, in the heart of Christ.


The Christ-self

  brillant leaves    Autumn is a season of striking transformation. Unlike Spring which comes slowly, softly, tiny shoots rising up out of the earth, small green buds gradually come to bloom on the trees, autumn blazes across the landscape. Right now the Midwest is ablaze with change. The trees that rumble across the landscape in shades of green one day are a warm palette of reds, orange, yellows, rusts, purple, crimson the next. We drive across the countryside searching for the passion and blaze of this season, before all falls away into winter.

Whether landscape or mindscape, change is at the very heart of the natural world and of human life. The worlds turning tells us this with each new day, with each season, in each plant, species and amoeba. Down to the very last cell of DNA we possess within us the ability to grow, to change, and to become. In fact, it is human nature to be in an on-going state of becoming.

We have often heard the word transformation used in the word conversion. John the Baptist would use the word repent, by which he meant return. It was a return to the one true faith and God of Israel. Yahweh. The living God. His was the outspoken cry from the wilderness, beside the Jordan, where a sign of being transformed was emersion in the waters of the Jordan. For whatever reason it was John’s activities that caused Jesus to come from Nazareth to the river that day, where his life too would, by the gospel accounts, change as well.

Paul’s very first letter to the Thessalonians was a call to change, to be converted, transformed so that they might follow and serve the true and living God. It is in Ephesians that we find the heart, soul and core of his message to the infant church that he is guiding into being. Paul’s call to put on Christ, to live your lives in Christ, is summed up in the hidden self that he prays will grow strong within us. This hidden self is Christ. The Christ-self.

This Christ-self is the Christ that may live in our hearts through faith, and it is in our hearts that we will know the love of Christ, which Paul adds is beyond all knowledge, so that we become filled with the utter fullness of God. It is this Christ-self, the Christ-life within is Paul’s raison d’etre.

To grow, if you will, to become more and more aware of the Christ-self within. It is in Christ, in the Christ-self that we participate and become part of the life of God. In Christ’s love for us is the utter, absolute, complete life of the living God. We could also speak about the sacred self.

All theology is anthropology. Of necessity then, to speak a word about God, is to speak about the human person as well. It is to speak of the sacred in the human heart – by this Paul meant in the depths of our being. Paul’s call to live in Christ is shaped by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. For Paul death, death with Christ, becomes the corridor to the fullness of being. A death that because we live in Christ, also means that we come to new life, transformed in him as well.

Autumn will give way to the sometimes dark and dreary days of winter. But in that winter, after the fall of the leaves, the dying out of the colors that so brilliantly blaze across the landscape today, will come, as the year itself dies away, a celebration of something that may be just a myth, but within that recurring myth, is the truth of the Christ coming upon the landscape of our waiting hearts.

Enamored in autumn’s brilliance is a promise. The promise of He who is ever new. The Christ-self as our abiding and permanent openness to God.

Written on the Heart

  last rose of summer  It’s taken some time to look at the ways of transformation Paul saw in those who would live in Christ. Who would put on the garment of the Christ-life, as followers of his risen Lord? It was an all-encompassing change that he believed possible to experience. He begins at the beginning, with Adam. Christ is now the first fruit of creation, a renewal of one’s entire life, for all who belong to him. As that belonging becomes longing we come alive, from merely being flesh driven people to being alive to the freedom of the Spirit of Christ. The old code is a by-gone cryptogram written on stone but one that was to be held in the hearts of the people. The sacred Torah, the Law, become the law of love.

Paul speaks in different ways about the Law/law throughout his letters. He uses it as a reference point, always to his own advantage, to the particular point and to a particular people at any given moment. There is no single understanding of what Paul means when he says law. It is always nuanced. But one thing is evident. The law, whether that of the prescriptions of how to live a just life, or whether he means the Torah, whether he uses it as a symbol for the Israel that he now sees as past, or the new Israel that he is advancing, in Christ the law is transformed into a Person, into Love.

The transformation from law to love, from letter to spirit, is the centrality of Paul’s message. How to live one’s life is not something written in stone, but a person, the life of a Person who is now the standard, the guide, the norm and the entire content of how life is to be lived.

