Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

01/29/12 Sermon

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our strength and our Redeemer, Amen

There was a man named Ole who, when he quit farming and moved, discovered that he was the only Baptist in his new town of all Catholics.

That was okay, but the neighbors had a problem with his barbecuing beef every Friday.

You see, Catholics weren’t allowed to eat red meat on Fridays---- but the tempting aroma was getting the best of them.

They were so beside themselves, they got together and confronted Ole.
"Ole," they said, "since you are the only Baptist in this whole town and there’s not a Baptist church for many miles, we think you should join our church and become a Catholic."

Ole thought about it for a minute and decided they were right. So Ole talked to the priest, and they arranged it.

The big day came, and the priest had Ole kneel.

He put his hand on Ole’s head and said, "Ole, you were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist,, and now," he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole’s head, "you are a Catholic!"

Both Ole and the neighbors were happy.

But then the following Friday evening, the aroma of grilled beef still filled the air from Ole’s yard.

The neighbors went to talk to him about this, and as they approached the fence they heard Ole saying something strangely familiar to the steak:

Ole said to the steak--- "You were born a beef, you were raised a beef, and now" he said as he sprinkled salt over the meat, "you’re a fish!"

In our scripture today Paul is dealing with the conflicted church in Corinth over the issue of what foods to eat.  As we heard, one faction of this congregation ate meat while the other segment wouldn’t touch it. And this issue was causing tension in the church as those who ate the meat looked down on the group that didn’t.  They felt they had a superior knowledge about God over this other segment of the congregation.--------And in all truth they did.

They understood, just as Paul understood, that idols are a man-made creation and that if you don’t make eating meat an idol then it’s NOT an idol.

Still the problem here was that it was their insistence in “being right” that was what was causing disharmony and conflict.

For Paul it was more important for them to be a community that worked together and lived in harmony than having factions over who’s right or wrong.

In fact Paul says, that even though he knows there’s nothing wrong with eating meat, he’s never going to touch the stuff.

Now what’s important to note is that Paul is not doing this because of close-minded, narrow thinking people that he’s trying to please.  These aren’t the Christians who define themselves by what they can't do. Can't drink, can't smoke, can't dance, can't play cards, can't watch movies or television, and can’t listen to rock and roll.

Paul is instead refraining from eating meat because he wants to be thoughtful of those whose faith might be harmed by this practice.

You see the background of this scripture was that this segment of the congregation who wouldn’t eat meat still recalled their former life of being regular worshippers in the shrine of idols.  Before being Christians they would bring sacrifices to the pagan temples. They would place them at the false god’s table as a way of paying the gods for their well-being.  It also gave you the right to do whatever you wanted. In fact prostitutes would be available for those who brought a little more.

The livestock was killed and prepared and the meat would be fed to those who were present. What was left over would then be sold to merchants or restaurants.  So all the meat that was consumed had been sacrificed to these false gods so that no matter where you went you were getting meat from this idolatrous practice. In other words, even your Double Quarter Pounder came from these sacrifices.

For these Christians who wouldn’t eat meat, the very smell of meat reminded them of the chants of the priests and bowing down before these false gods. It was a temptation to them to go back to this way of life.  So Paul is concerned about these folks and their consciences. He admires that these individuals are guarding against falling back into their old life.

They weren’t trying to prove their own rightness saying that those who ate were doomed to hell. They simply were fragile, immature and susceptible.

So the question is how does this all relate to us today?

How does Paul’s letter speak to us as a congregation? In what ways do we need to give up our Double Quarter Pounder?

Well first I think this scripture is a reminder to us that we need to be thoughtful of others so that we’re not a stumbling block in their faith walk.

Mary and Jack had really begun to feel at home in their new church, once they made the decision to join a Bible study group. The group was very loving.  So Mary and Jack, wanted to invite the entire group to their home for a Saturday night dinner.   As they were getting ready Jack was excited about sharing some new wines that he and Mary had purchased on their tour of the winery in New York State.  He had placed three bottles on ice, and was whistling softly to himself when Mary entered the room. Seeing the wine glasses, Mary said, "Jack, do you really think we need to serve wine tonight?" He said, "Well, for goodness sake, why not?"

She said "Don't get me wrong, Jack, about the wine. I am excited about sharing those new wines with our friends as well.   But I can't help thinking about how Cheryl will feel. Remember the painful memories she shared in our last meeting about her alcoholic father, and her discomfort around people who drink, even socially?"  Jack replied, "Mary, I'm sorry about Cheryl's alcoholic father, and the bad time her family had. But this is our party, and our house, and we can serve whatever we want to our guests!   Hey, even Jesus drank wine with his friends."  Mary put her arms around Jack and said, "Jack, you are absolutely right. We are free to serve what we want in our own home.  But maybe this is one place where being a Christian makes a difference. Maybe being free to do something, isn't what really matters.  Maybe what really counts is the thoughtful and loving thing to do, and I just feel the loving thing, the Christ-like thing, is not to make Cheryl feel the least bit uncomfortable in our home."                        

