One of my colleagues in the Doctor of Ministry program here at the School of Theology is hoping to look at the various emotions displayed in Paul’s writings to try to elucidate what was really important to Paul as he wrote, and what maybe we’ve deemed important that wasn’t. I find it to be a fascinating project idea, but as one who isn’t too in tune with his emotions, it seems like a lot of hard work mixed with a good bit of speculation. Of course, there are moments in reading Paul when what he’s thinking just seems obvious, and the lesson from 2 Corinthians appointed for Proper 7, Year B seems to be one of those times. This section of 2 Corinthians 6 is, without a doubt, serious Paul imploring the Church in Corinth to genuine faith, which involves, much to my chagrin, real vulnerability.
“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.”
Paul has, in his words, opened his heart wide to the Corinthians. He has risked everything for the sake of the Gospel, that the whole world might come within Christ’s saving embrace. The response of the believers in Corinth seems to be lukewarm. They are holding back, keeping things from coming into the light of God’s love, and Paul knows that closed off faith is no faith at all. “Open wide your hearts,” he begs them, “welcome Jesus and his love fully into your hearts, your lives, your families, your whole community.”
This admonition is a good word for me to hear one week before I get on an airplane headed to General Convention. There are lots of things from which I would like to close myself off, but if any part of me is closed off, all of me is. As we gather in Salt Lake City, there will be many opinions, lots of politics, and a few frayed nerves, but if we all enter with our hearts open wide, if we all accept vulnerability and admit our weakness, then perhaps a spirit of grace might enter the Salt Palace like has never been experienced before.
Vulnerability is hard. It requires a level of trust that many of us are incapable of. It requires a type of forgiveness many of us can’t fathom. It is risky, just ask Paul, but it is part of what makes true Christian community, and true community should be the goal of all who seek to further the Kingdom of God. With God’s help, I’ll come to Salt Lake City with an open heart, and I hope the rest of us will as well.