Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Lectionary Reflection Year B, Proper 5, New Testament Reading

2 Corinthians 4:13-18

It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4:13-18 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

For the sake of clarity at Corinth the apostle Paul draws some major contrasts that underline crucial differences: between appearance and reality, between ambiguity and clarity (2 Corinthians 1:12-20), between death-dealing legalism (“letter”) and life-giving Spirit (3:6), between the appearance of glory and the reality of glory (3:7ff), between what is transient and what is permanent (3:11), between “cunning” and openness or frankness (1:12; 4:2), between what is “veiled” or hidden and what is publicly “proclaimed” (4:2-5), between “treasure” and “clay jars” that hold it (4:7), between what happens to us and who we are within (4:8-10).

There develops in that list of contrasts an invigorating sense of dynamic forward thrust in the Christian life. “So we do not lose heart” (4:16). Even death is not denied. Death is surveyed in all its darkness, and found to be impotent against the light and glory that has claimed us, that has already begun to mould us, and that will prevail beyond all our temporary (mortal) realities and extend into God’s own eternity (4:16-18). In real life we experience blessed reversals: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (4:8-10).

The reality of that dynamic forward thrust keeps us from losing heart not only as individuals, but also as gatherings (congregations) of God’s People. Paul’s blessed reversals are addressed to the Church at Corinth, to her community life, to the interactions of her members, and to the interactions of that congregation with her environing world. Paul sees no obstacles ahead that could halt the dynamic forward thrust of God’s work in the world.

The point of all God’s blessed reversals of normal expectations is this: “…so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” That could be an empowering mantra of ecological responsibility. In our physical life within the world of nature let the life of Jesus be made visible.

Let us embody the sacrificial lifestyle of Jesus so that his kind of new life can be extended through us into the creation within which we both live and die. Let our purpose as “environmentalists” be to live in such a way as to “make visible” an alternative way of living that conserves far more than it consumes, and that brings the glory of God back into God’s own creation, thereby dispelling the darkness of human waste and war.

Copyright Statement

To Reflections on other Readings for this Sunday:
Old Testament Genesis 3:(1-7)8-21
Psalm 130
no reflection available
New Testament 2 Corinthians 3:4-4:2
this page
Gospel Mark 3:20-35
no reflection available

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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