Lectionary Commentaries for June 21, 2015
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 4:35-41

James Boyce

“On that day.” The phrase is so brief the reader could almost ignore it.

Actually, this short transition is vastly important for setting the stage for this familiar story of the stilling of the storm. In the order of the original Greek, the text would read “and he continued to speak to them on that day … ” The important effect is to remind us that this story comes right on the heels of all of Jesus’ special teaching to his disciples on the nature of the kingdom — on his characterization of that kingdom as couched in hiddenness and secrecy, and of its requiring a special gift of hearing to comprehend. So it should not surprise us if the journey of discipleship, and the course of our journeys in this Pentecost season should at times be fraught with unexpected dangers or risks.

A Parable of Discipleship

Many readers have called attention to the way in which this story of the stilling of the storm can be read on several levels. On one level it shows Jesus power in a miracle that joins all the miracles of healing in Mark’s opening chapters. On another level it might serve as a parable of discipleship. We begin with a call or invitation that mirrors Jesus’ call of his first disciples to follow him (Mark 1:16-20) — “Let us go across to the other side” — a command to which his disciples obediently respond, significantly in the language of the story “taking him along with them in the boat” (vv. 35-36). At this point it is not difficult to imagine the scene as recalling the ark adrift on the chaos of the sea, but now presenting a band of followers under the protection of God’s Messiah, “safe and secure from all alarms.”

But events change suddenly. Out of the blue, so to speak, with no textual transition we read: “And there happens! a great windstorm and the waves began to beat against the boat so that the boat was already filling with water.” So much for implied safety of the boat (4 times in this we have already heard about this “boat”).

Do You Not Care?

Meanwhile “he” (not Jesus, is the indefinite reference significant?) is in the stern (the place where perhaps he should be steering?) sleeping away peacefully on a pillow! (taking his leisure oblivious to the predicament). And “they” (they are not at this point referred to as disciples) awake him and shout, “Teacher (not Master, or Messiah, or “Lord,” as in Matthew 8:25) do you not care that we are perishing?”

Their cry is the ultimate cry of fear, of doubt and abandonment, repeated often in the stories of God’s people, as for example in the psalms. Where is God in the midst of my distress? Has God abandoned his people? It is a cry repeated in so many ways in the midst of the terrors and distresses of our world today. If God is so great and powerful a creator, if God really cares about this world, then why do events in the world and in my life go so badly. The ready response: either God has no power, or God does not care for us or the creation.

We Are Perishing

This is an honest appraisal of the situation in the story, and a parable of the situation of all of us when cast adrift in the storms of the world without God’s presence and care. The cry amounts to a prayer for deliverance. And it is immediately and directly answered. Jesus does not chastise or reason with their fears. He does not seek to correct their poor theology or remind them of the whole tradition of God’s deliverance and care for the people of Israel. (in contrast to Matthew’s narrative in which Jesus’ first critiques the disciples’ lack of faith, 8:26). Instead he immediately “woke up” (the word is actually “arose” and may here be a telling and parabolic clue to the end of this story?) and rebuked the winds forcefully with his double command: “Be silent! Be still! The response of the winds is immediate. The wind ceased and there arose a “great calm” (the description of this “great calm” exactly matches and counters the “great storm” which has begun the predicament (vv. 37, 39).

The Thin Line of Fear and Faith

But now that the rescue is accomplished and the sea is calm, there is time for some needed disciple instruction. Like with the parables that have gone before, now Jesus moves to “interpret” this yet one more “parable” for disciples whose capacities are weak without the gift of their master’s presence and care.

The Lord’s care has already been demonstrated. Of this there is no need for greater elaboration at this point. The issue is that of “fear.” In Jesus’ question “Have you yet no faith,” the disciples in the story, and we as its hearers today, are called to recognition between two vastly different worlds that we might inhabit. In these two words we are called to see the gulf between two vastly different worlds that face those who are called to acknowledge the kingdom of God, the presence and rule of God in our midst. One can continue to live in the world of fear and chaos, seeing oneself orphaned or alone without the power of God, living in a world controlled by the power of satan or the demonic. Or one can be open to hearing the message and promise of this Jesus in whom we are told that the kingdom of God has come into our midst and now offers a whole new future for our world and for our lives.

