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The Time Is Short

January 20, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: 1 Corinthians 7:29–7:31

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The Time Is Short
Epiphany 3
1 Corinthians 7:29-31

The Epistle lesson’s sense of urgency and emphasis on the shortness of time echoes today’s other readings. Jesus proclaims: … "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mk. 1:15 A focus on urgency, judgment and repentance continue in the Jonah reading. "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" Jonah 3:4 There’s no time for the Ninevites to delay their response to God’s judgment. Their king got the message, he commanded that all repent — both man and beast! He counseled, turn from evil and await the compassion of God — a compassion that God did extend, meaning that God “… relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:10 Likewise, St. Paul stressed the urgency of the kingdom, the repentance required of all mankind and the compassion of God expressed by Jesus Christ. Like Peter, Andrew, James and John he heard the call of Jesus “o’re the tumult” of his life and by the leading of the Holy Spirit his exhortation is today passed on to your hearing.

Simply put, keep your eyes and ears focused on The One who is your eternal salvation. Truly, we are pilgrims and strangers in a life foreign to our heavenly home. Single or married, the sorrows and joys in life, and our vocations are not permanent nor are they ends in themselves. Paul says: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short.” 1 Cor. 7:29

Neither Jesus or Paul encourage spiritual procrastination. " Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2 This is not the time for I’ll do it when I get around to it. I’ll repent and turn from the sin in my life … just as soon as I am convinced that it is me who is wrong and not some other person or my unfair situation. I’ll forgive the one who wronged me … I’m just waiting for him/her to admit they wronged me. I’ll improve my stewardship of time, talents and treasures … just as soon as God shows me where to make the guaranteed investment of my precious resources. I’ll regularly start coming to worship and Bible study … just as soon as I am assured that I won’t be moved off my complacency towards God’s Law and my refusal to take up my cross and follow Him.

During these days after Christ’s Ascension and before the time of Christ’s Second coming our lives are lived with a unique urgency. We do not “have all the time in the world” to wait and see or to try God’s patience with our balking at repentance and rejecting Luther’s characterization that we are no more than beggars at the foot of Christ’s Cross. Do not deceive yourselves by believing in the permanency of the present form and appearance (schema) of things. “For the present form of this world is passing away. 1 Cor. 7:31

You might think that Paul has gone “off his rocker.” He’s, ranting and raving about things that don’t have any relevance to me and my life. But hold on. What’s not relevant about marriage and/or being single? Who among us has not suffered loss at the death of a loved one and the gnawing grief that comes with it? Who has not rejoiced greatly only to wonder how long this blessing will last? Who among us does not “pinch his pennies” so as not to lose one in and unwise purchase? Who has not purchased items only to please themselves and for their exclusive use? Who has not treated the things of this world selfishly? Who is there who has not become so enticed with the vanities of life that they didn’t find themselves wandering down some strange paths in pursuit of an evil that initially appeared so good and pure?

If God himself were asking you these same questions this morning, how would you truthfully answer Him? Would you not be saying? … ‘Yes Lord, you are talking about me and my attachment to the form and appearance of this present life as if it were an end-in-itself. Lord I repent of all such false attachments and trusts. I need your wisdom, your compassion, your forgiveness and your guiding Word.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, thanks be to God. He does love us and forgives us and gives us His clear word. Though This world in its present form is passing away, the Word of God is and remains eternal. Therefore, look at things from God’s viewpoint — be refreshed and return to the right path.

Consider marriage. It is God’s good institution and gift, but it is not mandatory for all. Marriage is temporary, “till death part us”; however, life in Christ (with our heavenly Bridegroom) is everlasting. God calls husbands and wives to love and honor each other; this pleases Him. Yet God does not wish for husband and wife to become so wrapped up in each other that they forget or neglect their first love. Marriage is for this world only Matt. 22:30; it will pass away.

Consider the ups and downs in life. Joys and sorrows come to each of us. Too often, we deceive ourselves and think that joys should last forever, and our sufferings are a permanent punishment. But the Christian understands that our joys and sorrows are passing and fleeting; these also are part of the present form passing away. No, we are not called to be stoic and emotionless; we “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep Romans 12:15. Yet our eyes are lifted up, because we await the full revelation of our life in Christ. A life which is abiding and enduring forever when we join Him in eternity. Hence Jesus reminds us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Mt. 24:35

What about those things that we so proudly call our own? Because this world is temporary we do not really “own” any earthly thing in an ultimate or lasting sense. Rather, we regard our ownership and our things in a God pleasing way. That means, we are stewards, caretakers, of the gifts and resources God gives. From God’s viewpoint, we have not earned any of these things — they are all His gifts as He chooses to give them.

Also, there’s the matter of your place and status or position in this world — How are you to use this life? Paul says: like “those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it,” 1 Cor. 7:31 Puzzling words, but contrast them with much of today’s commercial advertising which directs your attention to addictions, be they food, drink, sex, buying, possessing and selling and you’ll get Paul’s point. Advertising urges you to ring the last drop of enjoyment out of everything this life has to offer. God’s warning through St. Paul is this: beware when enjoying the gifts God has given that you do not make gods of your appetites or the gifts. Remember the good word of God—You shall have no other gods before me. Ex. 20:3

God’s Holy Word assures us that He grants His forgiveness, mercy and grace in this life, through the life death and resurrection of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus says this very thing in today’s Gospel: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15 Keep your ears and eyes directed to The One who is the Gospel enfleshed. Be aware that your appetites and opinions might lead you to a place that does not return thanks and praise to your Redeemer. Do not go there!

Bishop John Chrysostom (349-407 AD) served a people much like us. Preaching to the people of Antioch, he chided them for allowing the luxury of their community to crowd out concern for the gifts God bestowed on them in the mystery of Christ's body and blood. He exhorted them not to be absorbed by worldly concerns to the detriment of their faith, the Christian life, and the needs of other persons. He pleaded with them not to walk away from the feast of the body of Christ only to fall into the vices which are characteristic of affluent societies: drunkenness, undisciplined feasting, and carelessness about the needs of the poor. He maintained that Christians who have been nourished on the body and blood of Christ, cannot just fall back into the self-centered life of pleasure seeking.

The church receives at the hand of Christ such great riches in the Eucharist. She is married again to the bridegroom in the consummation of the altar. By partaking of His body, the church is united with Him so that His becomes hers and hers becomes His. She has feasted at the altar set with royal care for the children of the King. She has sung honor to the Thrice Holy. She has received heavenly food under earthly means. A joy above all sadness has been bestowed upon her in this royal feast.

Only Christ is the treasure in whom true joy is to be found Mt. 6:21. We must walk away from the altar with the fullness of joy that Christ gives. Only then will we no longer be enticed by the flimsy and fleeting joys of this world.

When we compare the joys of the Eucharist of the Lord to those which are offered by the enticing world, the joys of the feast far outweigh those of the world. Thus, the self-discipline required of the Christian life is no burden to us or a thief of true joy. For our joy has been made full and complete in the Supper, which conveys the very body and blood of Christ to us. No one who partakes of this can ever walk away from it unchanged. It is a true luxury to feast at the royal banquet table of Christ the King.

In your Holy Baptism you were buried with Him and raised with Him by water and Word. You now have an inheritance in the new creation, the old is passing away. Why hold to what is transient and wasting away? Trust what is permanent and eternal, Jesus Christ.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~ AMEN ~
~ S. D. G. ~