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2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Living in a changing world shaped by eternal values

Paul opens the lectionary passage by explaining the reason for his confession of faith.   We find the same message found in I Corinthians 15 where he confessed teaching the resurrection of Jesus.   In the 2 Corinthians passage we find his testimony to the resurrection in v. 14 “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also.”   We also find the same authority for his confession.  In I Corinthians 15 he affirmed his theology to be “according to the scripture,” and here in verse 13 he claimed to have the “same spirit of faith that is in accordance with the scripture.”  He made his confession by quoting from Psalm 116:10, “I believed and so I speak.”  Verses 14 and 15 contain a string of promises that produce faith:  raised with Jesus, in his presence, and for your sake.  The resurrection destroys the ultimate cause of suffering, the mortality that leads to death.  

Beginning in verse 16 Paul explains why he did not lose heart in the midst of suffering.   He contrasts the wasting away of the outer nature with the renewal of the inner nature.   Focusing upon the eternal and putting the present into perspective is not the message and practice of Christians alone.   Similar to some Christians who fast during the season of Lent, both Jews and Muslims practice times of fasting.   Perhaps looking at their practices can remind Christians of how they might renew their inner nature even while living in a temporal world where everything decays and wastes away.  The Jewish year begins with the High Holy Days when Jews pause to remember the deliverance brought by God and the need to restore relationships with fellow humans and with God.  The High Holy Days start with Rosh Hashanah celebrated as a one day holiday in Jerusalem and two days outside of Israel.   In 2018 in the United States Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset on Sunday, September 9, and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, September 11.  The High Holy Days culminate with Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on September 18 and ends at nightfall on September 19.   On Yom Kippur, observant Jews fast or remove themselves from five areas of physical involvement: “eating and drinking, washing, applying oils or lotions to the skin, marital relations and wearing leather shoes.”[see link]  Can you guess why Jews abstain from these acts?  The following explanation tells why: “Throughout the year, many people spend their days focusing on almost nothing else besides food, sex, work, superficial material possessions (symbolized by shoes) and superficial pleasures (symbolized by anointing). On Yom Kippur, we restore our priorities to what really counts in life.” [].   On this day Jews focus upon God.  In this season they consider how they relate to both other humans and God. What practices of the Christian faith invade our living to remind us of a higher purpose?  How might our inner nature be renewed as we live out the Christian faith within a materialistic culture?  

 Presently, Muslims are observing Ramadan with a month long fast.   The celebration during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar has the capacity to reorient Muslims to focus on what really matters.   During daylight, Muslims abstain from food, drink and many activities of pleasure.  Ramadan calls attention to God’s revelation of the Qur’an and God’s deliverance of Muslims at Badr signaling that God had chosen them.   Of particular significance are the last ten days of the month as it is believed to be when God’s angel commanded Muhammad to begin to recite the Qur’an.   In 2018, Ramadan began on the evening of May 15 and ends on June 14 so we are now in the ten day period of the month when the Laylat al Qada or Night of Power is celebrated.  In the US this special night will be the evening of June 10 into June 11.   Muslims fast many of the things having to do with Paul’s outer nature in order to pray and meditate on the message sent from God in the Qur’an.   In many Mosques the Qur’an is recited each day.   Prayer is another focus.  On the Night of Power one may spend the entire night inside the Mosque reciting special prayers.