Monday, November 13, 2017

Sermon – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – November 2017

Sermon – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 – November 2017

14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
First and absolutely essential to understanding Paul is his focus on the Cross and Resurrection.  This is absolutely the key to understanding Paul’s letters.  It is the key to every single thing that Paul says – it is the key to faith and the key to salvation. It is the Key to what it means to live in Christ, and to the believer’s relationships with God and with one another.  The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son, is the foundation of Paul’s theology.  So – here, in my words, is how Paul understands the New Creation:

God’s incredible creation as described in Genesis 1 to 3 has been undermined and is abused by those to whom God has given the gift of creation; abused by those to whom God has also given the gift of the responsibility to care for the gift of creation.  God’s incredible and incomprehensible love has been and is rejected by human disregard, selfishness, greed, violence and hate.
Initially, God called Israel and gave Israel the responsibility of being God’s representatives or “ambassadors” in the world in order to set the creation right – to restore wholeness, well-being or Shalom.  But Israel failed – they fell into the same human behaviors and traps that everyone else had fallen into.
Therefore in Jesus, God enters into this world, and at the same time God enters into human disregard, abuse, selfishness, greed, violence and hate in the Cross. God takes all of that on in the Cross and then overcomes and destroys their ultimate power in the Resurrection.  The seemingly overwhelmingly destructive powers of human self-centeredness are burst apart by the resurrection – so while these powers appear formidable, ultimately their power will crumble before the power of God’s love.
In the Cross and Resurrection (they go together BTW) God has brought forth a New Creation!  And it is into this New Creation that we are baptized – It is this New Creation that gives us both our Identity as Christians and our agenda. 

That is the basic understanding, but then Paul goes on to raise and address a couple important questions. He actually raises more questions than we have time to focus on, but the principal question that jumps out at me for us is this:

• Do we willingly take on this gift, this identity – or do we push it away?  Do we gratefully live into the gift of New Creation – or do we reject it by trying to modify it so we can, as they say “have our cake and eat it too.”  So we can experience the benefits without taking on any of the responsibility?

It is not enough to say we accept that we are a New Creation in Christ!  The issue is: Does our life and the way we live our lives reflect this new identity?  Do we stand against the abuses of creation that happen all the time? We do stand against the exploitation of our environment and the exploitation of other peoples?  Do we stand against violence and hate in the way we live and act and relate to others?

This is where we get to what Paul calls The Ministry of Reconciliation.  So, do we take on this ministry of reconciliation that is what it means to live into our status as a New Creation in Christ?  Do we work to bring about healing rather than division; love rather than hate; forgiveness rather than retribution; hope rather than fear?

Taking on the identity of the New Creation in Christ means that ultimately we are called to be Ambassadors of Christ – we are representatives of Christ’s love in this world!  Whenever we speak or act our words and our deeds must reflect God’s love – God’s grace – God’s forgiveness!

• So, here is the question I would like to invite you to ponder and pray about: Do you believe in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus - Do you believe that you are a New Creation? If yes, how is it reflected in your lives?  How do you live into this identity?  Do you live a life that embodies the ministry of reconciliation?  Are you an effective Ambassador?


Our calling to be a New Creation in Christ begins here in this space with Word and Sacrament and fellowship and then goes out beyond these 4 walls into the worlds in which we live and touches the people with whom we encounter in our daily lives.  Do they experience God’s New Creation in Christ, through you?

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciate the wisdom and the challenge of this. It is so easy to slip into being the "faithful" Sunday churchgoer, and to live the rest of the week as though we were totally unconscious that we have been given the greatest possible gift. I definitely am guilty of this, and convicted about certain responsibilities I have too often postponed, because I am afraid. (Of emotional challenges associated with attending to this particular responsibility.)

    I love that phrase "ministry of reconciliation," and am intrigued to ponder it further...

    I was talking with my family the other night on a subject related to this, since my dad has just finished a Mussar workshop/weekend at a local synagogue he is involved with. There is a huge emphasis on certain words that are not very palatable to us nowadays...obligation, duty, responsibility, to the "Other". When we read novels or see operas and plays, from, say, 150+ years ago, such words are clearly a source of inspiration, and a goal to live up to, in spite of ~ and sometimes, because of ~ the "sacrifice" involved. Now, those words to us feel like a lack of freedom. Such concepts feel antiquated, restrictive. *Maybe* we can tolerate the idea that we can be "charitable" to someone as it suits us; we can't really tolerate the idea that we have a "responsibility" toward them. We want our own way ~ the individual, "me" is everything ~ and still to pat ourselves on the back for it. As you say, to have our cake and eat it too. But I do think that if we could only think of some of these words in a new way; or come to an openness to understand them as they should be...what freedom in being able to fulfill the responsibilities of love. To live without fear of loving, and making "sacrifices" for that love.

    It's a paradox...but the more self-centered we are, the more narrow and confined our own world is, I think. (And how cold...) Anyway, I've begun to ramble, and these thoughts are a bit unformed and tangential. But I will end on this thought: when we see someone who is clearly living from that gift of the cross and resurrection...one "feels" it immediately...we see something joyful, beautiful, warm...and we're drawn to it instantly. I think it is another indication of what we're made for.

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