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1 Corinthians 7:29-31

As I write this in October 2023, Palestine and Israel are at war. No doubt, you have people in your community, as in mine, who are deeply bothered by this. We long that those who are perpetrating acts of aggressive violence would be brought to justice and we mourn that there appears to be no way out of this conflict that does not end in stalemate and mutual loss, likely simmering into a new set of generational wounds that will fuel future terrorism, racism, and hatred.

 

You also have likely seen the speculation about eschatological realities bubbling to the surface during this period. “With everything that is happening in the world, I’m just thankful that my grandkids are not going to have to go through this much longer. I’ll be surprised if I actually need to plan a funeral!” I assume we have all heard these kinds of comments. I assume that we have done funerals for those people who spoke this way (I also assume that we were self-controlled enough not to mention this as we preached their funerals).

 

And there is another form of this approach to the world which is always reforming and renewing, loving the world by burning it down, perpetually impatient with the slow pace of change. This is the activist who does not participate in a church community, but only takes part in order to witness its transformation into the kind of church that accords with their notions of justice which may or may not be drawn from the Scriptures or the witness of the church. This person, too, would claim that the present form of this world is passing away and if the church has any hope of relevance, she will listen to the vanguard of the culture and give up on outdated approaches to today’s problems.

 

But extremes aside, the present form of this world is passing away. This is a core conviction of the Christian approach to this world. Paul says σχῆμα, a fashion or form, habitus or shape. Monastics of the Eastern Church call their highest rank the Great Schema, which they only receive when their abbot feels they have reached “a high level of spiritual excellence.” The schema also refers to the garment these monks now wear which covers the front and back and is covered with symbols of the crucifixion.[1]

 

I mention the costume of the Eastern monastics, not only to signal my immense erudition and ability to use Google, but to make Paul’s point, which is that we are surrounded by approaches to our concerns which seem to lift us above the problems of the world. But in truth, most of us are skimming the pain of this world by placing our hope in its destruction or refusing to receive the world as it is by insisting that it change