01/25/15 Sermon (January 25, 2015)

posted Jun 24, 2015, 11:18 AM by David Hawkins

“Let it Go (And Let God)”

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians  7:29-31

29I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Sermon: "Let it Go (And Let God)"             Rev. David Hawkins

Last week we heard the Apostle Paul responding to reports of his congregation in Corinth acting out in ways that hurt not just themselves, but their community as well. He reminded them that being bound to Christ in Baptism means that that they are bound to one another as well, and that their actions, good or bad, have an impact on everyone.

Paul is reminding his church that our freedom in Christ means that we are freed from the law, but not from our relationship with each other. It is in the context of community that Paul grounds his ideas about what constitutes right behaviour.

In other words, for Paul, faith is not just a private matter. The way we as individuals live our lives in response to God’s grace has implications for for all of us us.

This week, Paul is tackling a different theological problem. For most of his letter to the Corinthians, he has been responding to questions about whether or not Christians should eat certain kinds of food, whether they should sue each other, whether they should commit a surprising number of different kinds of sexual sin. There are questions about clothing, questions about hair, questions about prophecy, prayer, singing, communion, questions, in fact, about just about everything.

You get the sense that Paul’s church is very anxious. This is a church that is concerned about getting it right, and I understand their concern. I think we all know what it means to want to get this whole Christian life right, to want to know, without a shadow of a doubt what we’re supposed to be doing. Should I do this, or that? Should I say this, or that? Who should I marry? What school should I go to? What job should I take? How should I live my life? What would Jesus do?

It would be great to get a text message from time to time from God helping us out, wouldn’t it? Maybe a tweet, 140 characters explaining exactly what we’re supposed to do in any particular situation. Hashtag# TellMeWhatToDoGod.

Today, we hear Paul’s response to his church’s anxiety. Paul tells his church that since the end is coming, don’t worry so much about about hanging on to the things of this world. In the same way that he grounds his understanding of freedom and sin in terms of relationship, he grounds his understanding of hope and peace in terms of Christ’s return.

The problem is, this particular scripture is really hard to understand for some of us, because it sure seems like Paul thinks the world is going to end pretty quick. Paul thinks that Christ was coming back soon, probably in his own lifetime.

Now, it’s important to remember that Paul didn’t claim any divine instructions about this sort of thing -- in fact, he was careful to say that this word was not from God, but was rather his own opinion.

But, still, it’s the Apostle Paul. We tend to take the things he says pretty seriously. And so, when it looks like he’s saying that the world is going to end, we need to sit up and pay attention.

And for a lot of people, this is the e-mail they’ve been waiting for. Armageddon is imminent, and the rapture is upon us. They interpret Paul’s words as applying to them, now, today, as though Paul was writing directly to them rather than to a Corinthian Church 2000 years ago.

For many Christians, the only way to read this scripture is to interpret it literally, in real time, that because the world is going to end any minute, our day to day lives are really not worth investing ourselves, because they are going to end pretty soon anyway.

The problem is, the world didn’t come to an end when Paul thought it would. And the world has stubbornly kept on not coming to an end, over and over again, even though lots of really very persuasive preachers have insisted that it was just about to, any day now.

And because the world has continued to not come to an end, many Christians have decided to deal with this scripture in a different way. We’ve simply taken Paul’s words about the end of the world and put them on the back burner.

“Yeah, the world will probably end at some point; yeah, Christ is going to return, yada, yada, yada. But it hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t happen tomorrow, and so it doesn’t really apply to me today.”

And I confess, I have a lot of sympathy for this interpretation. I can understand why it would be easier to just gloss over this passage. The whole idea of the end of the world is uncomfortable and weird. It would be easier to assume that this scripture about the end times doesn’t really have anything for us in our times.

But maybe there is another way of thinking about Paul’s words that don’t require us to either ignore them or put everything down and go to the nearest mountain top and wait it out. I guess for us that would be, where, Ruidoso?

Paul’s words hold a deeper truth for us about the reality of our world. Because he’s right. The form of our world really is passing away before our eyes. Things are changing all around us, politically, technologically, socially, at a wonderful and terrifying speed.

Information about the world presses in on us with claustrophobic intensity. Too many words, too many images, too many opinions, too much tragedy, too much war, too much fear, too much hate.

We live in a world that shifts beneath our feet: familiar institutions under fire for corruption, our political process is rigged against us, and familiar solutions are not up to the task of fixing unfamiliar problems.

Perhaps we are not so different from the Church in Corinth, asking, demanding answers to questions we have never considered before, wanting to know how to do this, how to do that, how to live, who to marry, how do we live our lives, today, in a world that is so bewildering and foreign to us.

And the answer is the same for us as it was for them. We do not know what will happen next, but we do know that it is in God’s hands. We do not know how things are going to shake out, but we do know that God is with us as we get tossed around. We do not know the twists and turns of our lives, but we do know the ultimate destination.

It’s not easy to trust that God is in the changes all around us. It’s not easy to see God’s hands at work in the chaos of today’s world. I’m not for a moment suggesting that God is causing war, that God is causing pain. But I do believe that Paul’s words are still speaking to us about what it really means to have hope.

As we move through life, remember that all this stuff is temporary. And this is the central point of Paul’s advice: Love each other, work hard, pray harder, and ultimately, let it go. It’s going to be OK. Because in the end, as it was in the beginning, God is still God, and we are still his people.  

To the Lord who speaks to us,

and strengthens us,

and blesses us with peace,

be all glory and honor forever. Amen.