This is it…just in case you missed it…just in case you weren’t listening…and on the off chance you are still wondering what this faith thing…this Jesus thing…this church thing…is all about.
This is it. This is the whole enchilada. All our hope…all our purpose…who we truly are…it’s right here. What we just read.
A favorite theological magazine of mine – The Christian Century – asked 23 authors to sum up the gospel in 7 words or less. Three of them took their words directly from here…Paul is shooting as straight as he can directly at the heart of these folks in Corinth — this is the good news! This is what we are about — our hope…our purpose…who we truly are.
First — this life we live…this body we have..that creaks and groans…that throbs with pain and struggles to breathe…is a tent. It’s temporary. I hate to break it to you…but it’s a fact. No matter how good your body is…how strong and healthy…no matter how well you take care of it…it’s not going to last. Tents aren’t meant to. Even the very, very best ones…won’t last forever. I was reading an article in National Geographic about some folks who were climbing Mt. Everest…and let me tell you…when you’re climbing Everst…you have the very best tents that can be made. But a storm came and ripped their tent to shreds, and sent one of them flying off hundreds of feet into the sky. Yes…Tents are temporary…most, honestly, are downright flimsy.
And the storms of life…they take their toll. Body, mind and soul…these tents get battered. With sickness and injury, trauma and heartbreak, injustice and evil. Yes…and we do groan…longing for the burdens on our back to be lifted. And what’s the promise? That we have a sturdy home for our spirits…our souls…our selves…in God. One that transcends this lifetime. One as fully …no MORE fully… embodied and real that the one we dwell in now. We don’t die…we just relocate…or “transition” as I’ve heard people say… into our home with God.
And that is good news. That is our hope.
When life just seems hard…and we are tired…
when the world seems irreparably broken…
when people are starving and don’t have enough water and then a pandemic comes…and then a hurricane on top of it, because, “why not??”
When we watch too much news and too much social media and all that is wrong in the world overwhelms us …and we don’t feel like we can do enough to fix it.
This is the good news. This is our hope. There is more to us…to our reality… than this life…we have a home with God that we look forward to..with God who loves us. Who promises that all will be well. God who raises the dead…and who rigs creation in all its fragility to keep resurrecting. Yes, we have a home with God, more permanent and solid and real than what we know now. This is our hope.
But hold on…what about all the things we do wrong? I mean Paul says, that when we relocate to God’s home…we will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.” That doesn’t sound so good. So…what’s the good news when we’re the ones who are part of everything that is wrong in the world….when we’re the ones who have hurt others.. when we’re the ones who are screwing everything up? Because, sometimes that’s us. It is. But then comes the really good news again.
In the presence of Christ, we may finally be aware of all the ways we messed up…more clearly than we understood, even, in this lifetime…. But it’s Christ who is the judge. Christ, who already knows us and loves us anyway. ….that’s who judges us. And his judgment is forgiveness. It il love. Because Christ came to reconcile us to God
So…what do we mean by reconcile? If you reconcile…it means that you have resolved the conflicts that existed…right?
Divorce is often chalked up to “irreconcilable differences’. Meaning that my idea about how our life together should be lived does not match up with my spouse’s…and there is just no way we are going to come around to seeing things the same way.
So…Here’s the thing. God’s got a way of seeing our life together…it’s pretty straightforward…you can find it from beginning to end in scripture. The way God sees it…our life together should be about caring for folks in need. ..treating every person as a child of God…. forgiving one another…living simply.. .sharing freely and generously…lifting up people who are left behind… That’s how God sees this human enterprise. .
But the thing is…we’ve also got a way of seeing our life together, don’t we? … looking out for number one…getting even…having freedom to do what we please…chasing wealth and success…proving our worth and justifying how “right” we are.
Now…friends…the honest truth is…these are irreconcilable differences. A human marriage could not and should not try to continue in the face of such fundamental differences in values and character. But in Christ, God reconciled godself to us. God chose to be with us…to love us…anyway. And even if we don’t get it until we stand before that judgment seat…God’s love in Jesus will never give up on us. God will never let go of us. And God chooses to see us…forever and always…as beloved children. And That’s what our faith in Christ is all about.
So that is our hope…who we truly are….beloved of God…in this life and into the next. Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And our purpose? Well…God has reconciled godself to us in Christ….and now WE have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We have been given the ministry of choosing God’s way of seeing instead of our own. Seeing the world…seeing others…not from a human point of view…but God’s view. Seeing every person as beloved and beautiful…not by categories or labels or judgments of our own.
We are sorters and labelers and segregators.. We divide people. We judge people on their appearances…by their color and creed and nationality…their sexuality and gender…the way they dress…the way they speak…their differing physical and mental abilities. We cancel people for all kinds of reasons…we don’t like what they post…we don’t like how they talk. But, our ministry…our purpose for being here as human beings in this world…is reconciliation. It is to build bridges and seek understanding. It is to make right old wrongs. It is to see one another as full children of God. It is to love our neighbors … not shut our doors. It is to listen to one another…to bear one another’s burdens…to hear one another’s pain…and not let stereotypes and hatred and prejudice shape our lives. Our purpose for being here is to weave the wild and colorful and vibrant differences of humanity together into a beautiful tapestry…after years and years of being ripped apart. Our purpose is to recognize that every life has just as much value as my own….and every person is just as beloved by God.
Our purpose…is reconciliation. It is finding our way back to loving one another because we are all God’s beloved. Our purpose…is doing our best to see the world as God sees it….and sharing that vision with others.
And that is it. That’s the whole enchilada, folks. There’s nothing here but hope and grace and love. It’s why we’re here…as a community of faith. But more importantly…it’s why we’re HERE…on this earth…for now. We walk by faith…trusting this all belongs to God…WE all belong to God…even if that’s not what we see. We walk by faith…trusting that someday..we will see clearly what we so often miss. We will see Christ. And we will be truly at home..at last. Amen.