The line between these two worlds is thin and risky. But in between them stands the gift and power of the good news of God’s Messiah, Jesus.

Who Then is This?

So at the end of the story, the great question of this “parable” of discipleship is placed in our laps. The disciples ask “Who then is this?” (vs. 41) Their question is described as one of “great fear,” (literally, “they feared a great fear;” interestingly the same words that describe the shepherds response to the angel at Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:9), or as the NRSV has correctly sensed it, “great awe.” When God comes among us, how will we respond? In the story, no answer is given to the disciples’ question. The question of how we will respond to this Jesus, whom “even the wind and the sea obey” is left open. There is time for the answer to mature in the hearing of the rest of the story; just as there is time for that answer to take shape in our lives as we journey with this Jesus in the season of Pentecost. Perhaps in the shaping of that journey the power and presence of the good news of God’s kingdom will shape our lives in the crucial turn from fear to faith. This is the great “turning” which goes by the name of repentance, which is the call and promise of Jesus at the beginning of Mark’s gospel (Mark 1:14-15).

First Reading

Commentary on Job 38:1-11

Walter C. Bouzard

God’s speech from the whirlwind to Job has been a long time coming.

Readers of the book know that Job’s celebrated patience in suffering came to a crashing halt at the end of the second chapter. Beginning with chapter three, and with increasingly acerbic force throughout the book, Job challenged the LORD to give an account not only for his sufferings but for the injustice he saw in every corner of the creation.

The wisdom tradition declared the world’s construction to be a result of a blueprint drawn by the LORD (Proverbs 3:19-20; 8:22-31). Job concluded, to the contrary, that an unjust and irrational world belied any wisdom or careful planning on the part of God (Job 12:13-22).

Indeed, in a blistering description that could easily have been cribbed from a modern newspaper,1 Job insisted that in this world the wicked succeed, the innocent suffer, “the dying groan, and the throat of the wounded cries for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer” (Job 24:12). Job counted himself among those last, as one whom God had not heeded. Worse, he knew himself to be someone to whom God did not listen and whom God crushed without cause:

“If I summoned him and he answered me,
      I do not believe that he would listen to my voice.

For he crushes me with a tempest (se’ara) ,
      and multiplies my wounds without cause;” (Job 9:16-17)

It is fitting, therefore, that the LORD answers from a whirlwind (hasse ‘ara). In the Bible, the whirlwind is often a theophanic sign.2 In other places, however, the whirlwind signals the judgment of God,3 a symbol also familiar to Job’s readers. Which is it here? Perhaps we do not have to choose. The LORD appears, albeit cloaked in storm, in order to respond to Job. The LORD has listened to Job’s voice after all. Nevertheless, this same LORD comes, if not with a crushing tempest, if not with an annihilating judgment, then at least with a pronounced disapproval of Job’s degraded relationship with the LORD. Job has become one “that darkens counsel by words without knowledge” (v. 2).

Where had Job gone wrong? The entire biblical lament tradition indicates that ancient Israelites had no problem questioning God’s behavior with respect themselves or complaining about God’s treatment of them. In Job’s case, however, it may be that a subtle shift has moved Job from being a man who maintains his integrity in spite of his afflictions (Job 2:3,9) to one who has come to believe that his integrity, identified with his good deeds, ought to have shielded him against affliction: “let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity! (Job 31:6).4

Shortly before Job ended the conversation with his three friends, he expressed his conviction of the utter justice of his complaint. He boasted that if he had a written indictment by God, (his adversary!), he would wear it like a crown and approach the Almighty like a prince (Job 31:35-37). Then, for a time at least, “The words of Job are ended” (Job 31:40b).

The LORD responds not by evaluating the merits of Job’s case, but rather by questioning Job’s knowledge of the mysteries and purposes of God. The appointed text is a portion of two divine speeches (Job 38:2-39:30 and 40:6-41:34). Both speeches are characterized by a barrage of rhetorical questions designed to fully disclose Job’s inadequate understanding of God’s governance of the world.

In the first speech, the LORD specifically challenges Job’s understanding of the architecture of the cosmos (vv. 4-38) as well as the divine care of the creation, illustrated by the LORD’s intimate knowledge of five pairs of untamed animals (38:39-39:30). Verses 4 to 7 reflect the pride of the divine architect who alone knows where and how the foundations of the earth were laid or the true scope of the creation. Images of meticulous planning, measuring, and careful construction counter Job’s earlier derision of God’s counsel. To the contrary, the creation is God’s own temple, the dedication of which was liturgically celebrated by the singing morning stars and the shouts of heavenly beings (v. 7).5

Verses 8 through 11 speak of God’s control of the tempestuous and chaotic sea. Oddly, however, where we might expect an image of the sea as a chaos monster slated for destruction by the divine warrior,6 we find instead a picture of God as midwife and of the sea as a newborn child, bursting from the womb (v. 8). Lest the sea hurt itself and others, God swaddled the child (v. 9) and set limits for this most boisterous infant (vv. 10-11).7

How talk of cosmic architecture or even of God’s care for the sea serve as a proper response to Job is, of course, the question, and one that the preacher must try to answer. Congregants experience suffering in greater or lesser measure and those who suffer deeply, painfully, and without any apparent fault of their own, find pious platitudes no more palatable than did Job his counselors’ consolation.

The present writer can do no better than to point to the wisdom of his former teacher and mentor, the late Daniel Simundson.8 Discussing the message of the speeches of God, Simundson observed, first, that the speech illuminates the unbridgeable gap between divine and human knowledge. While we may dislike our inability to penetrate the mysteries of God, at some point we are better off if we accept the reality of our human limitations. Second, Simundson asserts that a relationship of trust with God is more important than answers to our question of “Why?” Even if he knew the answers to his questions, Job would not be satisfied with an intellectual solution. Job’s deeper need was to know that God had not abandoned him, that God still cared for him. What most suffers need, Simundson writes, “is a visit from God.”9

Such a visitation is, of course, exactly what we have in Christ Jesus and his cross. More than that, the cross of Christ is a divine participation in every aspect of our humanity, including our suffering.10 We may not see answers for suffering, “but we do see Jesus … now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

We see Jesus and, seeing him, it is enough.


1 See the whole of Job 24:1-25.

2 2 Kgs 2:1, 11; Ezek 1:4; Zech 9:14.

3 Isa 40:24; 41:16; Jer 23:19; 30:24; Ezek 13:11,13.

4 See Job 31 that constitutes Job’s litany of his righteous deeds of omission and commission that comprise his final word.

5 Carol A. Newsom, Job, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IV (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) 601-2. Newsom notes that the laying of temple foundations were liturgical occasions that involved musicians, singers, and festal shouts (see Ezra 3:10-11; Zech 4:7; cf. 2 Chron 5:11-14). When the LORD laid the foundations of the world (the LORD’s temple), heavenly beings performed those functions.

6 E.g., P 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Isa 51:9-10.

7 Carol A. Newsome, Job, p. 602.

8 Daniel J. Simundson, The Message of Job: A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), 150-1.

9 Ibid, 151.

10 Heb 2:17-18.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 1 Samuel 17:[1a, 4-11, 19-23] 32-49

Roger Nam

Since its inception, people have cherished David and Goliath as one of the most favored stories of all time.

From the early rabbinic sages, to today’s Vacation Bible School materials, the theme of the victorious underdog profoundly resonates with people across cultures. Nearly every civilization can share some similar story from within its cultural repository. Something deep within us delights with the success of someone like Susan Boyle defying the odds, and winning a national talent show and an enormously successful recording career.

1 Samuel 17 stands in this underdog tradition. Although recent attempts have tried to underplay the advantage difference between David and Goliath, in reality, this was not merely a mismatch, but an upset of ridiculous proportions, even beyond historical shockers like Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson (1990) or Harry Truman defeating Thomas Dewey (1948).

Goliath was a Philistine, meaning that he came from a culture that was comprised primarily of mercenaries, who traveled from the Aegean and wrought havoc from Syria to Egypt. The Philistines were one of the major reasons that the Late Bronze Age Empires suddenly collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age.

And among these Philistines, Goliath, was the fiercest warrior of the entire group. Goliath was the largest and strongest human, long experienced in warfare, and prepared for both hand-to-hand combat with the sword as well as distance battles with his spear. Despite his size, he would have had to be very quick and nimble. He also had an armor-bearer, presumably the best, who insured that a renegade spear would not injure the Philistine warrior.

Against this alpha-male, we have David, who was called a “boy” by both his own king (v.32) and enemy (v. 42). David had zero experience in war. He could hardly move when wearing armor. He was never trained in sword, nor spear, but had to rely on the device of a boy, and stones from the wadi.

But David has a special background. As a tender of sheep, he was used to protecting the flock against renegade animals. Of course, today’s shepherds are armed with guns or at least cell-phones to call in help. But a young David had to deal with renegade bears and lions by himself.

It’s not that David was stronger than bears or lions. But that lifestyle helped shape David to focus on God. Imagine going three hours without your iPhone in the middle of the day, sound tough? Now imagine going three years without it. During this time, you witness the different inspiring landscapes surrounding Bethlehem, while taking care of a flock of sheep through their seasons of life. You are constantly witnessing the miracles of God through sustaining of these sheep. Most importantly, the wildlife had fostered a deep sense of reliance on God for protection.

I believe that this is the crux of vv. 34-37, as David explains his background. David is not as tough as a bear, nor as strong as a lion (cf. Judges 14:18). David knew that he had no business defeating these animals one on one, but he did know this, as he declared in v. 37, that “God saved/rescued/delivered him.”

This season as a shepherd allowed David to naturally respond to Goliath’s taunts in v. 45 with “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” The biblical text proceeds into a very Tarantino-like account that is thankfully not reflected in most children’s illustrated Bibles.

Within the subtext, this actually is a huge underdog story, but with Goliath, and not David, as the enormous underdog against the power of God. Although David is youthful, his confidence is well placed into divine hands. How else could the young shepherd manage to stand and defy the greatest warrior of his time?

Perhaps we enjoy these stories so much because we all face challenges that seem enormous against us. Following the courage of David does not begin in the Valley of Elah while facing the Philistine army. Rather, the time of shepherding is a crucial part of this narrative. We can begin by focusing on the many ways of the past that God provided, sustained and protected us.

And then when we face that enormous giant, whether sickness, family breakups, financial disaster, addictions, shame, the same God who protected and provided will do the same thing for you again. It will be an unmitigated victory, but only if we stand with God.


Commentary on Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Scott Shauf

Psalm 107 is a psalm of thanksgiving, extolling God for delivering God’s people from a variety of troubles.

The lectionary text has been selected from the psalm to form a parallel to the Gospel text of the day, the account of Jesus stilling the storm (Mark 4:35-41). In fact, the selection from the psalm ends up forming a striking commentary on the Gospel text and on Jesus’ ministry as a whole.

The Shape of the Psalm

The psalm has three main parts to it:

  1. An introduction (vv. 1-3), which establishes the theme of thanksgiving for deliverance;
  2. The main body (vv. 4-32);
  3. A hymn constituting a conclusion (vv. 33-43).

The main body consists of four sections, each describing a situation in which God has provided deliverance:

  1. Being lost in the desert (vv. 4-9);
  2. Being prisoners (vv. 10-16);
  3. Being ill (vv. 17-22);
  4. Being in a storm at sea (vv. 23-32).

Each section is structured the same, first describing the situation of trouble, then the people’s cry for help, then the provided deliverance, and then an admonition for those delivered to provide thanks for God’s steadfast love and mighty works.

The lectionary selection includes the introduction (vv. 1-3) and the fourth scenario of deliverance, those delivered from a storm at sea.

The Introduction: God’s Character and the People’s Redemption

The introductory verses (vv. 1-3) begin with a call to praise (v. 1) and then give an admonishment to those redeemed by God to confess their redemption (vv. 2-3). Verse 1 is as basic and essential a call and statement of the human relationship to God as one can imagine: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” What the NRSV takes sixteen words to translate is a pithy seven words in Hebrew. One of these seven is khesed, which the NRSV translates as “steadfast love.” Khesed is the word expressing God’s fundamental covenant relationship to Israel; its meaning is difficult to capture adequately in English, and thus we see different English Bibles using a variety of translations in different contexts: steadfast love, lovingkindness, love, kindness, mercy, loyalty, favor, devotion, goodness, and others. The assurance in v. 1 is that this quality of God is eternal: God will never abandon Israel. The rest of the psalm elaborates on that claim.

