21 February 2019

Sermon on 1 Cor. 10:14ff.

Service of the Word

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Lord be with you. R.

Let us pray. O almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You and worthily magnify Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Psalm 115

Reading: 1 Cor. 10:14-22

1 Corinthians 10:14-22 (ESV) 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

A 14th century english proverb runs: "He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon." That is, be cautious in getting too close; he's dangerous. St. Paul, of course, is not in favor of longer spoons, but the question is how Paul made the move he does from "idols" to "demons" or "devils."

"What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God." 

Whence such an idea? I think Paul had been reading his Septuagint, which in Psalm 96:5 says: "The gods of the nations are [not idols, as in Hebrew, but in Greek] demons; but the Lord made the heavens." So then idolatry is never just a mistake; it's downright evil. Inspired by the demons and whether wittingly or unwittingly, the worship offered to any but the living God simply goes to devils; to evil spirits and intelligences who desire our downfall.

And so St. Paul says when you see idolatry going on, there's really only one sane move and it's not grab a longer spoon. It's to toss the spoon away and high tail it out of there as fast as you can. "Flee idolatry." Run away from it. Don't toy with it. Don't think you can be so spiritual you will be untouched by it just because you happen to know that an idol is really an unding. You don't have a spoon long enough to partake with the demons. At least, not to do so and to remain Christ's. 

It's the same message at the end of 1 John. Speaking of Jesus, "This is the true God and eternal life" and so "little children, keep yourself from idols!"

How often we have lifted out the verses on the Supper in today's reading as independent and read them in isolation! Shame on us! Oh, it's true: the Supper gives you participation in Christ, in His blood and in His body, for the cup of blessing that we bless, the cup itself (or rather, its contents) IS a participation in Christ's blood; the bread we bread and distribute, it IS a participation in Christ's body. 

Yes, it's a fine text to prove the Sacramental union and all that, from Irenaeus even to Pope St. Gelasius, who taught "Certainly the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ are a divine thing, through which we are made partakers of the divine nature; and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to be." and so, 1 Cor. 10:16 is a nice slam at Romish Transubstantiation. BUT let's not overlook the Apostles' main point. 

To be a participant in Christ's Supper, in His cup of blessing and broken bread, in His blood and body, to be one Body in Him through this participation, means you are HIS. You BELONG to HIM. And He is a jealous God, this heavenly Bridegroom of yours. He has no intention of sharing you with the demons. He makes you His or you reject that and make yourself theirs. 

Israel tried to play the spoon game in the days of the Kings; they'd keep Yahweh, of course, but what was a little offering on the side? A cake baked to the Queen of Heaven? What was wrong with some sex to Baal or even the offering a child or two to Molech? 

They found out what was wrong: You dine with those demons, you can no longer dine with Yahweh. In fact, He tossed the idols and their worshippers out of His house and out of His land. No one was the match for His mighty strength when roused to jealous anger. He left them in the hands of the demons they had chosen and that ended when the demons always want it to end: they ate them. Devoured them in death and misery and flame. 

The devil, the chief of the demons, says Jesus, is not only a murderer from the beginning, but "the father of lies." His worship is always founded on a lie, on believing a lie. "You shall not surely die" and the implied notion that God must be holding out on you, so doing your own thing is the only safe and sane way to go. This in contrast to the Table of the Lord where God reveals, definitively and finally, that He holds absolutely nothing back from you: in fact, He gave His dearly beloved Son for you, poured out His Spirit on you, and at the Table supplies the proof: the blood in the cup that carries every blessing to you, your Lord's blood; the body that unites you to Him. Held out on you? No way. He gives everything He has that you might be His own. There CAN be no blending of this truth that the Eucharist proclaims in such simplicity and clarity with the numerous shades of the demons' lies and worship. 

And, people loved by God, this is why when we see that the devil has gotten a foothold in some Christian community's confession and that it has embraced and upheld and defended some lie of the enemy, we can't just ignore it. It's why every Christian community that takes the Eucharist seriously has always practiced the closed table. It's closed to every falsehood. It's closed to every lie. It's closed to the too clever trick of trying to use the long spoon to dine with the demon while still seeking to enjoy the Lord's favor. And so the sadly divided state of the Church here until the Parousia, but there's no way around it when the demon's lie is put on the same footing as Christ's word. And that's also why we won't even think of worshipping in a mosque or Hindu temple. Run from them! We are not stronger than He and we know the truth of His jealousy.

And on that we must finally close. The demon can only project its own sinful heart onto God. So it imagines He's so narrow in His demands because He is a tyrant and vicious ogre who wants to devour the whole world all Himself. But the truth, the beautiful truth, behind the jealousy of the Lord is that He is terribly jealous for you because He knows that He alone can give you eternal life, the forgiveness that is only in Him, that your welfare and safety and future are only secure with Him. He wants you all for Himself not to devour you like the demons, but to fill you, to be devoured by you, because He is the only One who CAN save you (and he wants you saved!). Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.

In contrast, Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them. So, O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is our help and our shield!...He has been mindful of us, He will bless us...He will bless them that fear the Lord, both great and small...And we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!"

Which might be paraphrased: Drop the spoon and run away from the table of those who want to devour you to the table of Him who wants to be devoured by you, in the awesome greatness of His condescending love.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Hymn: 623 Lord Jesus Christ, We Humbly Pray


Lord, remember us in Your kingdom and teach us to pray: Our Father...

Remember, Holy and most merciful Father, all who suffer for Your name, all who are in prison, the hungry and ill-clad, the poor and the lonely, those who travel, and all who cry out to You in their time of need, especially Molly, Melanie, Gene, Paula, Roger, Allen, Jan and all who grieve the passing of Elinor and Kathy and all who grieve for Bob. Take them all under Your tender care and grant them Your peace and a happy issue out of all their afflictions, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Almighty God, send the light of Your truth into all the earth. Raise up faithful servants of Christ to advance the Gospel both at home and in distant lands. Remember especially in Your mercy this day Pr. JP and Aimee Cima, serving in Asia, and all missionaries. By their devoted service cause faith to abound and the Kingdom to increase; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, You have given grace at this time and with one accord to make our common supplications to You and You promise that where two or three are gathered in Your name, You will grant their requests. Fulfill now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of Your servants as may be most expedient for them, grant us in this world knowledge of Your truth and in the world to come, life everlasting; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all! Amen.

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