Sermon 5th Sunday after Pentecost, NL2, 19 June 2016
The First reading for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost is from St Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church, the 5th Chapter beginning at the 9th verse.
9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
10 For all of us must 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.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.
12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart.
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
15 And 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.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;1 even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,2 we know him no longer in that way.
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,1 not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Co 5:9-21 NRS)
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The Gospel lesson for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Gospel of John the 3rd Chapter. Glory to you O Lord.
NRS John 3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."
3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."
4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.'
8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?"
10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God." (John 3:1-21 NRS)
The Gospel of our Lord. Praise to you O Christ.
Pray: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Going through life there were four conversations I just never wanted to have. Growing up it was: "Wait 'til your Dad gets home...", or "Go see the principle..." In the Navy it was "The XO wants to see you." And the other is what St Paul wrote in the first reading, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." All of these contain some form of terror because of the potential consequences because of what we've done, some could be life changing, some career changing, and that one about the judgment seat of Christ...that one has eternal consequences.
Paul told the people of Corinth that God knew him clearly, transparently, nothing was hidden. He also hoped they would know him in the same way. Paul wanted the Corinthians to see him as an open book, nothing hidden, what you see is what you get. Not many of us would want to have our souls bared in such a way. But in this way Paul could better persuade them of the truth of his testimony.
And the testimony is this: Christ died for all people, even non-Jews, even people who lived in Corinth, even people who would live in Ridgecrest, 2000 years later. The effect of Christ's death and resurrection is that all things have changed. There is a new reference for life, a new way of living and being. What was important before is no longer important now. The basis is no longer earthly treasures and appearances. It doesn't matter about your new hairdo, the new toga, the addition to your home, the new four horse chariot with the mag wheels and copper rims. What matters is what's in the heart. A heart controlled by Jesus. A heart given the new ministry of reconciliation.
What is that message of reconciliation that Paul talks about? If I am an ambassador of Christ with a ministry of reconciliation, what does that mean?. Paul explained what God was doing through Christ's life, death and resurrection. He was reconciling the world to himself. They way he did that was by not counting people's trespasses, their sins against them. It's not that they were forgotten, they were indeed remembered, but they were not counted.
When you reconcile your checkbook, you take into account all of the credits and debits and it all adds up...right? Of course. That's the way it's done. You account for everything you spend and everything you receive. At the end of the reconciliation you know where your finances stand. If you spent too much you were in the red, you owe more than you have. If you spent less than what you brought in, you were in the black and you have a little cushion for the future.
God balances books differently. Indeed we will come before the judgment seat of Christ and he will open the books of our life to perform the reconciliation. As he reviews the ledger he sees a lot more red entries than black ones. There is no way this is going to balance in our favor, there's too much red. We are going to owe a LOT! Then as we watch the Holy Accountant get to the bottom of our ledger, you see him read a note penned there in blood and he begins to smile. The note says, "Saved by the blood of the Lamb. No penalties due." All of the negative entries in red are ignored. Only the entry about the Lamb counts. The book is closed. You are saved. You owe nothing. The books are reconciled. You are reconciled to God because of his Son Jesus.
We don't have to wait 'til our final day to know this. We can know it now. Our ledger is wiped clean and we know the final outcome. Does that make a difference in the way we live and what we think is important? Can we possibly keep on living the old way that was before we knew the outcome of the reconciliation? Doesn't God's way of adding up the books inspire us to be different?
Paul suggests that it should. Once reconciled, others should also know about this reconciliation. How do we do that? How do we carry out a ministry of reconciliation that Paul mentioned? Should we not be reconciled to others the same way we have been reconciled? In Paul's relationship with the people of Corinth, there has been strife, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, pain and tears. And yet Paul calls for forgiveness and reconciliation. He calls for a restoration of the relationships that have been hurt. The hurts will be remembered but they will be ignored and pushed aside and not added into the new relationship that exists because of the cross.
So how do we carry out the ministry of reconciliation here, into Wal Mart and Albertson's and Marshall's and Rite Aid? How do we do that in schools and work places? How do we reconcile with people who have addiction problems, mental illness, who can't get or hold a job, who need food, clothing, shelter, and a doctor? How do we do that on China Lake Blvd and Downs and Norma and Las Flores and Mahan and Inyokern and Jack's Ranch Road?
How do we do that in Orlando and Charleston and Riverside? In Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia? What about London, Paris, Brussels, Riyadh, Teheran, or Kabul? Is it possible for God's reconciliation to extend that far? To really bad people? Did Christ die for sinners of all kinds? of all nations? Or just the nice ones? Is there a limit to the sin and the evil that a human can do that is beyond the blood of the Lamb? Sort of here and no further? Who gets to draw that line for Jesus? You, Me? Or is there no line at all?
Is God crazy in love enough with his creation and everyone and all that's in it to try and gain reconciliation for all of it? If he is, how should we respond? Do you think all of this sh-tuff in the world breaks his heart because it is so far away from what he intended for this world when he made it and said it was very good?
Paul wrote about the righteousness of God. He wrote about it in 2 Corinthians but also in his letter to the Romans, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. James wrote about it, Peter wrote about it. Martin Luther struggled mightily to understand it, and was finally able to grasp how God is righteous. He had been taught that the righteousness of God was the righteousness of punishing the sinners, the guilty, and the unrighteous. That's what God rightly should do...so he was taught. But as Brother Martin read more he began to understand that the righteousness of God is different. God's righteousness is really the declaring to be righteous of those who are unrighteous. Righteousness is received passively by those of faith given by a merciful God. And the righteous live by faith. Righteousness is a note at the bottom of teh ledger written in blood.
By God's gift of faith, righteousness, and reconciliation he calls us into a ministry of reconciliation also. We are to reach out and proclaim God's righteousness. As Paul wrote "The love of Christ urges us on." We are convinced of God's intent for the world because of Christ's death and resurrection and we are entrusted with proclaiming this in word and deed wherever we are. We are his ambassadors sent into the world to make God's reconciliation known in all of these places, where it is easy - maybe like Ridgecrest and where it is hard - maybe like Damascus or other places that do not know the incredible love of God that blots out sin.
God bless us and strengthen us to do your will and be your ambassadors with the ministry of reconciliation. Give us your words of reconciliation and forgiveness. Help us to restore relationships. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.