Friday of Proper 14b, (August 14, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(1 Corinthians 7:25-40)
TITLE: “The New Scheme of Things”
What I appreciate about St. Paul here in 1 Corinthians seven is that he is not afraid of addressing the conflicts and anxieties that the Corinthians are facing in their day. They are faced with the real and frankly scary question of whether or not it is even right to marry, given the temptations and persecutions that are coming upon them all too quickly. In the midst of such trials, is it right to engage in the very earthly and human estate of marriage? And in the same way we may ask the question, is the celibate life superior to the married life, is it more spiritual, more able to focus upon God and service to him? These are some of the questions the Corinthians face.
In our own day, we are barely waking up to the fact that such questions exist. Throughout the world the persecution of the Church is on the rise. While we lament and moan about whether the ten commandments can be displayed in a courtroom, in other parts of the world baring the name “Christian” may mean lost of family and property, or even loss of life itself. In some respects, I think you could almost argue that we in the West aren’t even grown up enough to worry about the questions of married versus single in the face of persecution and distress. But God, who is merciful and gracious, will teach us in His own time and way when we are ready to receive such trials.
So what St. Paul does for us here is outline how the Christian is to look at the estates of marriage and celibacy or virginity. Notice how Paul puts the emphasis on how each person is to make such decisions. What is going to promote good order? What will restrain the passions? What will keep you free from worry or anxiety? The answers will be different for each person, and learning how to answer those questions is a matter of wisdom, and takes time and work, with much prayer.
But look at what St. Paul does not do. Paul does not urge the Corinthians to judge each other on whether to marry or remain single. If our focus is on judging the spiritual estate of one another, of trying to measure our levels of holiness based upon the relationships and things of this world, then, well, we really will be caught like a child in the midst of a very adult war when the persecutions come.
In a war it is in your best interest that the soldiers next to you are strong, of good mind and will and body. You want them to be ready and well trained. You need them just as much as they need you. And so St. Paul recognizes that the Church will have the single and the married in the persecution to come. We are to look out for each other, to build one another up, to help the body to grow up into what our Heavenly Father has in store for us all along.
In this way, we look to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who did not turn aside when the trials faced Him. He did not shrink away when asked the question, He did not run and hide or let the things of this world distract Him from His divine work of the salvation and restoration of the world. He is stretched out toward His beloved even now, always preparing her and keeping her for the world which is to come.
Do not be afraid of the trials and hardships which are to come. Whether married or single, unburdened or full or sorrow and hardships, Christ our Lord is all in all for you, and you are in Him by Word and Spirit, water and meal. He will see you through, for the scheme of this world is passing away. And thanks be to God for that!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.