1 Cor 5:6–8 NRSV – “Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 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. 8 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.”
Summary – This passage exhorts the Corinthian community using a Passover concept. In the context, a Corinthian man was guilty of immorality and thus enslaved (5:1). Cleaning out the leaven of sin includes the practice of church discipline, even excommunication if there is no repentance (Mt. 18:15-20). Just as leaven spreads to affect dough, so sin spreads to affect the community. Tolerating sinful behavior and not calling those guilty to account causes the yeast of wickedness to spread. We must “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.” Our inborn “malice and wickedness,” must be cleaned out so that we may start again with “sincerity and truth.”
Insight – What do you like better, a pastry, like a chocolate croissant? Or a piece flat bread, like a pita? Pastries are risen bread with leaven which makes them light a fluffy. So why does Paul say clean out the leaven if leaven makes good pastries? He is making the comparison of leaven and sin within the church. Sin can spread and affect the community like leaven. But he also alludes to something good to come. Sin can spread, but also the kingdom can spread like leaven, too (Mt. 13:33). In the original celebration of “Unleavened Bread” at Passover, the call to clear out the leaven was really to reset the culture of their yeast. Israelites ceremonially commemorated affliction and deliverance for Seven Days. Israelites were to abstain from risen bread for seven days but then on the Eighth Day they would eat risen, leavened bread. Paul teaches that since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed, we have to get rid of the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. Now we celebrate the feast of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic feast. And when do we celebrate this? On the first day or the “Eighth Day” of the week. The Lord’s Day is the first day of the week, the numerical “eighth day” when one counts from the first creation day. At the Lord’s Table we eat risen, leavened bread which represents the new culture of the kingdom of Jesus. So pastries really are better than pitas.
Catechism – What is the old leaven? The old leaven is sin.
Discussion – What are some ways you can show you are a “new batch”?
Prayer – Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.