Libraries have been written about the Law and Love in Judaism, Paul’s letters and in the gospels. I’m sure I have nothing new to add to the discourse. (Other than the fact that I am an ordinary lay person, like Jesus, Paul and the evangelists, many of whom had day jobs.)

Love too is an over-used and misunderstood word. Here too Paul is fearless. In the end, for all the sorting we must do to regather his message, it all comes down to Paul on his knees. To a prayer. A prayer for us. It all comes to being filled with the utter fullness of God. (Ephesians 4:14-19) The fullness which for us is Jesus Christ.

Making our approach to the Christ-self, the ways in which we are changed into the Christ-self, like water into wine, become the life-blood of how we come to be in Christ. We step from shadow into light. Evil is transmuted into the higher good that embraces well-being and healing. All that was weak within us, like Paul, is put to another use, a higher purpose, a strength that is the power of God at work in us through the Spirit of Christ.

Going from Law to Love does not mean we give up the message of Deuteronomy. But now in Christ the law written on our hearts, becomes the Word that takes flesh in our lives. A new way not only of being but of seeing. Through that dark glass of the ancient code we see a clearer vision on the horizon of being that is a person who is the way, the way to himself.

Thank you to my viewers

All things are eventually redeemed in the heart of God.

The Guarded Heart

Thank you to all of you all over the world who are viewing this blog and following along. Lent is finished, but I am not finished with Paul. Forty days is not enough time to read and reflect on his letters. There are a few more letters to read. Paul’s wisdom for a lifetime.  I trust you will continue with me and spread the word. We could spend a lifetime sifting through letters for all the gems that are there for us to take with us each day. Treasures to support us on our journey. I am thinking these letters should appear first in the New Testament because they were written earlier than the gospels and also because give incite into the life of Jesus. Paul is, as we are now, living and writing after the resurrection. But Jesus’ heart and soul, life and mission shine out from Paul to all of us today.

In his farewell to the Philippians, Paul has some endearing and encouraging words for all of us. He says I want you to be happy, happy in the Lord. Reading the passage that follows this (chapter 4:5-9) I am struck once again of Paul’s affection and care for the first Christians. Paul’s very positive good wishes for his listeners. And I am also struck that the churches as they formed over the past two thousands years failed to teach and preach the God, the Christ Jesus, that wants our happiness and well-being first and foremost.

Scholars and Preachers, take heed.  It is not too late to get the message right.

Paul, like God,  doesn’t want us to worry. He says if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving and that peace of God…will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

As we go forward on our journey, allowing Paul to accompany us and dialogue with us in his letters, he asks that we remember what he has taught and lived. These are values that will enrich our lives, as we pray for what we need, thanking God for all our blessings. Virtues that grace and guard our hearts, and to continue to be mindful of:

Fill your minds with everything that is true,

everything noble and pure,

everything we love and honor,

those things that are virtuous and worthy of praise.

I would say with Paul, the truest, noblest, most virtuous and worthy of praise is the Christ life that guards, loves and honors us and wants to be kept in our hearts and lives.

P.S. Paul is writing this letter from prison. Which makes his faith, hope and good wishes for his audience even more remarkable.

Partners of the Promsie

Wednesday of Holy Week

As we enter more deeply into this Holy Week, I am struck by the positive nature of Paul’s letters. They are encouraging, prayerful, instructive, supportive and, yes, affectionate.

A few weeks into writing this blog, I had to ask myself what I was doing. Making a commitment to write every day, show up and have something to say about what I had read. But at this juncture, I have to say I am glad that I did. I have learned a lot. And my primary goal was to keep Christ in my sights for these forty days. To pay attention to the Christ-life that I strive to grow into. It reminds me of something Maya Angelo said when some asked her if she was a Christian. She said ‘I am becoming a Christian.’

In Ephesians part of Paul’s parting instructions are about ‘morals of the home’. It is the oft quoted ‘wives submit to their husbands’. As indicated before in this blog, if we read the entire passage, we see that Paul is also telling husbands to love their wives. And, using Christ as the supreme example of martial love, Christ for his church; like Christ husbands are to ‘sacrifice’ for their wives. Paul goes on to ask respect from children for their parents and masters for those who serve them (‘slaves’). This was a reality of the times as well, but Paul is addressing the abuses that men, children and ‘masters’ committed, enjoining on them Christ-like treatment of one another.

