< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for Sunday 14 January 2018

FIRST READING 1 Samuel 3:1-20

1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. 2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. 3The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 11Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” 15Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” 17And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” 19And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.


PSALM Psalm 139:1-11

1Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 2You trace my journeys and my resting places, and are acquainted with all my ways. 3Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. 4You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me. 5Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it. 6Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? 7If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. 8If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 9Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. 10If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” 11Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike.


SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.


GOSPEL John 1:43-51

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”




A teenage boy and his grandfather were out fishing. The grandfather began talking about how times have changed. The teenager, who had a close relationship with his grandfather, asked, “Grandad, they didn’t have much trouble with sexually transmitted diseases when you were young, did they?” The grandfather replies, “Nope.” The young man asked, “Well, what did you use for safe sex?” Granddad thought for a moment and replied, “A wedding ring.”
Today I’m going to talk about a subject that many consider uncomfortable, private or one people simply want the church to ignore; proper sexual behavior and habits. It’s a subject that is, quite frankly, hard to talk about. Most people say that it’s a private matter. Some will say that it’s an individual matter and none of the church’s business. Well I disagree. From God’s initial creative acts, sex was meant to be between one man and one woman within the bounds of Biblical matrimony, period. Sex is a gift from God for both procreation as well as satisfaction, and within marriage, it can strengthen and maintain that relationship. However, sex outside these two areas is considered immoral.
In today’s epistle lesson, St. Paul addresses the subject of improper sexual behavior. He writes: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a [person] commits are outside [their] body, but [those] who sin sexually sin against [their] own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:18-20.)
For a good many in our society, they feel these verses of scripture are hopelessly old-fashioned. “Flee from sexual immorality . . .” “It’s only sex,” “it’s my body,” “it doesn’t hurt anyone,” “it’s one way of expressing love,” “it’s my right,” it’s no big deal, say many people today. It’s a physical need like hunger and thirst. It’s not important spiritually. Meanwhile unplanned pregnancies yield a staggering harvest of unwanted children and guilt-inducing abortions. Sexually-transmitted diseases run rampant among young people. AIDS claims thousands of lives each year.
Young marriages flounder when couples confront the truth, that all they had in common in their courting years was a sexual relationship. Adult singles dread the dating scene because of the degrading sexual demands it often brings. Mature marriages come apart when one partner or the other, is unable or unwilling to keep his or her wedding vows. And many good people suffer with guilt from promises broken and weaknesses succumbed to. Only sex, you say! Don’t be absurd. There’s no such thing.
Sexual immorality comes at a very high price for our society, but we, as a culture, refuse to acknowledge it, choosing instead to cover it up, make it sound normal and even encourage it. The actual cost of improper or sinful sexual behavior in dollars and lives is incalculable, but what if I told you I could save at least 2 million lives per year while at the same time saving the tax payers well over $48 billion in 2018, with one no cost action? Would you be interested? The action I’m talking about hurts no one. As a matter of fact, it could change the face of society in a very positive way. Abstinence.
If everyone simply followed God’s intension and instructions, we could virtually wipe out an entire class of diseases; Sexually Transmitted Diseases or STDs. We could close and eliminate the abortion clinics in this country and we could lift a tremendous number of children out of poverty. We could save lives, close detention centers, shutter some government offices, reduce crime and save billions of tax dollars per year. Don’t believe me? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.
This year (2018), the US is expected to spend $32 billion in the care and treatment of AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers this the costliest STD today. Additionally, the education and treatment of all other STDs is expected to cost the American tax payer another $18.5 billion before year’s end. It’s also predicted that new cases of STDs will top the 20 million mark, before this year ends. That’s $40+ billion in cost and another 20 million affected this year alone. And the information from the CDC didn’t stop here.
