The World Passing Away

Today’s Epistle lesson is an example of clumsy editing on the part of the lectionary committee.  It begins in the middle of a pericope, omitting Paul’s difficult-to-interpret words about marriage being a poor idea in light of the imminent end of the world, but marginally acceptable for those who cannot avoid it.  As we join the argument mid-stream, hearing that “the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,” it’s hard for a worshiping congregation, lacking context, to understand what the Apostle is talking about.  The only readily intelligible message in this unnaturally-brief passage is the closing line, “For the present form of this world is passing away” (v. 31b).  A sermon on this passage could emphasize the urgency of the gospel, but it will have to (1) back up and provide some of the context the lectionary omits and (2) deal with the problem of the delay of the parousia, of which Paul was just beginning to be aware at the time of writing, but which to our people – two millennia later – will be glaringly obvious.