Dear Co-workers in the Gospel,
From Paul’s First Letter to the Church in Corinth
10:23 “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. 10:24 Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person. 10:25 Eat anything that is sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience, 10:26 for the earth and its abundance are the Lord’s. 10:27 If an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you want to go, eat whatever is served without asking questions of conscience. 10:28 But if someone says to you, “This is from a sacrifice,” do not eat, because of the one who told you and because of conscience – 10:29 I do not mean yours but the other person’s. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 10:30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I blamed for the food that I give thanks for? 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 10:32 Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, 10:33 just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.
Chapter 10 is part of a larger unit (8:1 – 11:1) focused on the question of eating meat sacrificed to idols. In Corinth, much of the meat available for human consumption had been sacrificed to idols. Typically, part of the meat was burned on the altar, part was reserved for the priests, part was consumed by the people making the sacrifices, and the rest was available for sale. Of the meat available for purchase, some would be served, restaurant-style, in temples. The rest would be sold in meat markets throughout the city. While it was clear that meat served in temples had been sacrificed to idols, it would be more difficult—often impossible—to determine the origin of meat for sale in meat markets.
There were two dimensions to the problem for Christians. One was whether it was permissible to eat meat served within the temple precincts. The other was whether it was permissible to purchase meat that had been sacrificed to idols and to eat it at home. Eating meat within the temple precincts could be a particular problem, because neophyte Christians seeing more sophisticated Christians eating meat at a temple would almost certainly conclude that the sophisticated Christians were engaged in idol-worship (8:10). Eating meat at home, even though it might have been sacrificed to idols, would be less liable to be interpreted in that way. However, if someone happens to interpret it that way, Paul says that the one eating the meat should cease and desist (8:13; 10:28-31).
REAL LIFE FAITH:
Answering the specific question of whether or not we, as disciples of Christ, should eat meat that has been used in Roman sacrifices is not particularly relevant in its originalist form. However, taking a textual look at the idea behind what Paul teaches is one of the most relevant pieces of scripture to guide the unity of the modern parish church. Paul is arguing here that one has the freedom to act in a way that is harmless unless that action is a hindrance to the gospel for another. 10:23 “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. Paul tells believers, then and now, that though one has the right to exercise freedom in their actions, for the sake of the unity of the church, one also has the obligation to refrain from that particular action. 10:24 Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person. In the basic terms Paul says “just because you are able to do something, does not mean that you should.” In all times and in all places this is an important message for us to hear.
This week, in the real life faith of our parish, our council heeded Paul’s advice and chose to continue with a modified model of worship through the end of July. They looked at many things including the government and county guidelines, the risk factors due to the health of our Pastor and the “advanced maturity” of our Deaconess and retired Pastors. They also considered the size of our sanctuary and the inability to accommodate everyone in a reasonable number of “full” worship services.
It was decided that we would continue what we are doing now but will increase the number to 25 people. This would allow us to go to 4 services, an hour apart, all in the sanctuary. Times would be 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00. We would increase from every third Sunday to every other Sunday. We will still require social distancing, the wearing of masks, and the smaller services of the Eucharist. We know that many may not need this level of protection—but many in our parish do. Therefore we encourage you to think and pray about the text above as you consider joining us for worship in the next several weeks. It is clear to us, as your pastoral staff, that following this important Pauline ethic is the correct course.
This will be revisited at our July Council meeting when we will again look at current and new government guidelines along with the health of Pastor Josh. In the meantime, we urge you to do what is best for you and your family and to feel free to contact either of us with any questions or concerns.
Pastor Josh & Deaconess Kathy
 Copyright 2012, 2017, Richard Niell Donovan