Now in the following instructions I do not commend you because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1 Cor. 11:17, NRSV)
The day after my brother’s sixteenth birthday, my mother got a mysterious phone call in the night. See, Kirk had gone to the YMCA on the west side of town earlier that evening to play pickup basketball and he was late getting home. My mom thought Kirk was calling to let her know he was on his way home. Well…Kirk was on the phone, but not with the story my mom wanted to hear.
My mom answered the phone to a profanity laced rant for about a minute about how my brother was downtown (not the west side), gotten into a car wreck, and one of his friends was hurt (he was supposed to be alone). So my mother had a decision to make, what was she going to address first? Was it the foul language even a sailor wouldn’t dare utter? Kirk’s being where he wasn’t supposed to be? His having a passenger when he was supposed to be alone? Or the fact that he was in a car crash at all? Decisions, decisions.
Everyone turned out okay in the aftermath; my mom didn’t kill Kirk (though she thought about it.) And I certainly got an object lesson in the consequences of choices. I was able to learn from my brother’s mistake and at the very least not make the same faults.
That’s a little bit of what is going on whenever we read 1 Corinthians. We are reading Paul’s reproach of the church’s mistakes. They apparently were divided along wealth lines as those in power were gorging themselves on food before the rest of the church (the poor) got there. These wealthy Christians made the mistake of letting Roman class divisions and expectations seep into their community practices.
We know what they did wrong (at least what Paul felt was important enough to bring up) and we can learn from their mistakes. This extends throughout history as well as we see
through the open window of time. We get the privilege of learning from those who came before us (even our previous selves). We do not have to be bound to or defined by the errors of the past, whether they are as small as crashing a car or as big as denying women the right to vote. Each day God gives us the ability to look back and move forward.
Might we do so this day.