This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on June 11, 2017.
The benediction in 2 Corinthians comes after Paul’s passionate defense of his ministry in chapters 10-13. Though he had visited the church in Corinth numerous times, in his absence super-apostles moved in claiming Paul’s teachings were inferior to their own. The work of this rival group had proven divisive in the church. The congregation was fractioned and fractured. Thus, Paul was considering a return visit in light of a likely schism in the church.
Congregational conflict is not new to churches in the twenty-first century. The first-century church knew all about it. There was sexual immorality, idolatry, cliques, false teachers, and disunity in the Corinthian church. It was a mess. And God met the congregation in their mess. Likewise, struggles in ministry aren’t new either. Paul loved the church in Corinth so much that their unhealth caused him physical grief. “For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:4) Pastor, has your love for your congregation ever brought you to literal tears? Have you ever gone to great lengths to help your congregation grasp God’s dreams for them, only to be met with blank stares and indifference- or worse, criticism and rejection? You are walking in Paul’s shoes. Ministry can be a real struggle. And God meets pastors in their struggle.