1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (Epistle for Epiphany 2, Year B)
12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
Some of you know this story as I have told it here and there. When I was in my first call, the very first Easter Jackie was asked to be the reader. The congregation was printing their own bulletins and with the help of a software program copied the readings into each week’s bulletin. The problem was the program was that it was only going to give you what you inputted, so if you mistyped, you would get the wrong reading. And so on this Easter Sunday in 1994 the bulletin of our church did not have Paul’s magnificent passage on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15, part of which goes like this: But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.
Instead, the reading in the bulletin was from 1 Corinthians 5: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
I felt a little like that last Sunday when we had the reading we heard just now from 1 Corinthians 6. Most of us would have thought, Where is that coming from and why are we reading this today?
And we may feel like that from time to time anyway, as we always have four readings including the Psalm and they do not necessarily relate. Now there is an introduction to the readings we reprint in every bulletin to give a little context. You have likely seen it.
I had a wonderful morning today. I did a little church work at home, then hung up some laundry, and then went for a coffee and a walk with a member of our congregation. That was at nine. At ten I walked over to London Farm and met up with a family from our church to catch up and to do a little bit of Sunday School. The kids came prepared for our meeting. They came with questions. Big questions. One of them was, How did God create the earth?
I share the question not only because I want to share about my day but because God creating the cosmos and you and me means that creation is good. We are not just about spirits and we are not only spirits but we are bodies, too. And when God had created us God saw that it was good.
And this takes us back to the reading from last Sunday. Our bodies matter because we are our bodies.
Sometimes we know that, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we treat our bodies as things we have, not as things we are, even though I know if I eat dinner too late I don’t sleep well. Or if I don’t get exercise and some sunlight I get sad. Or when my body gets weaker I realize that I am not as independent and invincible a I think, and my limitations remind me of God who made me not just for me but for communion with God.
But while Paul talks about our bodies as individuals, Paul also talks about the church, the body of Christ. The body that sins is also the body that is part of community, and of the community of the church. And so what we do and how we live matters.
Maybe the thing that Paul talks about that made it all sound so strange, isn’t our thing, though pornography certainly is a big problem in our day, which is because capitalism has made everything a commodity and we think what we do in private affects no one else.
But Paul isn’t just talking about that. Paul is talking about the fact that all things we do matter. This doesn’t mean that we have to be serious all the time, or that we can’t be silly, or that we can’t make love to our partner.
Last Sunday we spoke about how to discern the will of God. Here is one addendum to last Sunday’s sermon. In the Letter to the Colossians we read this: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:17)
That is one way of discernment and at the same time it envelops all of our life with holiness.
Thanks be to God.