It’s important to remember that this is a patriarchal world Paul is addressing and lives in. In his stance, he is addressing things as they are, where households are headed by men, but also going further and asking men to respect, love and honor their wives. Paul is championing a portrait of marriage as a mutual, respectful partnership, where love and the well-being of the other person is the foremost consideration.

The instructions in this passage are really aimed at the men who are being told to treat women as they would treat/love themselves. It is the man who is to leave everything else behind, father and mother, and give himself wholly over to this relationship, again mirroring Christ’s stance to his church. At the end of Philippians, Paul acknowledges the women who have a certain independence, are companions of his fellow assistants, and have aided him in the spread of the Good News, helped in defending the faith. He says Their names are written in the book of life. They are along with Paul and the other apostles, Partners of the Promise, bringing the new of its fulfillment, no longer as a place, but in the person of Jesus the Christ. Persons in their own right. Perhaps few and far between, but it was a beginning. It was the intention and imitation of Jesus, which Paul understood even more relevant to the Christ-life.

I am again reminded of something the poet Rilke wrote, that seems to me to be carefully hovering between the lines in Paul’s letters on the subject of women and their roles, roles that included discipleship and advancing the faith. In Letters to a Young Poet Rilke writes:

Someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely an opposite of the masculine but something in itself…not of any compliment and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being. This advance will change the love-experience, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer man to woman. And this more human love…will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and harbor and salute each other.

The Waiting Remnant

IMG_0231      In some respects one might say we are still the waiting remnant of Israel. Waiting to take the fullness of our humanity as sacred and meant into the fullness of our faith-life. Waiting yet to bring to fullness the realization and embrace of our identity as Christians as it is rooted in the journey of Israel. Israel gave us Jesus. Jesus said he came to Israel. He came to gather together the twelve tribes. To restore Israel to its rightful place and in some respects get her back on track. The liberator will come from Zion.

Like Paul Jesus would address the tension between law and the spirit of the law. Law and love. For both love wins out. For both, Israel, Paul and Jesus faith was in a person, not in the law. You could say the law held us in the embrace of God until Jesus came to extend his arms in love to everyone on the cross. No one was every meant to be excluded. Exclusion’s purpose, setting oneself apart, as Israel needed to do at the outset, was to enable their novice faith to grow strong, to solidify as a people, in their forming faith. By 1st century Palestine, Jesus welcomed everyone to his table; his message to all who could hear and to those who would follow. Paul is the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles and the world. So that one can still say that faith came through Israel. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

In giving the promise the Lord God of Israel had a plan. Israel was the plan. God chose Israel first and loves them still Paul reminds us; they remain the people of the one god, first to work through an understanding of what monotheism meant and then to shape their identity from the fullness of that meaning and their relationship with the god who was shaping them and forming them as his own. As his own so he could proselytize the world to him.

They have not fallen out of the embrace of God’s design for them in the world. All that has occurred, even their tenure in Egypt under Pharaoh became part of God’s cause in the world for all humanity. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. In Egypt they were preserved from the famine, grew into a nation large in numbers and then made their trek across the wilderness of Sinai to the land of the promise. It is through Israel, in whom the seed would grow, that the other nations of the world would come to know I Am Who Am. The living God. The very presence of the Lord of Life in their midst. We know this God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is now Lord of all. We know Jesus the Christ only to the extent we know the story of Israel.

We too need to honor Israel and rather than consider the story of her journey as an ‘old testament’, regard the Hebrew Scriptures as a paradigm for all those who would follow, even Jesus, especially Jesus. Israel gave us Jesus. Both Paul and Jesus were formed in the faith of Israel. Their message and mission came out of the wilderness and the lion heart of Judea.

