In working on the sermon for Sunday on I Corinthians 13 I picked Michael Gorman's book "Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross" off of my shelf. He has helpful thoughts on Paul's famous meditation on love that will surely inform the sermon.
But that is not the reason for this scribbled post. On page two Gorman writes this: "Paul's spiritual experience was not part of 'mainstream' religion, comfortably situated in the center of his social world. He was, rather well off-center - eccentric (literally, 'out of the center'). As Paul himself admitted, identifying with the cross made him and his colleagues into eccentrics, 'fools for the sake of Christ' (I Cor. 4:10)."
I wonder if the pilgrimage that I have been on in three decades of ministry is towards receiving and recovering an identity that is at home with eccentricity. Coming from a Christian denomination that had grown accustomed to thinking of itself as central in Canadian cultural life "eccentric" was not one of the words we favoured when identifying ourselves. We liked "relevant" or "on the cutting edge" or "contemporary". But the truth is, we are off-center - eccentric. Once we realize that the cruciform gospel inevitably forms an eccentric people it is much easier to relax into - even celebrate - this peculiar identity. Being salt for the earth inevitably leads to living as a distinctive, odd, eccentric community. I am getting used to it. Slowly.
|from a 9th century manuscript (Monastery of St. Gallen)|
Soon it will not be familiar texts from Paul but unfamiliar ones that will be at issue here. Our Lenten study this year will see our congregation reading Paul's Letter to the Galatians together. Here is how we have introduced this Lenten study to the congregation:
I am now half way through my eighth and final cycle of this set of treatments on bortezomib (Velcade) and dexamethasone. After this cycle is complete on January 31 we will stop treatment and wait to see how long it takes for a bio-chemical relapse (an increase in the levels of my free light chains). I am looking forward to at least a couple of months without any treatments. The side effects from the treatments are minor but they do occur and the weekly trips for blood work and for injections are time consuming, so having normal weeks without any treatments will be a gift.