Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year B, Proper 3, New Testament Reading

2 Corinthians 3:(4-11) 17-4:2
Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever- increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Reflection on 2 Corinthians 3:(4-11) 17-4:2 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

Letters of commendation for the apostle Paul's ministry-that is what Paul claims that the Church in Corinth is. That is quite an astounding concept, which includes even this claim: "you are a letter of Christ." There is given to the Church a "competence from God," a competence "to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." "Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God."

What does that have to do with our life in the creation? Everything. The "covenant" recalls not only Abraham but also the covenant with creation (Genesis 9:8ff.). Our "confidence" within God's covenant frees us to live responsibly within the whole creation, for we are being filled by the one Spirit who gives life. Filled by that Spirit, our life in the world of plants and animals and things is not destructive. The life that we receive from God is in harmony with the covenant that God made with creation.

Especially in our uptight time of fundamentalisms raging across continents and oceans, what better theme could there be for the Church in the world than this: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom"?

Certainly that is not a neutral freedom to choose against God as well as for God, against our better natures rather than for them, against divinely inspired confidence rather than for it, against rather than for the new covenant that fulfills God's original covenant with creation and People alike.

Much better, it is the creative freedom to experience transformation, to behold glory not only at a distance but also within us and for us, within all God's world and for it: ".all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed.," specifically in one direction: ".into the same image from one degree of glory to another."

Especially in our consumer-oriented anti-culture, this alternative lifestyle offers a liberating new (old) way of hope replacing despair, the freedom of self-respect and competence replacing the dominant draining sense of inadequacy and need for ever more possessions. The freedom to be God's kind of people means freedom for the whole creation as well, for by that transformation of the Spirit we are made safe for all creatures and the creation entire. A People transformed are on dedicated pilgrimage to a Creation transformed. (So Paul claimed again in Romans 8:19-23.)

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament Hosea 2:1-23
Psalm 103
no reflection available
New Testament 2 Corinthians 3:4-4:2
this page
Gospel Mark 2: 18-22)

John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote this reflection in 2003. He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
MEESC Holy Trinity Church Box 65 Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA

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