LentBlog 2015, Day 19: Of Locker Rooms and Kingdom life

Ephesians 5:1-5, NRSV:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us[a] and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

 So I’m reading this again and again tonight, wondering what to say… And not a lot is coming to me except maybe this:  Paul is doing a vice list here, laying out specific behaviors to avoid. He lists them twice, using the same terms, in v3 and v5, with a little caveat on obscene talk in v4.

Paul says we’re not to be:

– involved in “fornication,” which tends to mean adultery but is also used as a sort-of generic term for sexual sin. Greek here is Πορνεία, “porneia,” which is the same root word as prostitute and from which we derive “pornography,”  which is perhaps literally translated “prostitution in writing.”

-impure– Greek ἀκαθαρσία, “a-catharsia” which denote uncleanliness, lewdness, and impurity, many times with a sexual connotation.

-Greedy, which he equates with idolatry.

In the midst of this, he says “obscene, silly, and vulgar talk” has no place among God’s people who are growing up.

The image I have in my mind is of a high school varsity (or perhaps college or pro-level) locker room. Lots of fornication, impurity, greediness talk. Lots of silly vulgar talk.

Now, I know not every person involved in high level sports or something is engaged in this garbage, and that athletes exist all over the place who try to embody a Christian ethic in a difficult spot… But I think the typical locker room  stuff is a decent picture of what Paul is talking about here. And it’s the kind of stuff our society tends to promote: the womanizing, rich, carefree sports jock or rock star life.

Paul says such a life is not a Kingdom life. Instead, love (and that’s agape for those of you playing at home, not eros) must rule all… love that lays its life down for others. Love that holds its tongue and speaks εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) “thanksgiving” instead. (Yes, that is the same root from which our “Eucharist” or Holy Communion comes…)

I guess what this passage is saying to me is it’s time for the high school jock or rock star wanna be in all of us to grow up. The Kingdom life leads us elsewhere.




LentBlog ’14, Day 24: On History Repeating Itself

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Paul jumps into a new thought, intended to further take the Corinthians to task for their overconfidence. He reminds them of the story of God’s chosen people, how they all followed the pillar of cloud when coming out of Egypt and how they all crossed the same Red Sea. They all ate the same manna and quail in the desert, and they all drank water from the same rock. He’s doing a comparison here between those events and the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. He reminds the church the chosen people were all partakers together, and yet some of them (ok, a lot of them) perished in the desert because of their disobedience.

Most of the time it was idolatry of some form. Sometimes it was complaining or sexual sin. The individual stories he’s referencing can be found in Exodus and Numbers. Regardless, Paul reminds them of the peoples’ past failures in order to guide them away from the same failures in the present.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The same is true of us.

Oh, we’re perhaps not tempted to make a golden calf or something, but we are most certainly tempted with idolatry. We are most certainly tempted to become complainers when we don’t get our way or when God’s work in the world seems weird to us. We are most certainly tempted by sexual sin pretty much everywhere we look.

The people in early Israel were not exempt from temptation to sin and its consequences just because they had gone through the Red Sea and eaten manna.

Neither are we exempt from temptation to sin and its consequences just because we are part of the church.  Come to think of it, this passage is another spot that pretty well shreds the idea of eternal security, but I digress…

The good news is we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, but it’s going to take diligence, attendance to the means of grace, and a whole lot less spiritual pride.