Israel’s story is much like our own. I feel we have a long way to go in understanding and valuing the place of the Jewish people in the grand and greater schema of what we call salvation. I did not lose one of those you gave to me. Our saving is in the heart and soul of the footsteps of God’s sacred people, the people who are our spiritual ancestors and in whose footsteps Jesus and we follow to the fullness of life; realizing our humanity as both sacred and meant. We too are ever on a journey like the Hebrew people. As we follow Jesus we follow the story of Israel as it continues to teach us today about what it means to be human. What it means to be God’s.

The End if the Beginning

As Paul proceeds through to the close of his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, he extols a rather lengthy ‘apologia’. It is a defense of his ministry in light of the challenges he faces more from those inside the faith they share than outside it. But as he moves toward this impassioned close he prefaces it by saying that everything he says and does has one goal. To win people over to faith in Christ.

He encapsulates this message owning that when he is away from the believers he can be a bully and when he is with them he is humble with the patience and peace of Christ.

In the final chapters of the 2nd letter to the Corinthians Paul says what he has said before, just more nuanced. And more Pauline lengthy. More Pauline boastful. More Pauline profound. And yet beneath all the bravado is a humility heard when he finally says God’s grace is enough. We can see that it is God’s grace in Paul that sees him through. Keeps him going. He goes on without giving up, bolstered by God’s grace, and Paul’s love for the people he has brought to faith in Christ. He knows that they are vulnerable at the outset. It’s a vulnerability he carries within him as well. By opening himself up to his own vulnerability, he is also opening himself up to further intimacy with those to whom he went to preach Christ risen. That is partly why he rises to a level of so-called bullying. He wants to encourage them in the face of their questions, doubts and the challenges they will face from non-believers. Beyond that to clear away the obstacles to further intimacy with God in Christ. He will do whatever needs to be done, expend himself in any way so the Goods News lives and flourishes in his newly formed believers. He does this with a demanding urgency believing that they too will soon experience the risen Lord who he believe will come again in his and their lifetimes.

Perhaps the crux of the matter is this: On the one hand Paul is affectionate and passionately cares for his converts when he is with them. However, when out of their sight, in the letters he addresses to them, he rises to his full powers when confronted with those who do not yet reflect the Christ life. He arms himself with a righteousness, (which is his own sense of being saved by Christ, where it is done on earth as it is in heaven) knowing himself to be one with Christ and with the absolutely certainty of the Christ he preaches, especially when faced with the challenges that met him as he brought the ideas and reality of the new faith, the new way of being one with God, to nonbelievers.

Challenges even from other apostles. The dilemma of those who are posing to preach Christ but have other agendas in mind. It is not just an lst century Palestinian problem. Then there are those who apparently have also hurled at him the charge that he did not go around with Jesus himself. Did not know Jesus in the flesh. Perhaps his message is skewed as well. Paul continues with an unrivaled confidence. Because he says over and over it is not from himself but from God that his mission comes. For that reason Paul often acquiesced for the sake of the gospel and for fellowship within the one message and one body in Christ which is so all important to him. Even to remain in fellowship with the other apostles costs him dearly.

But perhaps that too is part of the plan as well. Paul knew and experienced Jesus Christ in another way. It appears perhaps in a more intimate way. Perhaps even in a more profound way, because he experienced the risen Lord. Paul, why are you persecuting me? This certainty, this passion, the strength of his belief and experience will father the faith that will come to be known as Christianity.

Before the gospels were written, Paul preached Christ to others personally. He did not compose a story of the Christ-event. The gospels are very important. They are significant chronicles of the Jesus who walked Judea and through them can walk into our hearts and lives. Paul encountered the risen Lord. He went to the people. He knew Christ in a singular way without having the experience of Jesus of Nazareth. And it is in this way that we too know and come to the risen Lord as well.


Takin’ it to the Streets

       I will make my home among them; I will be their God and they shall be my people.

Following close on the image of the earthen ware jars, is the image of the tent, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. Paul was both a tentmaker and a man on the move. Change was not something foreign to Paul. Paul’s went to the cities, to the very streets where his converts lived. He posted himself outside his dwelling, on the street, so that people could come and converse with him about the gospel. It seems almost prophetic that the Champion of the Jewish Jesus would be a tentmaker.

