As I noted in my sermon on Sunday, the Corinthian church is perhaps most famous for fighting about everything. Paul spends most of the first twelve chapters covering a laundry list of topics he would really rather not cover. This coming Sunday, we’ll hear the final correction to a church tearing itself apart: “you are the body of Christ.” In the midst of a teaching on spiritual gifts, Paul makes a short aside to remind the Corinthian Christians that above all, they are members of a community of faith and unless they can figure out a way to live together, they are failing to live into their identity as members of the body of Christ.
Sunday week, we’ll hear the antithesis of this argument in Paul’s great Love Hymn. He’ll show them what life in Christ, united in love to the Trinity that overflows with love, looks like. Between here and there, however, there is a key phrase which the RCL has decided we do not need to hear. Epiphany 3C ends at 1 Cor 12:31a. Epiphany 4C starts at 1 Cor 13:1. In between is 1 Corinthians 31b.
“I will show you a still more excellent way.”
The Greek word translated as “excellent” is “huperbole” which is basically hyperbole without the exaggeration. According to my handy-dandy Bibleworks Lexicon, huperbole means surpassing greatness; outstanding quality; beyond measure, utterly, to the extreme
This way is certainly better than the conflicts and tensions of the Corinthian community. This way far surpasses the way of self-interest and greed. This way is more extremely awesome than Vanilla Ice’s hair. What way is this? The way of love. The way of the Good News of Jesus Christ. The way that seeks peace, that calls us to pray for our enemies, that invites us to seek to be forgiven and to forgive.
1 Corinthians 12:31b is an important moment of transition, and it would behoove the preacher who is tackling 1 Corinthians to give it a nod either this week or next as we follow Jesus on his most excellent way.