In fact sheets published by the CDC, 1 in 2, that’s 50% of sexually active young people will get an STD before age 25. I read a report the other day that say that it’s becoming more common for children to have their first consensual sexual encounter by age 11. The chances of contracting an STD is growing every year. Part of the problem is that most of these sexually active young people don’t even know their infected. So much for the notion of safe sex. In addition to that, 50% of those infected will develop Human Papillomavirus or HPV, at some time in their lives. HPV can result in genital warts and some types of cancer. Not only that, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing genital or respiratory system infections. Sadly, there is no cure for HPV, but safe and effective vaccinations are recommended for children at the age of 11 to 12 years. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, as it were.
There are other costs in dollars and in human lives that we can’t fully calculate. Again, according to research, 25% of all the children living in this country live in a single mom home. Of those 25%, 70% of those homes are living at or below the poverty level. This of course presents a huge challenge in health care, nutrition, education and cost of running agencies that support these people. I didn’t even try to ascertain the cost to the juvenile justice system. And then there is the cost of abortion.
This year, it is expected that more than 900 thousand women will have an abortion. To put that in the larger context, since 1973, the year the Row vs. Wade ruling was handed down, over 58.6 million children have been aborted. We can calculate the cost in dollars, but how do you estimate the impact to society that these lives might have had? Simply sex? The cost of sexual immorality is huge, and we need to begin to come to terms with the price in both dollars and lives affected. But sex is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry and Hollywood refuses to give up their profits.
Not only do we deal with the peer pressure that comes with living in society, we’re also bombarded with suggestive material in the media. In studies done by the Parents Television Council, 71% of the TV shows during primetime (7PM-11PM) have some sort of sexual content. Of that 71%, 33% of the shows contained sexual acts. Let’s face it, all you have to do is stop and look critically at the shows we watch, and we have to admit that we’re being bombarded by sexual immorality on TV and in movies we watch.
Some of the sexual content is suggestive, but much of it is overt, even in your face. And with the numbing of Americans to the subject of same sex, this is even becoming a very popular topic in the on-screen media. Sexual immorality isn’t a new subject, Paul was dealing with it in the first century. We need to recognize that we have the same problem and we need to recognize the cost we pay in both dollars and lives.
As I said, sex is a gift from God. From the beginning, God created us male and female and intend for sex to be a part of a marital relationship. Sex is God’s way of bonding couples together in holy wedlock. Sex is intended not only to bring children into the world, but to build intimacy, playfulness and joy into the marriage relationship. It’s to be used to bond a man and a woman together in a loving marriage. And it achieves this purpose most effectively when it is kept exclusively within the marriage relationship. As some have described us, we are sexual beings, but that doesn’t mean we must be ruled by our sexual urges.
Jerry Hayner in his book, Yes, God Can, tells a wonderful story. It was New Year’s Day at Pete’s house. His 94-year-old grandfather was there and so were many of the old gentleman’s sons and daughters, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. It was quite a crowd. The bowl games were on television.
Children were playing with their Christmas toys. Because this happened in another day, another time, the ladies were trying to rest from the meal preparation and housecleaning, and the men were wandering from the television to the scraps of turkey and boxes of chocolates. It was just a typical Christmas, first year, family reunion, 1950s style. The grandfather’s heart was weak, and so he wore a pacemaker. Halftime had come to the football game, and the old gentlemen was left alone in front of the television. That’s where the real story begins.
The band was performing on the football field, and the lovely majorettes were tossing their batons into the air. Pete happened to be standing behind his grandfather, his presence undetected. When the cameraman provided a close-up shot of one of the beautiful young ladies, Pete said his Granddad was sitting on the edge of his chair tapping his pacemaker and saying, “Don’t go out now! Don’t go out now!” Pete’s grandad understood that sex is a gift from God. He just forgot that there is a proper time and place.
As the French say, “Vive la difference!” God created us male and female. How poor our lives would be without the gift of our sexuality. Having said that, however, it’s important for us to see that, as a gift from God, sex is to be used as God intended. It’s absolutely impossible to catalogue the harm that’s been done to humankind by the misuse of this one gift. And there’s another cost we don’t always want to acknowledge, sexual abuse. As we’ve seen from the news reports over the past few months, there are a number of women, who bear serious emotional scars from episodes of sexual abuse.
