Sermon for 24 January 2021

Sermon Put it in Context

It’s amazing what you do when you are bored. Many of you have stories of things you did. Stories you may want to forget; stories you want others to forget; stories that ended up at the police station; stories that made great video fails and now stories that end up on TikToc.
The pandemic has certainly added to the list of embarrassing moments.
Being the quiet and reserved type my boredom has led me to choose an odd piece of scripture to preach on.
This is written by Paul. Paul was an apostle of Jesus. He never actually met Jesus in person. He is the one that had the bright light and the vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Paul’s original job was to persecute and then execute the early Christians. I would say he was a very intense man. Following his conversion he used that intensity to grow the new faith. He was also a prolific author. He has more writings in the New Testament than anyone else.
However his writings are odd. He has written passages like the “Love is patient, Love is kind” poem that is used at many weddings. He has written other passages that you would only use at a wedding if you want an immediate divorce, like “women should obey their husbands”. Needless to say Paul was never married.
There is a large group of scholars who believe that because there is such inconsistency in his writings it is likely there were two authors who used his name.
Regardless, everything in life including his writings need to be taken into context.
Recently a picture of a Lioness holding her cub has made the rounds. From one angle it appears that she is swallowing the head of her offspring but from the other you can see that the head is simply off to one side and the young lion is fine. It’s about context.
Another story is about a man tells his friend “I fell off a 50foot ladder today” the friend is shocked and asks if he is ok. The man replies “Yes I was only on the first step”
It is all context.
We have the same situation with all the news outlets. Watch the same story via CNN /CBC/ Fox, CTV etc. There are a lot of different versions of the same story. Try watching the different news casts as if each one was your regular one.
Now let’s look at the scripture passage. Let’s put it into context
If we back up just one verse we see a very revealing statement by Paul. He says those who marry will experience distress in this life,[f] and I would spare you that. I rarely use that at weddings.
The next part seems odd but he is basically saying “Focus”. Act as though you had no other distractions. Don’t focus on your marriage, your mourning, your happiness, your possessions or even the world you live in. Concentrate on what is happening. Paul believed that the world was going to end. He believed that Jesus would return and so distractions were impediments.
He says: ”For the present form of this world is passing away.
That could certainly apply to today’s world but he was being much more drastic. He was trying to tell his people not to miss the moment when everything would change.
Then he says “32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided.
Interestingly this passage has been used to talk about how sexist Paul was. I would agree with that analysis but not from this scripture. Again we need to keep it in context. Right away he says
And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.
These are not intended to be sexist declarations. As he says he wants people to have “unhindered devotion to the Lord”.
Then there is an interesting part where he says that if you can’t control your impulses, at that point it is alright to get married.
The last phrase again returns to his personal view of marriage when he states “he who refrains from marriage will do better”. Again – not a passage I use in the wedding ceremony.
I think it is important for us to realize that he is not really talking about marriage or lack of it. It is important for us to put this passage in context because what Paul is really trying to do is put our lives in context.
We as people so easily get distracted from the spiritual pursuit.
I remember years ago an older minister who was opposed to having radios in cars. He explained that that time of driving could be spent on inner reflection. I can’t say much as I don’t like to have a radio on a motorcycle, but just think what that minister would say now about distracted driving now: Radios, CD’s, satellite stations, phones, videos, texting, coffee, makeup. I even saw a man shaving one day with a razor and foam. He held it out the window to clean it. I know that because I was behind him.
Our lives get out of perspective. We get out of context. Paul felt there was short time before the world was ending, and really when you consider that most of us live less than an hundred years it is not a long time.
Paul’s concern was that we get distracted and then we get anxious. We get obsessed about the physical provisions. We can spend our whole lives being worried about the physical. Jesus addresses that, he says “Don’t be worried about what you wear, even the flowers look better than the king”.
Our economy is geared to focusing on the physical because when someone is truly happy they don’t spend as much money. If we all became spiritually content our economy would change. So there is pressure to keep people distracted.
As many of you know I get lot of content sent to me. This week I got a post that pictured a nice house and said “This is your dream home BUT” and then a picture of a huge mansion came up and it said “This is the house God wants you to have. Call us for details” Apparently God is into upsizing.
Paul may not have had the best manner of speaking but if we put it in context we can understand what he was trying to say.
If we put our lives in context we can understand what God wants for us.
It is not that we are to ignore the needs of the rest of the world, or the world itself, or the needs of our families and communities.
We are visitors here. We need to put our physical lives into the spiritual context, not the other way around.
God, sometimes we get so distracted with life that we forget to take time to give you thanks. We forget to pray. We overlook the symmetry that you have given to this world. Teach us to appreciate your wisdom over our limited information. Teach us to listen to your silence and your loud calls. Help us to share this life and not try to keep it all to ourselves.Help us to look inside ourselves and find our spirits.
We pray in silence, for those who need special care at this time…..
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. lead us not into temptation. but deliver us from evil. for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. forever and ever Amen
SERVICE January 24, 2021
Etransfer info at bottom of page
Thanks to helpers: Cathy, Hugh, Marion
Opening Prayer
Hymn – Come in Come In 395
Scripture 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Reflection In Context
Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Over my Head 88MV
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen
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