In a few days time we will have some 48 hours together with a number of those who have had a focus on Spain and our time will be shaped by the question of ‘what is the gospel?’. Of course the question is very easy to answer, and we can even sum it up in a few (four?) spiritual laws. Done and dusted. So that should leave a lot of spare time!
What motivates us to come together is the desire to live with the questions and be affirmed in the search for authenticity. Wrong or inadequate questions leave us with insufficient answers. Now as it should happen this morning my NT reading just came to that important passage in Rom. 15, after Paul proclaims his desire is not to preach where Christ has been preached already, and so expresses his desire to get to Spain (in his world ‘the ends of the earth’).
But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
We can read that very simply. New territory is there and Paul’s apostolic drive is to go to the unreached with his equivalent of the Alpha course. However, what on earth does he mean by ‘I no longer have any room for work in these regions’? He is writing the letter while in Corinth from the house of Gaius, and he can state that the whole church in Corinth can fit in Gaius’ house. Corinth a promiscuous and highly idolatrous city with a sordid reputation (think of the then contemporary insult ‘you are acting as a Corinthian’). A church that was not a shining example, and one that was obviously not going to make into the ‘mega church’ statistical book any day soon. His work is finished in the region? Are you sure Paul? Not by any stretch of the imagination by how we would measure things: souls saved and tithers in the pews.
So just saying… What on earth is this gospel? What was the work he considered he was there to do and how on earth could he really say ‘there was no more room’. I have stacks of thoughts on these issues… but hopefully my thoughts do not silence, nor answer my questions too soon.