The story of the Hebrew people is the story of prophecy and praise, promise and fulfillment. It is also the story of Yahweh. Yahweh, the gypsy-god who journeyed with the Israelites, pitching his tent with them as he led them through the wilderness. It is the story of the transformation of a nation; it is the story of the transformation of their God. It is the story of the God of Israel, as both author and protagonist, revealing himself through his Spirit until one day his Word would become flesh and pitch his tent among us.

When David arrived outside the city proper of Jerusalem, Yahweh said to him Jerusalem will be the city where my name lives. Jerusalem means Yahweh-is-there. Yahwehsham.

Before David enters Jerusalem, he has the arc of the covenant brought back from where it was variously neglected and then stored for safekeeping while the people ready themselves to enter the promised land. David has built himself a house of cedar there and is about to do the same for the arc. But Yahweh sends Nathan to David saying:

You are not the man to build me a house to dwell in. I have never dwelled in a house from the day I brought Israel out until today, but went from tent to tent, from one shelter to another.

It will be Solomon who will build him a house, not David. He assures David he will keep his promise to Israel. So until the Temple is built the arc, the place where Yahweh’s name lives, is in a tent. I love the voice of Yahweh here. You can almost hear laughter in his voice, with a sense of irony and a sense of could you get it right for once! Apparently, God is wanting a real home, a home that will last, along with his people.

2 Corinthians 1-5 is a mangle of metaphors. He goes from the image of the earthbound, transitory tent we live in today giving way to our permanent home in heaven; the home building by a hands-on God which is waiting for us. Then Paul says that in anticipation of Christ’s coming, which he and Jesus’ first followers would be soon, we don’t want to be found without clothes. Then he reverts back to the image of the tent over which we should (I believe this is what he is eluding to) put on Christ, the new garment of faith.

My take away from this passage as it resonates with the images of the tent throughout the scriptures is that in this transitory life, God journeys with us, pitching his tent with us as we go. Our transformation into the God-life which becomes available to us today readies us for the new way of being, a new way of being that has begun now. Begun now in the Word who became flesh who became Yeshua of Nazareth, who, like his Father, pitches his tent among us.

Perhaps we too need to take the message of the Good News in Christ Jesus, like Paul, to the streets.

Letters Written on the Heart

In 2nd Corinthians Paul’s Good News is one that he and his assistants like Titus, carry with them within their hearts. The witness to life in Christ that they preach is not written in stone. Of course, this is the reference to the Ten Commandments written on the stone tablets that Moses brought down the mountain to reveal to the people waiting there. Once more Paul sets his message against the message of the Hebrew Scriptures, the religious text of his Jewish upbringing. If we haven’t read or know about the texts that are alluded to here, we may miss a layer of meaning that Paul’s audience, especially the Jewish-Christians, would know. It is the contrast between what for Paul is dead, the old order of the Law (Torah) and the new order in Christ (the Good News).
Just like we often picture God as some old whited bearded man in a long white toga, until now I imagined Paul to look like some crusty old guy, with a long beard and a fierce look upon his face, weather and travel weary. But doing the math Paul would have been in his mid-twenties when he had his experience of the risen Lord on the Damascus Road. However powerful that experienced was, and Paul himself attests over and over to the force and impact of that encounter with the risen Jesus, he did not get automatically zapped with knowledge of the message he was meant to preach. No veil was lifted from his eyes so that he immediately saw the whole of the gospel. For a time he was blinded by the experience. He was taken to Asia where he studied and reflected on his new calling. It would be Barnabas who would come and retrieve him to begin their work of converting the Gentiles to Christ.
So Paul was a relatively young man when he began to further the cause of Christ. That would explain his stamina in the face of his travels and sheer force of will that runs through all his letters. It may also explain why he was and remained unmarried. At the beginning of this letter to Corinth, we see once more the eloquence of a young man with a heart on fire for the Lord. And it is this metaphor of the heart that he uses to send this greeting to the converts at Corinth. But it is not just a metaphor. For in his heart and the hearts of those who are within the sound of his voice and words, the affection and intensity for God’s glory as it shines on the face of Christ, is something real, tangible and lived. Surely this way of viewing the word of God derives from his own encounter with the living Jesus on the Damascus Road.
For Paul it is the Spirit of the living God who has written on the people’s hearts the introduction and commendation that is part of his letters. In fact, what he is saying is that he does not need letters in ink or words on stone, for you are yourselves our letter, written in our/your hearts, that anybody can see and read, and it is plain that you are a letter from Christ…written on the tablets of your living hearts. This is not a message chiseled on stone, it is not brittle, hard and, like the first stone tablets, it will not break. Their lives again show forth the Christ that they carry in their hearts and is visible in their lives for all to see. In his heart Paul carries the ‘letter from Christ’, within him and it burns passionately in this young man who has turned all his energies toward knowing and spreading the Word of the love of Christ for everyone, not only the Hebrew people. Paul and Titus’ work is like incense rising, the knowledge of himself (Christ) like a sweet smell. Perfume spreading about the knowledge of Christ.
Tell me this man is not a realistic romantic who carries in his head and heart a new Love, a new covenant, the new relationship and way of being with God, now a living word, etched there, and pouring out from the Spirit of Christ. His faith shines out from an unveiled face, to reveal the glory of God in Christ and Paul’s own passion written on his sleeve for all the world to see. A young Moses leading the people to the promise, the promise that goes forth now in the Lord. The promise no longer only a place, but a way of being. The resurrection of the promise that we can take to our inmost hearts, written on our hearts, to carry with us, whether at home or walking abroad, whether lying down or rising, a sign for all the world to see, no letter of introduction required.