Paul was reminding the meat eating Christians that even though they were right, they still first and foremost needed to be models of compassion and thoughtfulness.

We Christians have been given grace and are freed from burdensome “can’t do” rules. But we also have a responsibility as a role model to help those who may be struggling in their faith or immature.

As parents and grandparents we are role models to our children. Do we know whether our actions have caused them to be confused. Their growing relationship with God is much more important than us being right.

So ask yourself, “where might my actions be a stumbling block to others? Where am I more concerned about being right than being thoughtful?

While we’re not called to live in slavery to the “can’t do rules” we do need to be thoughtful of those whose faith might be affected.

Now along with being thoughtful of others, we might also need give up our Double QP (or being right) by choosing to be encouraging of other Christians.

In verse 1 of our scripture we see that Paul tells the meat eating faction that building up with love is more important than puffing up with knowledge.

Paul chooses to abstain from eating meat because he knows that this will encourage these Christians to stay on the journey where they might become free.  Back in 2000 at the Summer Olympics in Sydney Australia, there was a heartwarming story that happened in the swimming competition.

A fellow by the name of Eric "The Swimmer" Moussambani of Guinea was given a special invitation under a program by the IOC that permits poorer countries to participate even though their athletes don't meet customary standards.

So Eric, the 22-year-old African who had only learned to swim the January before decided to enter the 100 meter freestyle.  During the qualifying heat, two swimmers were disqualified because of false starts, which left Eric to swim alone.  Well Eric who was, "charmingly inept" heard the gun and dove in. And unlike any of the other skilled swimmers, Eric never put his head under the water's surface and flailed wildly to stay afloat.

Then, with ten meters left to the wall, he virtually came to a stop. Some spectators thought he might drown!

But even though his time was over a minute slower than what he would need to qualify for the next heat, the capacity crowd stood to their feet and cheered Eric on.
After what seemed like an eternity, the young African athlete reached the wall and hung on for dear life.

When he had caught his breath and regained his composure, the French-speaking Moussambani said through an interpreter, "I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was your cheering that kept me going."           

Paul knew that encouragement was what these non-meat eating Christians needed. They didn’t need to be judged or looked down upon.

And that’s what so many other Christians need today.  Whether they’re new Christians or Christians who are struggling in their faith due to life’s circumstances, we are called to cheer and encourage each other.

Our young people today in our church need us to cheer them on, to encourage them.

Same thing for those who are in poor health, who may be struggling in their faith. They need words of encouragement to cheer them on.  Paul is reminding us that while knowledge puffs up, loves builds up. And we need to choose love.

Finally, along with being thoughtful and being an encourager, we also give up our Double QP (our rightness) when we choose the ways of community over individualism.

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, Lord, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like. The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.  In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms.  And while they could reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, because the handles were longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.  The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, You have seen hell. They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water.  The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.  The holy man said, I don’t understand.  It is simple, said the Lord. It requires but one skill. You see they live in community and feed each other, while the selfish are on their own and think only of themselves……                    

Paul is reminding the knowledgeable meat eaters, that even though they are right, their lack of compassion and thoughtfulness and encouragement was a sign that they were only concerned for themselves.

Their rightness was preventing love and community. And as a result, the church in Corinth was a place of conflict and discord.  You know, often times churches can be places where they’re so focused on studying and knowing God that they forget to let God know them.  For when we open up to let God know us, we open the door for God to transform us from self-centered individuals to compassionate loving people who seek the companionship of genuine community with other believers.  God is a God of community. Church is a place of family.------ Our eternal dwelling place will be a place where we are living in peace and joy in community with one another……….. 

In closing today, Paul is reminding us that while knowledge is important, love always comes first. 

Thoughtfulness of others even when it means we have to swallow being right is the way of the cross.

Today ask yourself if you are being a stumbling block for others. Are you thinking about what your actions might be saying?

And also ask yourself if you are encouraging others? Are you cheering on our youth and children in their faith?   Are you encouraging and cheering on those who are ill or going thru difficult times?

And finally also ask yourself if you are choosing to be in community with others, as opposed to just growing in your own knowledge.  God loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him that we might be in relationship with each other; to be a family who is thoughtful and compassionate to one another; as he is compassionate and thoughtful with us.

Today, let us be willing to let go of our desire to be right, to be puffed up with knowledge---let go of your Double QP and choose to build up one another up---in love….

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen