Sermon 15-6-7

Reading

Corpus Christi

Mark 14: 12 to 16:

And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

The passover, this is the background for the holiest sacrament of our faith, the Eucharist.

Eucharist

It is based on the Jewish Passover.

Mark 14: 22 to 26:

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

We are eating Christ’s body and drink his blood?! Well, Moses had used blood to seal the covenant between God and the people:

Ex. 24: 3 to 8: And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

Here the blood is a sign of the covenant, it gives life to the covenant, ‘for the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.’ (Lev. 17: 11) Interestingly the word for life at the beginning of this verse and the words for soul are all the same, ‘nephesh’. The word has a more spiritual meaning. Plain life is ‘chay’. In Gen. 2: 7 ‘the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (chay); and man became a living (chay) soul (nephesh).

The word for atonement is ‘kaphar’. It means covering. It is what God commanded Noah to use to seal the ark in Gen. 6: 14. The idea is as in Gen. 20: 16, when Abimelech gave Abraham thousand pieces of silver as an ‘covering the eyes’ for having taken Sarah. It may be just something that makes your soul feel good again.

But the origin of the Passover is something else. It is in Ex. 12: 27, answering the question that children in future might ask, why are we celebrating the Passover? The answer is:

‘Ye shall say, It [is] the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.’

So, originally it was not for the atonement of sin, but it was a memorial for something that was not quite that innocent, something we might not accept at all, if it was a non – Biblical context.

However, sin and guilt is one of the most prominent feelings in Christianity. Now, if you are a murderer or a thief, or if you have worshipped other gods, observe other life – principles apart from Christian love of thy neighbour, eg. if you believe that only the strongest shall survive in human society, then you’re a sinner. And your sin shall be forgiven due to Jesus’ sacfrifice.

However when we speak of sin or guilt we very often mean something sexual, particularly since this concerns our desires and our feelings which sometimes do not want to obey our well intended thoughts. So is it a sin to look at a beautiful woman and dream of her, maybe even masturbate about her? Well in Matt. 5: 28 to 30 Jesus said:

‘But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.’

Now the word for adultery is ‘moicheia’. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says aboout this word, ‘By a Hebraism (it) is used of those who at a woman’s solicitation are drawn away to idolatry, i.e. to the eating of things sacrificed to idols.’ In other words the offence about which Jesus spoke here is not the sex, it is the worship of another god, which violates the First, the most important, Commandment. The word moicheia does not occur in the Iliad or the Odyssey, not even for Aigisthos and Klytemnestra! It does not have a purely sexual meaning.

The same goes for the word commonly tranlated as fornication. It is porneia. It is very unlikely that Jesus used this word, since he spoke Aramaic and not Greek. The porneia was a love festival in honour of Aphrodite Pornae, the heavenly harlot. The most famous one of those was held in Corinth. Again it is not the sex which is the offence, but the worship of Aphrodite.

Jesus probably used the name of a sex festival in honour of a goddess in his area, but as his words were recorded in Greek, the most famous Greek festival was put into the text.

Did you know that ‘Even the Appostles had sex!, or do you know, Where Abraham’s servant put his hand in Gen. 24: 2 & 9?

The Ancients perceived the feeling of sexual arousal as the presence of God! They also saw epileptics as being obsesses by a god during their fits. The reason was simply, since neither the epileptic during a fit, nor the human being during sex were in control of their bodies. So who was in control? The ancient answer was a god or God. So during sexual arousal God was perceived to be near. There are other examples in Ancient and Modern Scripture which make this point and some of these are explained in Greetings from Paradise in the chapter on Ecstasy. Who would sin in the presence of God?

The original Christian communities had no problem with sex whatsoever. It was necessary to keep the community alive. There was not much medical care so the death rate was quite high for children as well as for adults. As pointed out in ‘A Fail Grade To The Translators’, it says in Tit. 2: 4 that old women should reprimand ‘the young men lovers to be child loving,’ The word men stands in plural here. King James and other translators have badly mistranslated this sentence. This indicates, that the original Christian communities kept their children in common. How else could a good Christian become a martyr, if his martyrdom would mean negative consequences for his dependants?

So where does the feeling of sex being associated with guilt come from? There are several reasons (See Greetings from Paradise, chapter ‘The Great Darkness’): At the end of the eleventh century European population had grown to a level, which could not easily be supported anymore by its farms. The Church reacted two – fold: Celibacy for the priest and clergy and stemming the military expansion of Islam by the crusades. At the beginning of the fourteenth century there was a period of warming and consequently bad harvests all over Europe. There was famine for years on end. The story of Hänsel and Gretel’ has its origin in that time.

Still in the same century the black death struck for the first time. This disease recurred well into the twentieth century. People were at a loss to explain, why God would do such a thing to the people. The people must have done something wrong, but nobody could actually put his finger on what it had been. Then at the and of the fifteenth century Christoph Columbus and his men brought back Syphilis from America. Now this was a disease which was sexually transmitted, so it appeared to people at the end of the Middle Ages, that God would punish them for having sex! Up to that time, there was no problem with men going to the brothel or even husband and wife going together to the bath house. Then the brothels were burnt down and he pleasure girls were tainted with a dangerous reputation. Before that, even at the Church Council of Constance 1414 to 1418 pleasure girls from far away travelled to the place and made good money there.

Money, that was the last reaon to bring on a guilt feeling, particularly associated with sex.. In the First Millenium people supported the Church and the local priest in natural produce. This included the pleasure girls and nobody thought bad about this. However with the onset of commercialisation, people donated money and the priest would pay for whatever he needed. Now an expensive visit to the brothel financed by donations became a problem for the priest.

The Church always struggled with the principle of poverty and no personal possessions for its clergy and its monks within the commercial society into which Europe developed in the Second Millenium until today. Since priests had to pay at the shops, they now charged for their services, even for ringing the Church bells at times! Charging people for absolution of sins was one of the major reasons for the reformation, which unfortunately was not a reformation but a split.

Protestant Churches now even took a stronger stance against sexuality than the Catholic Church. One of the functions of Catholic monasteries was to bring up and educate unwanted children from the ever – growing cities. In protestant areas the Cathoolic monasteries were closed and therefore protestant women had to be much more careful with their sexuality than their Catholic counterparts. A woman with a child found it much more difficult to find employment. The usual empployment of women in those days was to be a servant to a richer family. The family would provide food and shelter and obviously a mother with child would have more needs and she also needed to commit some of her time to her child instead of her work. So the onset of protestantism was no liberation at all.

Today, however, in the days of contraception and safe sex we could be free to follow our feelings in a secure environment. A person who loves his or her spouse should take delight in her experiences of pleasure, even if they are with someone else at times. They still can remain an economic unit.

How silly is it to expect that your feelings towards a person will never change?! Should we force our feelings? Our feelings are God – given! We should enjoy them together with the people we love. In the Middle Ages sometimes a young virgin was married to an old business man to provide an heir for him, but afterwards she was free. There is an old – German expression for marrying, it is ‘freien’ meaning to make free or to liberate. The man liberates the woman through marriage, the woman is liberated. Liberated from what? Liberated from the burden to remain a virgin so that the man would know that her child is his! Then she was free! There was no disappointment that love had faded during marriage!

We could live like this again! What do you think, why we have so much depression in our afluent society? Could it have to do with that people feel unmarried sex is evil, on one hand and on the other today people are not able to marry to their mid to late twenties due to educational and financial reasons?