Verse 2 builds on the call to praise with a call to confession, not of sin but of God’s redemption: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble.” The verse is striking in that, following on the very general call in v. 1, the phrase “the redeemed of the Lord” most logically refers to the entirety of God’s people rather than to some subset of it. Being redeemed by God is thus at the core of the identity of God’s people. For the ancient Israelites, this naturally hearkens back fundamentally to the experience of the exodus, and v. 3 also includes in their redemption the return from exile. For Christians, the experience of redemption from the bonds of sin may most naturally come to mind, but the references to being gathered from all directions in v. 3 ought also to remind us of how God through Christ has added all the peoples of the world to the covenant people. This is eloquently expressed in Ephesians 2, where the Gentiles are declared to be “no longer strangers and aliens,” but “citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God” (v. 19). Jesus strongly echoed the language of v. 3 of our passage when he spoke of people at the end times who will come “from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).

Deliverance from the Storm

Psalm 107:23-30, the fourth scenario of deliverance, describes a group who gets caught in a storm while on a business trip at sea. Unlike the second and third scenarios, no fault is attributed to the group; their predicament is not said to be the result of any sin. What is surprising about the description is that the trouble is specifically said to be brought about by God, despite the lack of any cause for punishment. In fact, in the beginning of the scene (vv. 24-26a) it sounds as if the travelers are privileged to see the mighty works of God while on their voyage: “they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep” (v. 24). Their trouble seems mainly a matter of their own fear — “their courage melted away in their calamity” (v. 26b).

Nonetheless, the group cries out to God (v. 28), and God delivers — “he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (v. 29). The people are then encouraged to “thank the Lord for his steadfast love” (v. 31), recalling the opening verse of the psalm (God’s khesed again). Moreover, they are also to be thankful for God’s “wonderful works to humankind” (v. 31b) — note that the Hebrew behind “wonderful works” is the exact same term as the “wondrous works” seen by the group at sea (the NRSV’s use of different translations here is rather peculiar). In other words, the group’s experience is not to be regretted, but rather even their experience of danger is to be taken as an encounter with the mighty, wonder-working God.

This Storm and Jesus’ Storm

The description of the group’s experience is remarkably parallel to that of the disciples’ experience when Jesus calms the storm, as in today’s Gospel lectionary reading, Mark 4:35-41. It is hard to imagine that Mark would not have had Psalm 107 in mind when he first recounted his story of a calmed storm, just as it is hard to imagine a Christian today reading Psalm 107 without thinking of the Gospel story. What does such a parallel suggest? Among the possibilities:

  • Jesus re-enacts the Old Testament text. While it would be hard to argue that Psalm 107:23-32 should be read as a prophetic text, that Jesus so closely re-enacts this account contributes to the idea of Jesus as the embodiment and completion of Israel’s scripture.
  • Jesus’ power is the power of God. The role played by God in Psalm 107:23-32 is played by Jesus in the Gospel account. Jesus’ calming of the storm should be understood as an expression of God’s own saving power. Jesus’ saving activity is an expression of the khesed of God.
  • The experience of Jesus’ disciples mirrors the experiences of Israel in their own encounter with God’s mighty power. This raises the question: How do we similarly experience God’s power today?

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Lois Malcolm

This passage comes right after Paul’s majestic statements about the ministry and message of God’s reconciliation of the entire world through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14–21).

We often interpret Paul’s grand statements about reconciliation in abstract theological terms.

We tend to forget that Paul wrote these passages in response to some very specific—and painful—difficulties he was having with the Corinthian congregation. Rumors were being spread about his apostolic ministry, and his relationship with some in the congregation was strained (2 Corinthians 1–7). In addition, he needed to raise money for the Jerusalem church (2 Corinthians 8–9) and prepare for yet another visit when he would have to deal with sin among the Corinthians and their seemingly slavish submission to those he called “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 10–13).

