First Lesson: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
Responsive Reading: Psalm 111
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
Gospel Lesson: Mark 1: 21-28
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to talk this morning about one of the few Bible topics that everyone can identify with the topic of “food”; think of how much food dictates our lives. Imagine that you hear that later tonight for dinner, your favorite meal will be served. Chances are that you would spend that whole day eagerly anticipating the first few bites of that delicious meal.
Another thing worth noting about food is that food can cause disagreements amongst people. This year at Christmas, my sister Anne was coming up. Anne’s in her third year of law school and a yoga instructor. Anne chooses not to eat meat partly for health reasons and partly ethical reasons.
Whereas everyone who knows me well knows my favorite Christmas dish is Swedish meatballs made with 80/20 (because Zup’s doesn’t sell anything fattier!), half and half, and butter. So it’s safe to say I needed to help find Anne some alternative options to enjoy the Holiday season. These are the types of considerations that you want to make as a member of a family, regardless if you think the other family member is right or wrong.
This story sets up our second lesson for today that is dealing with the topic of food within the Bible. The Bible says quite a bit about food especially in the Old Testament. Leviticus 11 gives a huge laundry list of food that followers of the God of Israel should or shouldn’t eat. When it comes to birds don’t eat Eagle, Falcon, Ostrich, Owl, or Pelican, but you can eat clean birds such as Chicken or Turkey. When it comes to insects, most insects are no good for you, but Locusts and Grasshoppers are o.k. Fish are ok, but not Shellfish. When it comes to Mammals: do not eat Dog, Cat, Rabbit, Pigs (Pork), or Rats because they are unclean animals. Animals such as Ox, Sheep, Cattle, and Goats are good to eat. In case you were wondering, eating Snakes isn’t considered a good idea either.
The reason God gave a lot of these restrictions had to do with a certain animal’s diet and whether it made them safe for human consumption. In an age without food safety, and refrigeration God placed limits on what people should and shouldn’t eat. The Jewish people lived by these laws without much controversy for a number of generations.
Fast forward from the time of Moses to the time of Paul, a period of over 1500 years, in Israel’s history. There was a town named Corinth. Corinth was a sea port city in what is now Greece. Due to its location, Corinth attracted people and religions from all over the world. Corinth was the type of place that the Apostle Paul made a priority to start a church in the years after Christ’s resurrection.
The church in Corinth consists of two kinds of people. The first kind of persons was former Jews, the type who had strictly adhered to a particular diet since birth. The guys who knew what they believed and weren’t going to waver much. When you’ve held a belief for a long time, it’s not easily abandoned.
The second type of person within the church in Corinth was the new believers, those who previously held all sorts of strange religious beliefs before becoming Christians. There was going to be some tension between these people. One of the significant issues of division was going to be food. One of the most prominent debates within the Early Church on this very subject took place between Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
I should tell you something about meat within Corinth. Remember the key to the story is the lack of refrigeration in 1st century Greece. In these days, one of the ways, that meat would become readily available, is when non-Christians would have their religious festivals. Non-Christians would sacrifice a small portion of an animal to their own God, and then the rest would have to be sold at market quickly. Think of this as a special on steaks or ground beef or whatever you favorite meat at Zup’s after pagan sacrifices had been performed. Buying this meat used in non-Christian ceremonies created a problem.
Corinth was the pagan, worldly town of the high seas. Living in Corinth without seeing meat sacrificed to Idols would have been like living in Las Vegas without seeing any gambling. You can stick your head in the sand, but the issue will always be there.
So Paul is addressing the question of how to deal with this tainted meat, this is such an important issue to Paul that he spends three whole chapters 8-10 in 1st Corinthians discussing the matter.
How Paul addresses the argument is note-worthy.
Paul proclaims that whether the meat has been blessed at an altar of a non-Christian God is irrelevant.
Paul first of all figures that a piece of meat is a piece of meat. What you eat affects only your body; it doesn’t affect your relationship with God.
On the other hand, Paul realizes that not everyone is going to see this meat issue quite like he does. Paul recognizes this meat issue goes way beyond “I’m right” and “you’re wrong”. Paul personally believes that eating such questionably sacrificed meat is fine. Paul even thinks that Christians may eat previously banned foods like Pork and Shellfish. Paul realizes though that many former Jews they just haven’t come as far in understanding the Freedom of the Gospel. Whereas former Pagans might be uncomfortable with looking their old way of life in the face.
The issues that Paul talks about might sound silly or non-applicable to people living in Silver Bay in 2015. Paul's letter to the Corinthians has some very practical applications for our lives. I want to share some of these applications this morning.
