Sermon:         Do you have the Time? Scripture:       1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date:               January 21, 2018 Last week we heard about Nathanael in John’s Gospel and his one and only appearance in the scriptures, and what that meant to us as Philip encountered Jesus and immediately went and found Nathanael and Nathanael went from skepticism to proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. Paul initially talks about the disorder within the church and at Chapter 7 he starts with, “Now for the matters you wrote about,” and Paul begins to deal with these. They are issues, which could be the basis of any number of sermons in an off themselves as Paul offers counsel and direction concerning them. We must be aware of the fact that he did so, with an understanding and a sense that Christ, the Day of the Lord, would be coming soon, very soon. The section we will be reading from today, and which will take our focus, presents the reason for the advice he is giving. So turn in your bibles if you would to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7:29-35, you can find it on Page 930 of your pew bibles, and read or listen along to what the Spirit is telling the church today. Paul says, The appointed time has grown short! There is an urgency in his words and yet Life goes by for us all. Today, just as it did in the time that Paul was writing to the Corinthians. Life goes by. We all face the issues of life and Paul is quick to point out that he is not just talking about crisis or temptations, those things that might be troublesome to us or that drag us down, no it’s just literally about life itself. The comings and goings, the ebb and the flow, we are not to take it all for granted, even if we pay very little attention to as we simply get on with life. Paul makes the statement that Christ’s return, although we do not know when that will be is going to be very soon. Corinthian’s he tells them, your time is limited. Yet here we stand, or sit as the case may be, some 2 thousand years later and we are still wondering, still waiting and yet Paul’s words do not lose their meaning as a result. You see Christ’s return is as imminent to us today, as it was to those reading Paul’s words. What’s more, just like those who have gone before us, our time is limited. It’s what the psalmist refers to in Psalm 39, “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Time is limited and we don’t know how much we have. In the book of James we read, 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Words from the psalmist and from James and from Paul, not, not to cast all gloom and doom on life, but instead to give life a focus, give it meaning, a purpose. They are all words to tell us that time is precious and so be very careful how you order it. So Paul tells us a few things about how we spend our time and because the time is approaching and has grown short, Paul tells us what we are to do.   Men you first, and specifically those who have wives. You spend your time with them, naturally and I can hear wives saying – they better had. Yet Paul says, act as though you had none. Paul would clearly not be voted into office today, he has clearly missed the political realities of our day and is not chasing the female vote – men ignore your wives, really. Is Paul actually suggesting that married men act as if they did not have wives? 30and those who mourn, well mourning comes for a whole host of reasons as life doesn’t go the way we would intend. It could be the loss of someone close or the loss of a pet, or it could be a divorce or a broken relationship, a job loss, a child leaving home, mourning occurs for a lot of reasons and yet Paul says, act as though they were not mourning, an as for those who rejoice, expressing happiness and rejoicing and celebrating, not allowed – Jaguar fans, graduation smiles, birthday wishes, wedding bliss, you’ve won the lottery – there’s no time for that, you are to act, they are to act as though they were not rejoicing, Remarkably, Paul even picks on those who love to go out shopping, who would have guessed. He says and those who buy, well, no looking at what you have materially around you. Those, not me by the way, who spend an enormous amount of time cleaning and polishing and waxing your car, putting things into storage because you have so much stuff, looking at your collections of things you have gathered over time, your material possessions, well you have to behave as though you had no possessions. and Paul goes on, 31and those who deal with the world, I think Paul’s list of things either ran out or most likely there were far too many things to mention and so Paul was just using this as a catch all for everything else, the things of this world that are your focus, well deal with them as though you had no dealings with the world. The 14 year old boy was going to a football match, a real football match with a round ball, with a group of his friends. The stadium was some four miles away and the buses to the stadium were by now all full and so the boys had no option, but to begin the walk. It was going to be close to get there by kick-off, but they should make it. So they headed towards the stadium, they kept an eye out back along the road just incase a bus came by that had space, but to no avail. One of the boys got separated off the back, he had to tie his shoe lace, and by the time he looked up his friends, being friends had picked up the pace and were now quite a way in front of him. He would have to run to catch up. At this point there was a small park near the road that was lined with a hedge so you couldn’t see in, and the entrance was a concrete path that led up to a gap in the hedge. Out between the hedge came a boy of a similar age in a wheelchair, pushing himself along. He came to the path by the road and spoke to the 14 year old. “Do you have the time?” he asked. I stopped. I looked at my watch and it was 2:40. 20 minutes to 3, and the game kicked off in just 20 minutes. It’s 2:40 I said, trying to move on. My friends had begun to shout and tell me to hurry up. The boy in the wheelchair asked if I was going to the game and I said yes. I moved on and as I did he reached out to push himself back to the park. As he did, I noticed the watch on his wrist, which had been hidden underneath the arm of his sweater. Regardless, I turned and ran to my waiting friends and headed off to the match. It came to me sometime later and it has stuck with me throughout my life. The boy said “Do you have the time?” and it wasn’t the chronologically specific time of that day, it was “Do you have the time to spend to talk with me?” and my answer that day was No. Paul says to the Corinthians, “Do you have the Time?” to focus on the Lord or do you focus on the wrong things. Then he re-iterates again why it is he is saying these things, For the present form of this world is passing away. Change is coming in the form of the return of Christ. Time is of the essence. Make the most of the time you have. That’s all well and good, but if we stopped reading right there, we still might think that Paul had lost his marbles, that he has set an impossible task, because how is all of that even possible, given who we are as broken people. After all, in the corpus of scripture,  there are ample texts about husbands and wives and how they are to be together, about those mourning and it being okay and being comforted, about rejoicing about life and other things that we go about doing. So what is Paul saying? Well, some clarity comes with his next words, 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. Well actually to be precise, free from the wrong kind of anxieties. So Paul gives a couple of examples. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband. Time is to be spent on being anxious about, how to please the Lord and not being anxious about those things that present themselves as distractions. Now the unmarried man and unmarried woman could quite easily be anxious about the things of this world instead, so it isn’t that they had nothing to be anxious about, but not being married maybe released them from what might be considered the greatest distraction, having a spouse, so they could focus on the Lord. Paul then pulls it all together in the final verse, which illuminates what he has been saying, 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord. I’ve said all that I have just said for your benefit. Time is short and my instruction, my words are for your benefit in how you go about living life. Paul says, I have said this, and pay particular attention to these words, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord. I have used some specific examples, not that you are not to do these things, not to put any restraint upon you, because they are a part of life – but you are to realize that there is an order and the order is that they are all below that which you should be spending your time on, which is unhindered devotion to the Lord.   That is what you should be focusing on –you see if the focus is on the Lord, then all the other things will be dealt with appropriately. All the other things will be dealt with in the mindset of Christ. Husbands you will relate to your wives in a Christ like way, which is what other parts of scripture tells us to do. People your mourning will be done in the knowledge that God is in control of all things and our hope comes from God alone. Our rejoicing is carried out likewise, in fact everything, all our dealings with the world will be carried out by looking through the lens of Jesus Christ to all things. If we spend the time on promoting good order, which is putting Christ at the forefront of our lives, we don’t have to worry that the appointed time has grown short or be concerned that the present form of this world is passing away. Do you have the time? [1]The men had been hard at work for most of the morning. It was a clear crisp day and they had spent the bulk of it cutting ice and then making sheds out of the blocks for storage. On the floor, they would spread hay to make a layer of insulation. They had just finished putting the door on the final shed of the morning when one of the men shouted out. He had lost his watch. Earlier he had shown the other men the watch he had received, which was a family heirloom and he was so proud. Now it was gone, the men voiced their frustration, they had just finished, were about to leave for lunch they had other things on their mind, but they went back into the final shed to search, but despite their best endeavors they found nothing. The man gave up the watch as lost. As the men left for lunch, a young boy having heard all the commotion, slipped into the shed. The men had been eating for while when the boy came up to them holding the watch and gave it to an elated owner. “How did you find it,” he asked. “I gave it time,” said the boy. I went in and shut the door and sat in silence, without any distractions. After a while I heard the watch ticking and only then did I find it.” The boy put it as a priority and shut off the other distractions and found what he was looking for. Not having the time, distracted by other things, made the men miss finding the watch, it made me miss hearing what the boy in the wheelchair really wanted to say. Do you have the time to focus on the Lord? In fact, we could look upon this way, that if we do focus on Christ first and foremost, then we are actually turning the world upside down and bringing about the reality that our actions will mean that the present form of this world is passing away, and the world will be a better place. Our actions can be transforming. Paul tells us that each and every one of us can be set free for unhindered devotion, unhindered service to God regardless of where we find ourselves. Provided we put things in good order, that we are not distracted and we give the Lord the time. Amen   Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] Adapted from 1001 Quotes, Illustrations and Humorous Stories. E K Rowell Editor. Baker Books.