In light of these issues, we can read 2 Corinthians 6:1–13 as fleshing out—in surprising detail—how we might live out and embody God’s ministry and message of reconciliation. But if this “service” (diakonia) and this “word” (logos) are not abstractions, then how do we live in the reconciliation they promise?

1. God’s word of reconciliation

As God’s coworker, Paul “urges” the Corinthians not to take God’s grace in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). Quoting one of the so-called servant songs in Isaiah, he declares that God has listened at “the acceptable time” and helped on “the day of salvation” (Isaiah 49:8). No longer the “prey of the tyrant,” Israel will be restored; God promises to make her “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 49). If Isaiah’s call of “comfort” (parakaleo, the same word translated as “urge”) provides a backdrop for interpreting the “word” of reconciliation, then we could say that this “word” has to do with God’s restoring and rescuing a people oppressed by circumstances, even as they might be partly responsible for those circumstances.

2. Embodying God’s service of reconciliation

How do we engage in the “service” of this word of God’s reconciling work? Paul paints a complex multidimensional picture of what happens to us when this word gets embodied in our lives. After asserting the need to do away with all obstacles that would cause others to reject what we have to say, he depicts what could be described as the “habitus”—the lifestyle, values, and disposition—of reconciliation in our experiences of everyday life.1

a. Hardships

How might we perceive or experience this service of reconciliation? Drawing on stylized depictions in ancient literature of the kind of suffering that sages and prophets undergo, he describes three aspects of apostolic suffering.

First, there is what we undergo physically with “great endurance”: afflictions, hardships, and calamities. Then, there is what we experience because of what others do to us: beatings, imprisonments, and riots. Last, there are the ways we are personally affected by our vocation as God’s servants: labors, sleepless nights, and hunger.

Although we may have a hard time as modern people identifying with the extremity of these descriptions of apostolic suffering, they do point to the fact that our participation in the service and word of reconciliation can never be divorced from the very real vicissitudes of human life; indeed, it may bring even more hardship into our lives.

b. The fruit of the Spirit

How might we conceive or interpret these experiences? Because they are “suffered” or experienced in Christ through the Spirit, they embody how—to quote a phrase he will use later—“power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Once again, Paul follows a threefold pattern. Starting with what is most apparent, he describes how the Spirit creates within us purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness. (Paul has similar lists elsewhere; see, for example, Galatians 5:22–23.) Then, he places at the center of the list the One who works in and through our suffering: the Holy Spirit. Finally, with three short phrases he depicts what the Spirit enacts in us through our public vocation as God’s servants: genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.

c. Paradoxical living

How do we live out this experience of the agency of the Spirit amid what we suffer or experience in everyday life? Paul’s answer is clustered in three types of paradoxes.

First, he deals with how we might appear to others. We may be honored or shamed, with either good or bad reputations. Yet throughout it all, we remain true, even when treated as impostors. We can be confident that we will be seen for who we are, even though we may often feel others do not fully recognize our value.

Second, he deals with what actually takes place in these experiences. When we seek God’s reconciliation with one another in our often messy and complicated relationships, we participate in Christ’s sufferings (pathemata) for the world (2 Corinthians 1:5). In the process, we will indeed have to die—not only our final death but also the daily dying that fleshes out our baptism into Christ—yet in Christ we live. We may even be disciplined (paideuomenoi) through what is taking place in our lives, yet in Christ we are not destroyed.

Last, Paul lists public activities that embody the work of reconciliation—activities that explicitly address three of his issues with the Corinthians. As members of Christ’s body, we undergo the “pain” (lupoumenoi) of speaking truth to one another about difficulties in our relationships, even as we “rejoice” together when we forgive and are reconciled with one another (see 2 Corinthians 1–7)).

In spite of our apparent “poverty,” we can make others “rich” following the example of our Lord (Philippians 2:5–11). The service and word of reconciliation cannot be divorced from seeking a “fair balance”—material and spiritual—among the wealthy and poor among us (2 Corinthians 8–9).

Finally, in spite of “having nothing”—since in Christ we are no longer defined by the wealth, wisdom, and power of this age—we are those who “possess everything”—as he says in an earlier letter: “All things are yours …” (1 Corinthians 3:21).


1 See Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1992).