Paul in Sin City

I usually look first at the gospel when I look over the readings for Sunday Mass, but today I’m looking at Paul’s brief introduction to his First Letter to the Corinthian, which we’ll be reading from the next few weeks at Sunday Mass.

Paul wrote a number of letters to the Corinthians, the Christian community he founded after reaching Corinth about the year 50. It was the most exasperating community Paul dealt with, but the Corinthians made him think about faith, so we can thank them for keeping Paul on his toes.

Corinth was a rich, sprawling seaport, being rebuilt as Paul arrived, a frontier city attracting ambitious people from all over the Roman world. They were people who wanted to get ahead, many of them were building large homes for themselves from the money they were making. Corinth was a city of “self-made” people; only the tough survived there. It also was a big center for prostitution and sexual commerce. Today we would call it a “sin” city.

That may be one reason why Paul wanted to establish a church there. He was chosen by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles and bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. Where could that be better done than from a seaport with connections to the whole world. He also thought that if Christianity could take root there, it could take root anywhere.

When Paul came to Corinth around the year 50 AD, he did what anybody has to do when they go to a new place– find a place to stay and get a job. He stayed in the house of Prisca and Aquila, a Jewish Christian couple who owned a small shop in Corinth. He worked as a tentmaker in their shop. As he worked he met people, and Paul spoke to them of Jesus Christ, and they believed.

Then on the Sabbath in the synagogue he made contacts too, but I think Paul probably did most of his preaching when he was working. A lot of things can happen when you are working.

To form new believers, Paul asked some of his friends with large houses to hold meetings there. A lot of things happen in homes that don’t happen in church.

Paul generally founded a church and moved on. But when he moved on, troubles often started in many of those communities, so sometimes he wrote them letters, and sometimes he had to come back himself to try to straighten things out. There were a number of grave problems in the church at Corinth. The church was split into factions, based on wealth, status and friendship. It also was confused about sexual morality.

Paul reminded the Corinthians where they came from and who they were. Not many of you were wise or well-born, he told them. God chooses the weak things. God still does.

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