Dr. Richard Dobbins in his talks with teens used an interesting analogy. He compared the bonding capacity of the body through a sexual relationship to adhesive tape. Yes, adhesive tape. Adhesive tape is not made to be used repetitively with a variety of surfaces. The strongest bond adhesive tape is capable of making is formed with the first surface to which it is applied. You can remove the tape and reapply it to other surfaces several times, and it will still adhere. However, with every application, some of the adhesiveness has been compromised. Finally, if you continue the practice long enough, there will not be enough adhesiveness left to make the tape stick to any surface.
According to Dr. Dobbins, “God intended that the bond between [heterosexual married couples] be the closest and strongest one they are capable of forming.” That means that the strongest bond will be for couples who have saved themselves for one another. No wonder so many young marriages come apart. In a society where premarital sexual experimentation with a variety of partners, is the rule rather than the exception, the adhesive is no longer as powerful as it once was.
Sex is a gift from God, to be used as God intended–within the Biblically intended marriage relationship. This is to say that our bodies belong to God. That is a truth that has nearly been forgotten in our modern world. If there’s a heresy that is rampant today, it’s the one that says, “It’s my body. I will do with it as I please.” No follower of Jesus Christ can say that.
Whether we’re talking about the abuse of our bodies with alcohol and drugs, or sins such as gluttony, or major issues such as promiscuity and abortion, what we simply cannot say is that we can do our own thing without regard to God’s laws. St. Paul writes: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
Honor God with your body. What a significant spiritual principle that we so often disregard. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Do we desecrate a temple? Do we throw garbage in it? The implications for how we live our lives are staggering. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Think about that the next time you watch TV or attend a movie. Or if you’re single, the next time you’re out on a date. The next time you’re tempted to engage in risky or degrading behavior of any kind. Your body is a temple.
In all of the animal kingdom, human bodies stand unique. On the surface, it would seem that our bodies are poorly adapted for survival. We have very little hair compared to most animals, so our bodies are unprotected from cold weather. We’re not particularly well-adapted for swimming, or climbing trees, or fighting. We have no natural weapons, like claws or sharp teeth. According to Dr. Mark Cosgrove, humans are the only creatures who cannot drink and breathe at the same time. This would seem to be a poor way to adapt to our environment. But our airways and throats are constructed for a very special function: speech.
No other creature can speak, sing, or make the wide variety of noises that the human being can. God created us to be the only creatures with the specialized airways and other apparatus that allow for speech. With that in mind, human beings were uniquely created for prayer and praise.
We were made to communicate with one another and with our Maker. Our bodies, minds and souls are God’s crowning glory. So why do we abuse our bodies or cheapen them or degrade them? Sex is a gift from God. It’s to be used as God intended–within the Biblically established marriage relationship. Our bodies are not our own. They belong to God and we’re to use them to bring honor to God.
One final thought: Paul didn’t write these words just for teenagers, but for adults as well. It’s easy to think of sexual immorality as something we ought to talk with our kids about. And this we should do. I know that’s hard for some of us. But sex is too important to ignore. Hollywood sure doesn’t! Neither does our school system. Sex-Education is now being taught to our 5th and 6th grades. If it’s this important to Hollywood and our Education system, isn’t it important enough for us to talk about it?
We need to be informed about God’s intension for sex and about the dangers and the very high cost of sexual immorality in lives and dollars. We need to encourage others, the young, and the single adults, to discover the joy that comes with delaying sexual involvement until it’s with the one to whom they make a lifelong commitment. Many married people also need to be reminded that while sex is for intimacy and playfulness and joy within the marriage relationship, it was designed to be entirely exclusive. There is no room for more than two people in a sexual relationship.
Abstinence, isn’t just some spiritual concept meant to deprive us of joy; it’s a principle that has both theological and social implications. Proper sexual habits and behaviors can save billions of dollars, it can save lives, it can save marriages and it can improve society. St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

< back to Sermon archive