A while back, I wrote an article for The Scroll on whether we should use “grape juice” or “wine” during Communion. Being an egghead, I only looked at the practice through the lens of how churches have traditionally understood the Lord’s Supper. I wrote about how grape juice wasn’t invented until the 19th Century due to fermentation issues. So we stopped offering a non-alcohol option on Sunday mornings. I then get sent a message from someone with alcohol recovery concerns asking if there could be a non-alcoholic option to use. I came to realize that I was wrong about this issue. I wasn’t wrong in my beliefs, where I was wrong was in their application. I was seeking to pastor by book work rather than by asking “What is good for my neighbor?”
Second story, my best friend from college is named Cody. Cody works as an associate editor of Model Railroader magazine. I was the best man in Cody’s wedding. I talk to Cody about every week on the phone. What you need to know about Cody and his wife Dorothy is that they are Wisconsin Synod. I’ve attended services at their church, and spoken with their pastor. I’ve got nothing but positives to say about these experiences. One time, though I attended a communion service. Within the Wisconsin Synod, the rule of thumb is that non-members don’t receive communion. The Wisconsin Synod has no gray area on this issue. For many people this would be a huge stumbling block, it would cause them to go around saying a bunch of nasty things about the Wisconsin Synod. As I attended Cody and Dorothy’s church service, this doesn’t bother me. Cody and Dorothy are fine people who live by a different set of values and understanding of Communion than I do. I’m confident enough in the promises of salvation given to me in Baptism that this doesn’t bother me.
For as long as there shall be a Christian church, there will be differences amongst believers. Our lesson for today isn’t so much about food, but rather how we handle all sorts of disagreements within our midst.
In just a few weeks, we will face the modern day issue that the Corinthian’s were facing at the beginning of Lent. Many Christians especially our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters choose to give something up for Lent. I know Lutheran pastors who enjoy this practice as a way of remembering Christ’s suffering on our behalf. I’m personally not a fan of this practice. My reasons for opposition are multi-faceted:
A. The scriptures never require such a practice. The lack of scriptural support doesn’t mean such a practice is wrong only we must acknowledge that it is neither required nor forbidden.
B. It seems to take the focus away from Christ and place it unto ourselves and our ability to endure for a number of weeks. I believe it’s a much healthier spiritual attitude just to admit that we can never begin to pay back or understand The Cross; rather we believe it as shear act of grace.
C. Perhaps, the biggest reason that I’m against the practice is that promotes a misunderstanding of the Christian life by making it about what we do rather than about what we do for our neighbors.
So I will not be giving up red meat or chocolate during Lent. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about making this confession before you like Paul felt free to eat meat sacrificed to idols. What I wish to acknowledge is that not everybody feels the same way that I do. I do not judge or look down upon others who give something up for Lent. I believe Luther would have been fine with Lenten disciplines, as long as one doesn’t require his or her fellow Christians to do the same. The Christian calling in this situation is one of respect towards the neighbor. I’m free to eat steak on Fridays during Lent, yet I shouldn’t go to the parking lot at Saint Mary’s to flaunt it before those who choose not to engage in such a practice. If I invite a Catholic out to dinner on a Friday night, I should find a place that serves Fish regardless of my personal feelings. Paul’s calling to the Church in Corinth is to respect the Christian Freedom of others different from you.
In just a few minutes, we will together as communities of faith receive our most sacred of meals in the Lord’s Supper. We will never approach the table together as a consensus amongst our community. For the inevitable nature of the Church is there will be issues of tension. We can enter into name-calling contests with our opponents; this ultimately does nothing to build up the Body of Christ. For if every person acted according to their desires all the time, the community of faith that we have would soon be no more.
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again so that I will not cause him to fall."-1st Corinthians 8:13
What happens over time is things that we see as earth-shattering end up, not being as big a deal, just like the food controversy that plagued the Corinthians. If a community is too guided by any one individual’s power or presence then the whole community inevitability collapses unto itself. The Gospel sets us free from demands before God, yet the Gospel doesn’t set us free from our callings unto our neighbor. There will be those strong, and weak gathered together within our midst. We are called to build up rather than tear down, for this reason.
So our point for this morning is even if you think a vegetarian might be wrong, you should probably feed them a soy burger no matter how awful you might think it to be. Amen
 1st Corinthians 8:1-13
 Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14
 The Law was given for the protection of God’s people in the time in which they lived. Gerhard Forde and Martin Luther wrote about the need to re-write “the law” to fit our own times. Paul in Romans 6 makes the case that Christians are no longer under Old Testament because of Christ (Romans 6:14)
 Galatians 2:11-21 lays out the roots of the disagreement between Paul and Peter over food. It should also be noted that Acts 10:9-33 consists of Peter receiving a vision to not only welcome the Gentiles, but make all foods permissible to eat.
 Excellent commentary provided by Rick Morley entitled “Where’s the Beef” found at rickmorley.com written on January 17th, 2012.
 This point was well made by Dr. David E. Leninger in a sermon entitled “It’s Not What You Know” found at Lectionary.org that I found on January 27th, 2015.