A Living Letter of Grace and Peace
Preparing for the Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: Three Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 119:137-144
Old Testament: Jeremiah 33:14-26
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Psalter: Psalm 32:1-7
Old Testament: Proverbs 15:8-11, 24-33
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
In your Son you seek out and save the lost, O God, and invite us to the banquet of your eternal home. Visit your people with the joy of salvation that we may rejoice in the riches of your forgiveness and reach out in welcome to share with others the fest of your love. Amen.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:1-2).
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians takes the form of an ancient letter or epistle. In modern letters in the West, the writers identify themselves at the end of the letter. In ancient letters in the Greco-Romans context the authors identify themselves first. After Paul and Timothy identify themselves as the authors, the persons being addressed are identified, in this case the members of the church at Corinth.
Then there usually follows a thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter and a reminder as to why the writer is thankful for the them. Then comes the body of the letter which presents the major subject matter that occasioned its writing. This is usually accompanied by exhortation, which is encouragement or a call to some kind of action. Advice is also given on how to handle specific situations faced by the recipients. The letter ends with final greetings and a blessing or benediction.
Letters made their way around the Roman Empire in one of two ways. The Roman army served as the empire’s postal service. A letter could be sent by that method. Another way, if it was feasible, was to have a friend or an acquaintance deliver the letter if she or he happened to be traveling in that direction.
Several noteworthy details are found already in the first two verses of 2 Corinthians. First, the Apostle Paul describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” The Greek word apostolos means “sent one.” Here Paul is using it specifically to refer to himself who was called in special fashion by Jesus Christ to join in the work of the twelve original disciples Jesus called to a unique status. But elsewhere, he uses it in a broader sense to refer to those who are involved in the mission of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:6-7). In referring to himself in this way and reminding his hearers that he is an apostle by the will of God, Paul is bolstering his credentials, which in some churches had been considered suspect (cf. Galatians 1:11-2:10).
The recipients of the letter are referred to as “to the church of God that is in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia.” Paul characteristically uses the term “saints” in his letters to designate the Christians to whom he is writing (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). A saint is “a holy one” (Gr. hagios; Latin sanctus, from where we get our word “sanctification”), whom God has set apart for a specific purpose. In referring to the Corinthians Christians as saints, Paul is reminding them that they too are called by the will of God for God’s purposes.
Finally, Paul and Timothy conclude their greeting with a wish of “grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” To offer a greeting of grace is typical of Paul and signifies that the Corinthians’ status as faithful saints is a result of the gracious initiative of God made possible by Jesus. They are members of the new covenant because of what God the Father has done for them through his Son. “Peace” (Gr. eirēnē) carried with it the Jewish concept of the Hebrew word, shalom, which is a wish for one’s well being in all areas of life.
Every day we are a living letter reflecting the grace and peace of Jesus Christ to those around us. Let us greet one another today in word and deed as Paul greeted the Corinthians at the beginning of his letter—wishing God’s grace and peace to all.
PRAYER: Holy God, all our worship is met by the cleansing gaze of your passion for justice. Enfold us in your grace that we may embody our devotion in acts of justice and in defense of the helpless, to the glory of your name. Amen.
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