More Paul and Women

I Corinthians 14:34-35

I want to conclude 1 Corinthians with reflections on the Spirit, spiritual gifts and Paul writing about love, from which is a gift of the Spirit and the source of our spiritual gifts.

However, in Chapters 12 -15 that Paul writes about these, comes two sentences that have unfortunately eclipsed Paul, who he is, his message and his view or attitude toward women.

I was talking to a woman last evening, telling her about this blog and what I wanted to achieve in writing it. She said she has a friend who thinks Paul is a ‘woman hater’. I assured her that Paul is anything but a woman hater. In fact, Paul doesn’t hate anyone. I also find it a great shame if we have let this misunderstanding of Paul get in the way of his true meaning and message. As I said at the beginning in reading the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul’s letters often sound like love letters, or letters from a parent to his children that he loves, cares about and wants to strengthen their faith in Christ. And women are included in this.

So, when I got to these two sentences sited about, they didn’t ring right with all that had gone before in this letter. I hope that you have reading along, taking up your bible and reading the letters and stopping and reflecting upon whatever strikes you and seems to be Paul speaking to you personally. But here is the passage in question:

As in all churches of the saints, women are to remain quiet at meetings since they have no permission to speak; they must keep in the background as the Law itself lays down. If they have any questions to ask, they should ask their husbands at home: it does not seem right for a woman to raise her voice at meetings.

I am writing these reflections simply from reading Paul letters.  I am not using any commentaries. Recall in Chapter 4 Paul says keep to what is written. That is my approach to the scriptures. The only hermeneutic we need is our humanity. But I went to The New Jerome Biblical Commentary out of sheer disbelief that Paul would have written these words. Especially after we had just read about how women are to conduct themselves at meetings where they are allowed to participate, both in prayer and prophecy. That’s pretty big stuff.

Sure enough, my intuitions were correct. This passage is not from Paul. It seems to be an addition to the letter at a later date.  Jerome calls it a ‘post-Pauline interpolation’. And the commentary also cites the previous passage I have above in Chapter 11:5 which this later addition is in direct contradiction to. Not only does it contradict that verse but it goes against the whole of Paul goal of building up the Body of Christ, the unity of members with various gifts, and above all his ever recurring refrain of love and the faith in Christ without exclusions to those who believe.

What has happened here is what I spoke of earlier this week: that when we take sound bites of Paul’s words out of context, without understanding the larger message and how his admonitions, warnings and corrections build into the over-arching positive message, we misunderstand and do ourselves and Paul a great disservice. Paul didn’t hate women. Paul loved everyone, including women.