You may know how the story goes:
The new young minister had finally arrived in town. It was his first Sunday, and his first sermon with his new congregation. There was an excitement in the air, and a buzz about the arrival of this new and recent seminary graduate.
They also knew what they were getting into. They were a smaller country church and the “new ministers” always found their way to them. They were sort of a breeding ground for new ministers, a place that nurtured and ushered the next generation into ministry with a healthy successful place to get started.
Well after the first hymn, and the first prayer by one of the elders, the minister made his way to the pulpit. In full academic vestments and with his nose in the air, he ascended to the pulpit, a massive pulpit for that space, with 7 steps that led up, overlooking the congregation by many feet. He then looked out at a packed church, got a little nervous, and began the reading. By the time for the sermon, he realized in the fanfare he had misplaced a couple pages of his notes. He pressed on anyway, riding the coattails of his seminary professors. He kept his nose in the air, cocky as ever, and preached a fine sermon.
Despite this, the sermon began to tank. Stories weren’t completed. Thoughts were lost. The nervousness and the missing pages took its toll, and with much humility, he finished, turned, and walked down all seven steps, with his head held in shame.
After the service, as people passed to shake hands with the new minister, one of the elders of the congregation walked by and said, “Perhaps next time you can ascend to the pulpit in the same manner as you descended today.”
This is precisely the struggle of the Corinthians, and we see a piece of that in our reading today. Paul, unlike them, comes in humility, weakness, and fear. He demonstrates the Spirit of Christ and of his power, not a power of his own making. He uses this in his very argument, because they were struggling to keep their egos and their faith in check.
Paul has incredible human wisdom, and ironically uses it to argue against human wisdom. His struggle is to preach Christ crucified, and to get the church in Corinth on that same track as well.
He expected – no he demanded – that other churches follow his lead. He almost singlehandedly provided a means by which the unity of Christ crucified could exist in a diverse and cosmopolitan Church that served Christ in many different countries and with many different native tongues. It is amazing what the Spirit of Christ can do through one simple person!