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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, January 22, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 7:29–31

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (NRSV)

Hear now these words from the Apostle Paul:

The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

OK, so I’m paraphrasing, but the end of the world is a prominent theme in Paul’s letters to the earliest churches, especially the ones in Thessalonica and Corinth. This section from 1 Corinthians is mostly concerned with questions surrounding marriage and other arrangements on the margins of marriage, concerns which lead him to summarize his matrimonial theology thus: “those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that,” and yet somehow this section is also about the end of the world.

There is a long biblical tradition of calling it like it is when it comes to human mortality, like the psalmist’s words “As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field.” But Paul is into something more than “ashes-to-ashes” here.

Paul taught the first Christians that God’s plan for the world was just days from being consummated in the second coming of Christ. Many of the ethical prescriptions he handed to those churches were conditioned by that expectation, amounting to what you might call an “as if” ethic: living as if we’re facing the end of the world as we know it causes us to hold less tightly to our relationships and our possessions and our jobs. Like Jesus did.

You don’t need to put a pin in a wall calendar to live like that, though. All of us can take each day as a gift from God, who holds all of history and whose just intention for all of creation still stands as the object of our hope and even expectation.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, into our hearts and minds, into our relationships, our work, and our very life, so that we might have you and your will as our ultimate aim and goal. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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