Today's reading from 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 touches on the way individuals, groups of people, and even nations fail in God's sight as well as the dire consequences of those failures,
"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.I'll ignore for a moment that our lay reader said "sexual immortality" instead of "sexual immorality..."
Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."
The Apostle's list of "Thou shalt nots" to those who are already saved through baptism included,
1) Do not mess with idols
2) Do not engage in sexual immorality
3) Do not put the Lord to the test
4) Do not complain.
In other words, those Old Testament laws were still in force.
Of course, we now know that Paul was a moralistic, homophobic, celibate, controlling, hung up man who loved people so much that he sought to impose his rules on their behaviors. If he were around today, he would see how things have changed, and he would probably have a whole new attitude towards sexual immorality. Something like ours... right???
A modern Paul, still being a logical type of guy, would present to us a well thought out argument in support of his change of opinion. As you read the following speculation of mine, try to imagine a modern day Paul giving his consent to the logic behind what is going on in our church, and try to imagine the consequences he might predict could befall us as we blaze this new trail.
After 2000 years of trying, some churches have thrown in the towel and decided that there is no point in trying to convince people that the old notions of sexual immorality are applicable to their lives, and these churches have given up arguing that following the old codes of sexual morality might still be pleasing to God. Now that the old shackles of Paulian theology have been cast off, we are free, within the limits of approval by our culture, to enjoy those things which were formerly considered taboo. Still, there must be some underlying rationale to justify the changes that we desire. The prevailing reasoning today (I can't say doctrine, since there is no set doctrine) in the Episcopal church towards questions of sexual morality, "marriage equality," same sex blessings, and non-celibate homosexuals in positions of leadership in the church amongst other things boils down to the following over-simplified equation which I have taken from the Episcopal Playbook (an aptly named work in progress):
1) Episcopalians know love when they see it, and
2) since God is love (1 John 4:16),
3) then what looks like love must be God, His will, His image, His desire.
If this argument holds up, then not only should homosexual relationships be considered Godly, but so also should all manner of relationships involving various numbers of people of assorted gender identities and manifestations including polygamy and even Letourneau and Fualaau type relationships.
Acceptance of the rationale above might even give a whole new meaning to the term, "puppy love."
The Episcopal playbook on human sexuality deftly avoids my conclusions by claiming that the love that they attest to must be monogamous and lifelong, and that this is evidence of Godly love.
The problem with the playbook is that a few decades ago someone decided that lifelong monogamy was not the only expression of sexual Godliness, and that serial monogamy was also a legitimate expression of God's love (serial monogamy was what the old timers back in the walking around in sandals days used to call "adultery," but thanks to revelations such as those given to the church through the life and ministry of persons like Bishop James Pike, we now have a more enlightened view of divorce and remarriage in the church).
When the Episcopal church abandoned the traditional understanding of divorce and adultery, the church lost the moral authority to restrict its blessing to just those who promise to abide in the church's current definition of monogamy, because the secret was out... definitions can be changed.
Having altered the traditional interpretations of divorce, remarriage, and adultery, and after having abandoned the Apostolic understanding of what does or what does not constitute sexual immorality, what moral authority does the Episcopal church have to dictate theological resources on "Marriage" to the understandably confused pewsitters living in fly-over country and here in "Redneckistan" as it intends to do with its most recently formed commission?
Perhaps they will come out with a grand unification theory like,
1) We know love when we see it, and
2) Since God is love then,
3) What looks like love must be God, His will, His image, His desire.
Which looks something like this,
He can't be wagging his finger at us can he?
Naw... he wouldn't. After all, we've been baptised.
Or would he?
"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness." 1 Corinthians 10Uh, oh... I think we are in trouble.
Episcopalians need to remember that Cupid's aim isn't always the best, and that the effects of his arrows just might impair the judgment of those unfortunate enough to fall under his spell.
"That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,Hopelessly wounded by Cupid's arrow, or drugged by the potion of the love-in-idleness flower, is there any prayer for the Episcopal church?
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
Fetch me this herb; and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league." Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2, Scene 1
1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?
3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.
4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?
5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ (From today's Gospel reading, Luke 13:1-9)