Have you ever talked with someone who loves bacon about bacon? Food gets contentious, it gets controversial. Walk with God and his people in this sermon as they struggle over food, as they seek out how to handle division in their community, as they seek to let Jesus be their king. I also get meta and talk about sermons in a sermon. Preached @ St. Peter’s Comox Jan. 28, 2018.
The sermon is something God does with us and we do with him. I have a role in it, a role I take very seriously. But Good News! You have a role too. You see in this space, in these fifteen to twenty minutes we walk together in God’s Word. My hope, the hope I have received and stand on is that in our stories, in scripture, God is active in transforming us. So when I am preaching my hope is that we together before God are open, we gather in expectation that he will be with us, that he will transform us. And so as I begin, I ask you, as I ask before the Eucharist, lift up your hearts, open them, offer to God yourself, your heart and your soul, your imagination and your thoughts. This vulnerability, this opening, this lifting up is the meaning of sacrifice and we gather together in it as we swim in God’s Word.
So let us swim together.
Imagine a new coastal city, a colony in fact. Merchants from the Greek City States, Administrators from Rome, gathered together as a port to facilitate trade, to manage the army and the taxes, to instill order throughout the region. People came speaking different kinds of Latin, different kinds of Greek, they brought their local delicacies, they brought their local cultures into this melting pot, into this multicultural cauldron. They brought also their idols, different gods from different lands, and to facilitate their living together the administrators brought their myths into sync, imagining a collaborative pantheon.
To this ideal multicultural mosaic came Paul, a bow-legged feisty missionary, a man who had been a judicious Pharisee, a man who preached fiercely and with certainty. He came and lived in the city for a while. He made tents most of the week but every week he came to the Synagogue and proclaimed the promise, that heaven was not beyond their reach, that the king of the universe had come and overcome the powers of this world, that Jesus promised of God, Word of the Father, love incarnate had come and was coming again. Their was a place for them in this kingdom.
And so some of them Romans, some of them Jews, some of them Greeks left their temples, left their gods. These families gathered together into an expression of this new kingdom, this kingdom in the world but not of it. A few families of different cultures and histories. Each of them lost friends, lost business, each of them suffered as they came together into this new family of expectation.
To these people who he invited into the new life of expectation, Paul writes. In the past few weeks he has been talking about a sexual scandal in the community. He talks about how in sexual desire we burn with expectation of physical expectation, yet once satisfied we burn again and again. This burning consumes us and overcomes us, it enters into our body and our body becomes a living expectation of sex. We are called into a more glorious expectation with all of our body and all of our soul, we are being remade by the Holy Spirit in us, our bodies are to be expecting with all that they are the coming of God’s presence, not the satisfaction of the flesh. After five chapters of talking about sex Paul pivots.
This morning we hear him address a difficulty the Corinthians are having, a dispute. You see the problem was this: it was customary that different pagan temples would sacrifice animals to their gods and then either have communal feasts at the temple or sell the meat in the market for revenue. According to Jewish Law this meat was not to be consumed. Some people in the community wanted to keep with Jewish Law and avoid the meat. Others had left religions where eating that meat was an act of worship and so to return to that worship would be in their hearts a denial of Christ as their king. For others eating the meat was no big deal. There was a disagreement, a disagreement about something practical and everyday, a disagreement that stemmed from important desires and thoughts.
Paul speaks into this dispute. He says look, you are all talking from what you know. Be careful about that. We all know that we all know some things. But look, knowledge can kind of puff us up, it can make us proud, make us think we have authority, make us think we are important, it fills us with air. What happens when you apply pressure to something full of air? What happens when you pop a balloon? Filling eachother with knowledge is maybe not as good as filling eachother with love. For love fills us up with something solid, it builds us up in such a way that we can sustain pressure, that we can be resilient, that we grow. Knowledge alone does not do that. If you love, truly love, you show that God knows you. When you find yourselves in a dispute start from love, act in love.
This does not mean that truth does not matter, but that it must be held in love. Having started with love Paul then examines the matter of what is true. He looks to scripture, quotes a few passages to show that there is one God, and that idols are nothing. Even if the idols that this meat were sacrificed to were real, it would not matter if we trust in God, because he is the Father of all, the Father of us. Being God’s children we are from him, and we are for his purpose in us. The Father made everything and we are his. Through Jesus all things come to be and we live through Jesus. This is what is true, Paul says.
But we have to acknowledge, that even though this is what is true not everyone knows it to be true. They don’t understand the idol to be nothing because they once understood it to have power. They can not eat this meat without giving dominion of their hearts, of their being, to this idol. Its true that the food is powerless, that the food does not help or hurt their relationship with God. How does our knowing that help them? Right now it probably doesn’t, Paul says.
We need to be careful that what we know does not hurt others. What we do can destroy the conscious of those around us. Love calls us to encourage not to mock, to build up. I’ve said it before I will say it again, for the Christian love and truth can not be separated. Love without truth is not truly love, for love is true. And truth without love isn’t truth for we have been show that the truth is the incarnation and expression of love.
Jesus’s teaching went out through Galilee. This man who Moses foresaw. He taught with authority, because he is authority. He is our authority, he is “the boss of me.” His presence drives out demons, his entrance into us set us free. Yes the demons knew who he was and feared their destruction. That knowledge was in rebellion and fear however. We aren’t called to know Jesus, we are called to love him, to encounter him, to be overcome by him.