1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (CEB)
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.
It has been a long day – and in some respects, quite a bruising one. Occasionally, in my job as Synod Interim Minister, I am called to enter situations where people are angry and in need of an outlet for their frustration. It is rarely aimed directly at me personally (though it certainly has been on occasion!) but I am sometimes the one who occupies the space towards which it is easy to throw some of that anger and frustration.
In such times I like this portrayal of Paul. I don’t think this is the impression that Paul gives very often. Reading his densely argued, occasionaly vague and pompous-sounding epistles we often have the impression that he was an over-confident bull of a man who relished a good argument and sought out confrontation.
Here he describes himself as standing in weakness and fear and with his knees knocking.
This Church that he had stood before with such trembling were riven with disputes and arguments, they had a serious case of sexual misconduct to deal with, they disagreed about marriage and worship and what the resurrection meant and they were at each others throats with accusations about who had eaten the wrong food.
He describes himself as having stood before them in weakness and fear.
I like this Paul. I’m not so fond of the other one.
I can’t quite make up my mind what he is saying here…
I think he is either saying:
that he did not prepare a finely crafted speech or a bells-and-whistles powerpoint presentation in order to convince them of the truth of the Gospel, but rather spoke simply and plainly from the heart, allowing his words to be led by the Spirit – a demonstration of the Spirit’s power;
or he is saying:
that he did not prepare a finely crafted speech or a bells-and-whistles powerpoint presentation in order to convince them of the truth of the Gospel, but rather simply SHOWED them what the gospel looks like in deeds (miracles? acts of loving kindness?) that were in themselves witness to the power of God’s Spirit.
I like to be prepared for situations I meet – it would be stupid not to be. But I am aware that sometimes I OVER prepare. I can sometimes be guilty of deciding my responses to potential situations in advance – and then deploying them regardless of what anyone is saying! Pre-planning how I will respond in potentially difficult situations is a good thing, but you can have too much of a good thing.
I think I am learning that it is usually enough simply to stand and to listen and to check I have heard right and to remain calm and then to sum up what I think has been said and ask for confirmation that I have heard correctly before deploying any of the grenades I have stored in my back pocket!
Sometimes a grenade does have to be thrown – but usually people seem happier in the knowledge that they have been heard even if you have not fixed their problem. It does mean a measure of exposure – putting yourself in the firing line (and I am aware that this is probably sounding a little over-dramatic for the work I do!) – but when God says s/he will be with us and that the Holy Spirit will give us the words we need when we need them – then maybe that is the demonstration of the Spirit that Paul is talking about.