The Pas Proper / Ordinary 11 – Pentecost + 4 – Trinity + 3
Year B – Fathers Day
17 June 2018
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20 pg 726
2 Corinthians 5:6-17
you make all things new.
Plant seeds of confidence and gladness in our hearts,
so that, trusting your word,
we may live no longer for ourselves
but for him who died and was raised for us,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As I contemplated the readings for this week, I was struck by a phrase in Paul’s letter to the community at Corinth.
We actually have a lot in common with the Corinthian community, if we stop to think about it more than as just an historic letter, today.
We live in pluralistic world, in regards to what we do believe, in regards to what we do in our lives of faith. We often look at the world around us and respond from the perspective of the world, first, instead of allowing our faith to inform our initial response.
Yet, Paul, in every page we read, interpret, and digest in his writings to the Corinthian community urges that we put God first in every action, in every deed, in every word.
A practice we still need to hone, today, that I need to continue to practice, today.
And what struck me, today was Paul reminding us that we live in fear of God.
He reminds us “we know what it is to fear the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11b),
And this made me think, it asked me to question whether we do, in fact, fear God, find awe about who God is and what God does in and for our lives, today?
We live in a world where we have found, and promote, scientific explanations for life, for the creation of life, for the sustaining of creation, on all levels, yet does that mean we no longer fear God who created all of this incredibly versatile and beautiful complexity?
Do we, at any time, live in fear, in awe of God? Of all that God does for us, for humanity, for the body of Christ, the children of God, as the Christian population did in the day Paul wrote to the community at Corinth?
He said: “11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. … 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Cor 5:11, 13-14)
So, those in the era of the Roman Empire, then, and, in today’s letter to the Corinthians, need to be reminded, as we do today, that God is not compartmentalized in the way they, or we have envisioned.
That we need to live in awe of the overwhelming ability of God, this one God, who looks after each one of us, even to knowing the inventory of the hairs on our head, what is going on in our lives, at any given time. (Mt 10:30)
This one God who, although we cannot see or even conceive of God as a manifestation, loves, and guides, and looks after each one of us.
Who gives us each other in order to find family, to find love, to find direction, education, training, and vocation in and for our lives.
In that sense we are, truly, in awe of God.
Here is God, who is so interested in each of our lives that God wants to uphold us when we stumble, wants to encourage us when we need encouragement, wants to lavish love upon us at all times in our lives, and makes provision to do just that, every day for the duration of our lives.
But on the opposite end of the spectrum from that is the idea of having a personal relationship with God, with Jesus as the epitome of our expression of faith.
I remember when I was on internship, some of the evangelical pastors in the community wanted to ‘check my credentials’ to be a spiritual leader, in the community, by asking me to share my testimony, to tell them when Jesus Christ became my personal saviour.
As this confused me, each one of them was able to tell me when they had, what they interpreted to be a personal encounter with the Risen Lord, when they had committed themselves to Christianity, and how that catapulted them to their current positions. And they wished for me to reciprocate with my own personal experiences with Christ, with God.
Well, it seems that they weren’t fond of my answer. I told them the date of my baptism, and let them know that I wasn’t looking for, necessarily a ‘personal relationship’ with God, but rather looked to a lifelong relationship where God’s love for me, for each one of us is better and better known in our lives, and in our hearts.
Where I, where we allow God to guide our steps, without the ‘buddy relationship’ they considered to be vital to being a leader.
After all, Christ is the shepherd, we are the sheep. (Jn 10:14)
So, what I wonder, then, is how many sheep have so close a relationship with the shepherd that they lose their awe of him? That they consider themselves as good as the shepherd?
After all, just look at all that God has done for the humanity that God’ loves?
God has given us creation in which to live and move, and grow, and come to an understanding of how such a marvelous creation has been assembled by God and how that relates to each one of us.
After all, the majority of scientists who work on such projects as looking for the origins of the universe, or what it is the cells of our bodies, and the atoms of all substances are made of ultimately come to an awe filled appreciation of God who made all of this. Yes, there are those who lose their fear and awe of God, but for many more, their love, their awe, of God is increased when they see the minute detail and beauty of all of creation.
At the same time, God has given us free reign to explore creation, to decide for ourselves how to live our lives, how to worship God, even to have such a ‘buddy, buddy’ kind of relationship as some need to be able to appreciate and accept God’s guidance, God’s direction in and for our lives as well as their own.
I had the opportunity to watch a movie, this week, called “Cardboard Boxer”, staring Thomas Hayden Church, released in 2016. It wasn’t one that I had gone looking for, rather it jumped out at me when I was looking for something else.
The main character, of “Cardboard Boxer,” is a homeless person who finds a child’s singed and burnt diary in a dumpster. And through the words he finds there, makes a friend, learns to read cursive writing, and due to circumstances finds himself, in the end, meeting the author of the dairy, who similarly needs to find human connection with another person.
Now, throughout the movie, his circumstances aren’t changed. He’s still a street person at the end of the movie as he was in the beginning, and throughout the story.
However, he’s learned something of compassion for his fellow street dwellers, and he even finds someone who is willing to stand up for him when his life is threatened, although he may never know this.
The important part of the story is two lonely hearts, who are in need of human connection, find each other, and the movie closes with a hug shared between these two individuals who have both been burned by life.
The movie never talks of God, rather it talks of loss, and it talks a child’s impression of angels as an agency of hope.
At points in the film, the homeless character actually writes back to the unknown author of the journal, and makes paper airplanes of his missives, trusting that they will get to where they are needed, until he finds them all clustered in a vacant lot behind a security fence, and even he loses heart at the sight.
At the same time, none of this is possible without some faith in God, in the divine nature of the world, of the universe.
It’s not possible without some sense of awe, of fear that God is out there, and although it may not seem like we are being looked after, we truly are, especially when it’s not apparent to us, in our lives.
At the same time, what God does for us, carries on. God sends Christ, God manifest into the world, to teach us of God’s love for all of humanity, to bring God’s healing, and the true sense of the year of the Lord’s favour that Isaiah talks about. (Isa 61:1-3)
But Christ, God manifest in the world, doesn’t stop with the definition of jubilee, of healing, of compassion for all of humanity. Instead, Christ carries the sins of all of humanity to the cross, and dies there, bearing our sins, so that we might have life and live it fully.
He dies, and rises again so that we might have hope of an eternity spent in the presence of God, without the barriers of sin between us and God of whom we are in fear, and in awe.
And Christ departs from us so that the Holy Spirit can come, can enter our hearts, can guide us and walk with us every day, as the embodiment of God, in and for our lives.
One of Paul’s better known passages is on love; on how that love informs our senses, as well as our contributions to the world around us.
It’s one of the most popular passages chosen for weddings, and it tells us “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:12-13)
And, this is where we find ourselves, today.
We live in awe, in fear of God, not out of a gut wrenching feeling of terror, but because we are loved by, and we love God and that is an overwhelming feeling of awe, of love for God in return.
We live in that faith, and in that hope, and we display that love, with the help of the Holy Spirit in and for our lives and the lives of all those around us, every day.
Why? Because “we know what it is to fear the Lord,” not just from time to time, but every day for the whole of our lives. A love, an awe that is translated by Paul as a ‘fear’ out of respect, and out of faith.