+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening: (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Morning Reading: 1 Corinthians 8-10 (NLT)
Food Sacrificed to Idols
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.
So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But for us,
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created, and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.
However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
Paul Gives Up His Rights
Am I not as free as anyone else? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes? Isn’t it because of my work that you belong to the Lord? Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.
This is my answer to those who question my authority. Don’t we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals? Don’t we have the right to bring a believing wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves?
What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.
Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!
If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Lessons from Israel’s Idolatry
I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses.All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?
What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.
So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
– 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 –
Today, December 28th, the liturgical church remembers “The Holy Innocents” – Matthew 2:13-18 records King Herod’s massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.
Nevertheless as horrible as this atrocity was, “The Holy Innocents” are few in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity, and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians doesn’t speak directly to genocide and abortion. The Apostle Paul is addressing the issues of food sacrificed to idols, self-sacrifice to win unbelievers to Christ, and lessons learned from Israel’s idolatry. And yet there are some kernels of truth that do apply.
- The Bible warns us against today’s “party culture” – wild drinking and sexual immorality – those involved are destined for destruction.
- People throughout history have experienced these same demonic temptations. But God is faithful, providing believers with a way of escape.
- Every human life was created by God, and for God; through Jesus Christ, through whom we live.
- A sin against holy innocents for whom Christ died, is a sin against Christ Jesus himself.
- Loving God and loving people in their weakness, is far more important than having all the answers.
- Finding common ground with women facing unwanted pregnancies may save some, so that they too can share in Christ’s blessings.
- Love strengthens the church; Love puts the good of others first; Love glorifies God.
Questions for consideration:
- Are pagan rituals part of your cultural heritage? How do they affect your celebration of Christmas? Please explain.
- Do you believe that every human life has intrinsic value because he/she was created by God and for God? Please explain.
- Are genocide or abortion part of your cultural heritage? How does that affect you now? Please explain.
- Do you know people who are caught up in today’s “party culture?” How can you find common ground with them in order to save some. Please explain.
- Do you know anyone facing an unwanted pregnancy? How can you help them find a way of escape from abortion, trusting in God’s faithfulness? Please explain.
Morning Prayer: –
The Holy Innocents (December 28th)
Almighty God, out of the mouths of children you manifest your truth, and by the death of the Holy Innocents at the hands of evil tyrants you show your strength in our weakness: We ask you to mortify all that is evil within us, and so strengthen us by your grace, that we may glorify your holy Name by the innocence of our lives and the constancy of our faith even unto death; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who died for us and now lives with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Woman Facing Unplanned Pregnancy
Heavenly Father, I honor You. My heart lifts up Your name, God, and I worship You as Lord of all. I praise You for Your joy. When I think of You, I am glad. My situation is difficult right now, but You promise joy if I simply come to You. I do that now.
- I praise You as Savior. You offer redemption even in the midst of heartache and hardship.
- I praise You for Your individual care. You are mindful of my current circumstances. Yet you still love me and my child. You care for us.
- I thank you for my future. You say I will be blessed.
- Right now in my confusion it is difficult to see how good can come from my situation.
- Yet I take You at Your word and trust You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Inspiring Hope and Healing – Silent No More –
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen