1 Corinthians 5:1-8:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgement in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Dozens upon dozens of times, I’ve attended youth events at All Saints Episcopal Center, both as a youth and as an adult. At every single one of these events, the first night, we talk about the community covenant, which includes the “non-negotiables”: no firearms, no alcohol, no illegal drugs, no cigarettes, and no exposure, no touching or fondling of the breast, buttocks or genitalia. If you are caught breaking these rules, you parents will be called, you will be sent home, your priest will be notified. All members of the community, bishop, adult or youth, were held to these non-negotiables.
This is more than just a liability protection for All Saints. Like I said, it’s called a community covenant. It’s another way of saying that as a beloved member of our community, we will hold you to a certain standard. We believe we can meet that standard. (as a youth, what a radical thing to hear!)
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians this morning, we hear about a rather salacious sin. One Corinthian is sleeping with his father’s wife (for clarification here, scholars agree that it was his father’s second wife- we aren’t dealing with an Oedipal complex here). But Paul’s disappointment is not just with that individual, but with the whole community and that they tolerated such behavior. Modern psychologists might use the term ‘enabler.’ Paul doesn’t differentiate between where one sin ends and the others’ (plural) begin.
Despite our best efforts, all of us have blind spots in our self-perception. It’s only through a community that we can hope to shine light in those spots and properly deal with them. There are books upon books written on family and community systems theory – very interesting, and not nearly enough time to talk about them this morning. Most of those books and Paul agree: truly loving relationships involve painful moments of “I know you well enough to know you can do better.”