Our hearts may sing as we hear the glorious prophecy of Isaiah, as repeated in Matthew’s Gospel: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” But as we listen to the epistle a nagging voice suggests that the Corinthians have been remarkably busy in their attempts to put that light out. On some days I wonder if this admittedly sour perspective doesn’t explain a good part of Christian history, as well as our present volatile and noisily divisive situation. The light came and we have been devising clever ways to extinguish it ever since.
For the third Sunday in a row, we hear talk of baptism. But instead of the story of Jesus and John at the Jordan we hear Paul addressing the Corinthians in an exasperated tone, asking them to consider what their own baptisms mean. Apparently they had been dividing themselves into cliques, identifying themselves as belonging not to Christ but to whoever had baptized them.