2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2021
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. Today the sermon is based on the Epistle lesson that was read from 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Well, here we are. It’s Epiphany…that season after Christmas when we focus on the revelation that the Christ – the light of the world – has come for both Jew and Gentile. Sadly, the brilliant glow of Christmas has faded away. The lights at UTC are off now. The candles and lights of Christmas have been taken down and put away. Almost forgotten already are the wonderful times we’ve had as a family and friends; being with children or grandchildren even if it was on Zoom, the house filled with music and light hearts and memories and traditions and foods that only come out once a year. Good times indeed, but now almost forgotten.
Now, especially it seems around here these days, without the light of Christmas, the darkness of the world begins to shroud our lives as we begin the grind of January and a new year. The grief and pressures of a new year are already piling up; 2021 is NOT off to a great start! We find ourselves, as St. Paul would say, in a world full of sin and darkness…a dark, illicit, un-epiphany-like world. The problems of our lives individually as people and collectively as a nation wear us down and possibly depress us and our families. Maybe what we need to lift our spirits is a wedding!
Now, you may find this hard to believe, but in the 17 years I have been a pastor I have presided at 60 funerals, but I have also done a whopping 40 weddings! That’s a lot of planning, counseling, rehearsals, and panicky brides! Why do we need a wedding around here? Well, the story of the brilliant Christ Child still enlightens our hearts this Epiphany season. If we close our eyes, we can still see the candlelight of Christmas Eve. We can still see the sanctuary decked out, the huge tree, the glow of the lights and the flickering flames. What better setting even now – especially now – for a wedding? An Epiphany wedding. Today, we are gathered here in the sight of God and of His Church for an Epiphany wedding – that we may be joined to the Lord. What a joyous occasion! Except…because in this world we are sinful humans, we’re already married in a sense. We have instead joined ourselves to things.
It’s not just for little children that this time of year is dark and moody; “You broke my favorite toy! Did not!” The bills of Christmas are coming due. “How did we spend so much money? It’s all because you won’t limit the gifts to your family,” some husband or wife might say. And the fight is on. Our relationships are damaged yet again. Why? Because we’d rather be joined to our possessions than to the people the Lord has given us.
And all those New Year’s resolutions we’re soooo committed to…they’re broken also. The new exercise program has already fallen into disuse. The new diet worked for a few days, but food is too good, and the addiction to our super-sized portions is too compelling (v 12). Paul would say, “Food is meant for the stomach” (v 13a), but don’t let food control you. If you do, you’ve joined yourself to another thing, as is common in our dark, sinful world. We join ourselves with so many other things beyond food: money, TV, gambling, alcohol, greed, power, the Internet, that we allow this union to take over the union that we are to have in and with Christ.
Above all, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul reminds us that even the marital relationship is sadly not exempt from the fractured, quarrelsome darkness of the world. The perils of our sexuality, of being faithful in the illicit world, are EVERYWHERE and can shake our faith. Look at our sinful world. Sexuality is on our minds, on our televisions, in our music. All one has to do is try to watch one evening of prime time television…if you’re able.
Our culture is full of “prostituting” its members with things. If someone asked you to out-and-out be joined to a prostitute, you’d probably say “Never!” Except, well, in a manner of speaking, we are—we all are—all the time by joining ourselves to the addictions and cravings of our sinful flesh. As a result, we’re doomed to hell, and that’s not good. It’s a reality that has a potential to make us even sadder than we already are these days!
But, my friends, by faith we have been joined to the Lord (v 17). Jesus Christ came into the world of our failures, our brokenness, our fights, our improper unions and our squabbles. He brought His peace, a peace which surpasses our human understanding. He came to give a peace different from what the world can offer us. He appeared at Bethlehem, and those who are wise still come to see Him and kneel at His side. Christ came into the world to wash us in His precious blood, to forgive us of all our sins, to claim us as His own, to dress us in His white garments, and to marry us as His beloved Bride.
Sin brought corruption of our marriages with the world, and we have to deal with those issues daily whether we are single, married, or whatever our situation may be. He came to be faithful to us in every way despite our unfaithfulness. Christ came into the world to do the things we could not do. He came to overcome our sinful nature and to win for us the right to be His; we are not our own; we belong to Him.
Especially today, with the last year we’ve had so far, you may be feeling like you are anything but joined to the Lord in the bond of marriage. However, even in the fading glow of Christmas and the shroud of death that hovers over us all, the light of Epiphany illumines our lives. The great King of kings says to you, “You are mine!” While you were sinners, broken, in darkness, prostituting yourselves in so many ways, He married you. You are His beloved, loved now and loved forever that you might honor, love, and serve Him with your whole body and being. That’s the kind of promise that gets us through these dark days.
Now…who wants cake?