This Week’s Lectionary Passage: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13
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,2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3and all ate the same spiritual food,4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. 6Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.7Do 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.”8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.10And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.11These 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.12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.13No 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.
Well, it seems as if Paul is trying to shake up his Corinthian hearers a bit. After all, they were pretty sure of themselves. They were righteous and God-fearing and their faith was serving them well. But Paul reminds them that it is not about them. After all, a life of faith is not a life of checking off the boxes of all things good that one has done and counting one’s accolades; it is, rather, a life of an ongoing relationship with God. And, as we all know, relationships do not move in a neat escalating line. They have ups and downs and sometimes feel as if they are going to break completely apart. Paul (as opposed to others in that day and, sadly, in ours) sees salvation here as a journey, an ongoing relationship, rather than securing a place in heaven or avoiding a place in hell.
The truth is, relationships are hard. This faith thing is hard. It does not guarantee one a life of ease or plenty. As Paul reminds us, look at the past. Faithful people lived in the shadows and had the waves crash over them. Things were not easy. Why would our life be different? You see, faith is not something that removes us from life, that separates us from the world. Faith is what calls us to live there, to be who we are called to be in this world, showing the world a different pathway. Yeah, I know, it’s not easy. But we have to persevere.
In our time, so much of religion is presented as a cure for all. Well-meaning seekers are promised that faith, REAL faith, UNENDING faith, UNFALTERING faith, will bring them health and wealth and ease. OK, excuse me here, but, really…no. The Scriptures never depicted that. This faith thing is hard. Did you forget that it has to do with a cross, an instrument of death? Did you forget that it acknowledges that pain and suffering is part of life? Did you forget that we are told to deny ourselves and follow a pathway that we’ve never followed before? But, more than anything else, did you forget that God has walked ahead?
It may not be easy; it may destroy you; it may even end your life as you know it. But God has walked this way before. That’s the difference between shallow, empty pictures of fame and fortune dangled above a well-paved and perfectly landscaped path and following this bumpy, over-grown road with the marks of a cross drug through it and the, albeit faint, footsteps of faithful travelers who have gone before.
Faith is not about finding the easiest way but following where God has gone before.
Grace and Peace,