SCRIPTURE LESSON:†††††††††† Romans 13:8-14
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.†
9 The commandments,
"You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder;
You shall not steal; You shall not covet";
and any other commandment,
are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself."†
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor;
therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.†
11 Besides this, you know what time it is,
how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed;†
12 the night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;†
13 let us live honorably as in the day,
not in reveling and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness,
not in quarreling and jealousy.†
14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Thank goodness itís Friday.† That means release and rest for some of us.† It may not be a full-on Sabbath, but most of us loosen our grip a little on Friday.† We take a little longer lunch.† We go home a little earlier.† We work with a little less intensity.† The end is in sight.† The weekend is creeping upon us.†
Of course, this Friday is Friday the 13th.† Now I am not a particularly superstitious person Ė that is, until I started following the lectionary.† The lectionary can make the most Enlightened of us a bit superstitious.† Why?† Because again and again the lectionary lifts up the last text we would think of preaching.† Yet the text it gives is so often the very text we need to hear.† And so I am becoming a little superstitious.† Although I am sort of new at this superstition thing, I think I can discern a bad omen over my head.† For I certainly do not want to preach about reveling and drunkenness and debauchery and licentiousness.† Especially on Friday.
Why do I feel so unlucky to preach this text on a Friday?† Because, at least in this community, Friday means more than just letting loose in our schoolwork.† Friday also means Friday night.† Friday night: where we really let loose, sometimes in ways we hope our field ed supervisors never see.† Friday night: where some of us try to forget everything weíve crammed in our brains for the past week.† Friday night: where we try to remember that weíre normal; that we are like the rest of the world.†
We let loose like we do because Friday is the end.† Not the end of our lives or the end of the world.† Just the end of our week.† Paul, of course, is talking about the end of the world.† He has in mind the big End, the great exclamation point that concludes Godís good creation.† He is talking about the end of the great night that has hovered over our world for too many years.† He is talking about the light, the day, the new day that dawns in Jesus Christ.† And he is welcoming us, even daring us, to enter into that day.† To live like itís here.† To live like a people who know that what we see around us is not the whole story.† To live like a people who knows that the night is coming to an end.
In this eschatological context, and only in this context, Paul sticks his head into our beloved Friday and tells us to put off reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness.† Sure, he recommends we love one another.† He notes that so loving will fulfill the whole law.† Yet he does not stop there.† He messes up his pretty picture of neighbor love with his fanciful eschatological ethics.† He spoils his pristine love-ethic with fear tactics about the end times.† Why, Paul?† Why not let love get the last word?†
I suspect Paul knows that love can be used to justify just about anything.† Love is a great code word for all sorts of bad ideas.† Just look around on Valentineís Day if you want to catch a glimpse of the ridiculous things we call ďlove.Ē† Paul pushes through the abstraction of love to the heart of the matter: we live at the end of an age.† Knowing this ought to affect the way we live.† When we live implies something about how we live.† Since salvation in Christ is nearer now than when we first believed, we ought to put off the old world and put on Christ.† That means putting off the reveling and the drunkenness.
These are hard words to say.† Those of you who know me, know I like to party.† And those of you who grew up in a tradition like mine, know all about party-pooper sermons.† I donít want to go back there anymore than you do.† Furthermore, we all know the diversity of this community well enough to know how hard it is to make blanket behavioral assertions.† So the ambiguity of our past and present deadens the impact of Paulís word to us.† I canít stand here with the power of Pauline preaching and tell you to quit doing this or quit doing that.†
Yet there is one point of Paulís I can preach: despite our different pasts and diverse present, we share a common future.†† We believe.† And soon, our faith shall be sight; the clouds be rolled back like a scroll; the trumpets shall resound, and the Lord shall descend; even so, it is well with my soul!† The day that is dawning is good news.† We are in Christ, and so reconciled to God!† And with this good news comes a simple question: are we living into that day?† Or are we living like its still dark out?† Do our lives display the expectation of our Lord?