Thursday, February 5, 2015

All things are lawful. Not all things are helpful....


The Open Choir and pastor Bob

Mario and Jeremy G and the Work Center Open Choir open our service with a series of 3 songs, circling dancing to the call and response.
This Little Light of Mine
We could easily be in fields in the rural south.
I open my sermon with these words from Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians:

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial….or put another way,  “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 

What we’re talking about is responsible living, free choices we make within freedom.

One of Dr. King’s close associates one tie  was asked about being surprised and he responded, 
…not as surprised as the first time  I saw Martin King with a cigarette…

It is not well known that in Memphis, Dr. King went out on the balcony for a smoke…and that is when he was  shot. An aide quickly gathered up the butt and  took the cigarette pack from Dr. King before the ambulance arrived. He had never wanted anyone to see him smoke both because of conservative black church practice and because he didn’t want to influence his children.

When I grew up, the thought was that you couldn’t be a Christian and drink and smoke. (Although my father did both and my Sunday school teaching grandfather did well into his 70’s…) I didn’t want people to think because I was a church kid that I wasn’t like anyone else.

I began my ministry in the day when  the urban minister…was defined by the coffee pot, cigarettes and a scotch after 5…a heroic fellowship of stress and commitment and suffering…we didn’t stop to think about what we might be modeling, if health and joy might some how be part of the picture.

Just because you are not forbidden to do something doesn’t make it a good idea.

Paul continues that that theme…in one of his typical hard to follow arguments…He proceeds by saying( I Cor.8: 1-13)  that 1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

So there seemed to be an issue regarding food sacrificed to idols…and Paul responds that since idols aren’t real, there’s no harm done, then eat away. But if there’s someone around you who does believe in idols see you, then you can’t because you will be leading them astray.

So Paul goes even further and says he’ll ultimately give up meat…altogether.

So the down side is we teach buy example and have to take responsibility for that. What we do always speaks louder than what we say.

But that is the upside too….what we show by what we do…When we sweep the steps clean, when we’re here at 11  to greet, when we’re awake…alert…we demonstrate how we feel about this place, each other and those who visit.

One other example, as we prepare to take communion today. There is no prohibition against wine, though I grew up with (Welch’s) grape juice. I loved the early morning tawny port at the Episcopal church I worked at. You’ll go to some churches where the wine is in one cup and juice in another. We know that some people have issues with alcohol. So we at this church have a tradition of one cup. We choose not to break fellowship, koinonia. The freedom to do something is equally the freedom to choose not to do something. It’s not about rules but about wisdom. And values. All things are lawful. Not all things are helpful…

The Open Choir in action
We finish our service with songs from our Open Choir again. And then our final circle of blessing.

Soon enough, the In2 Church people are filling the sanctuary. By the time they start, they will have filled the sanctuary. And the balcony. All in Korean.  All young. It’s pretty overwhelming.

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